Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Passover into Easter: It's Charlton Heston Season!

PASSOVER INTO EASTER: IT'S CHARLTON HESTON SEASON! -- He's the man of many spectacles -- and rightfully so!  Charlton Heston just couldn't be beat at the box office when it came to star power, which is why we at Studio of Style are giving him our own lifetime achievement award for always being right on and spot on in all his many cinematic roles. C'mon kids, what would the movie-going experience be without a historical epic or two, eh?  He played not only Moses in The Ten Commandments (shown above) in 1956, but also provided the voice of God in the movie as well (though uncredited) -- talk about giving and receiving!  (That's the magnificent Yul Brynner -- at right in the top photo -- who portrayed Pharaoh Rameses II -- and that's monster movie great Vincent Price in the photo just below.) Three years later, Heston went on to portray another character with biblical implications in the other spectacle film Ben-Hur -- becoming identified with these kinds of large-scaled movies more than any other actor in Hollywood.  Luckily for us, ABC TV airs The Ten Commandments at this time every year -- this time it will be shown on Saturday, April 7th, so check the listing link below so you won't miss one glorious Technicolor moment, okay? The Ten Commandments was the last film directed by one of Hollywood's greatest: Cecile B. DeMille (and he also narrated it too) -- and it was a partial remake of his own 1923 silent film!  There are so many "who knew?" moments about the film, such as DeMille taking inspiration for the set design from paintings by Dutch artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema who was famous for his decadent and luxurious depictions of life in ancient times.  And that all blue-eyed actors had to wear brown contact lenses to recreate historical ethnicity (with the exception of Yvonne De Carlo -- the original Lily Munster -- who convinced DeMille that her grayish-blue eyes were unique!).  And that the movements and costumes for one of the film's dance sequences were inspired by a wall painting in the ancient Egyptian tomb of the Sixth Dynasty Grand Vizier Mehu. But back to our man Heston!  Because of his recognition for other such grand movie roles as Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) and Planet of the Apes (1968) and the science fiction flick Soylent Green (1973), many people aren't aware that Heston's first professional film appearance was in the 1950 film noir Dark City -- and no one at the time could have guessed the greatness to which he would ascend in the Hollywood hierarchy.  He would later reprise his film noir acting in the 1958 classic A Touch of Evil (written, directed by and co-starring another Hollywood legend Orson Welles).  Films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Planet of the Apes made such good use (is that the right term?) of his naturally muscular physique that it is no surprise to learn that both he and his wife Lydia used to make their living as artist models back in the 1940s when they resided in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City (we wonder where we can view the sketches and paintings done back then?). Heston accompanied Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom -- and his career off-screen would have lots of controversial moments on numerous fronts (but then, who in Hollywood or politics doesn't??).  But it's those glorious and powerful on-screen moments of Heston's that will forever have a place in our celluloid hearts -- so pop some popcorn, pull up a sofa and let's watch The Ten Commandments together on Saturday, okay?