Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Harvard Film Archive's July Calendar

Looks awfully bare, there are some nice things being screened don't get me wrong, but for most of the month the theater is dark.
To think last year at this time we were already knee deep in an excellent and thorough John Ford retrospective.
Oh well, helpful soul that I am I'd like to suggest a retrospective for this summer, spotlighting an actor-director long overdue for recognition and review.
I speak of course, of the late Charlton Heston. Much as I disliked his politics at the end of his life, he is nonetheless in a lot of movies I like, love or even revere.
Hell Heston will "get heaven" (To quote my olde Irish Mother)just for ensuring his lifelong pal Orson Welles directed "Touch of Evil".
So herein I propose my own highly idiosyncratic list of Heston Films for a notional retrospective:

The Naked Jungle (1954) Heston as a brooding South American planter at war with his mail order bride (Eleanor Parker) and a farm endangered by army ants of all things. All derived from a script by Arch Oboler, this would be Heston's first breakout role.

Ben Hur (1956) C'mon YOU KNOW you wanna see this bad baby on the big screen! It has everything, revenge, Romans and in a featured cameo, the Son of Man.

The Private War of Major Benson (1955) Heston as a starchy headmaster of a failing military school, closest thing he ever came to an outright comedy. Great supporting cast with everyone from Julie Adams to William DeMarest and Tim Considine in on the action.

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) One thing I like about Heston, he has no fear of being overshadowed by talented and or strong willed scenery chewers. He is Michaelangelo to Rex Harrion's Pope Julius toe to toe over the Sistine Chapel's ETA.

The Buccaneer (1958) A feast for typecasting, Heston as Andrew Jackson and Yul Brynner as the Pirate King of Louisiana, Jean Lafitte.

Khartoum (1966)Heston again cannot escape a penchant for historic impersonation, this time doomed British General "Chinese" Gordon surrounded by Muslim warriors on all sides, lead by none other than Sir Laurence Olivier.

Will Penny (1968) Heston as a cowboy staging his last stand on a ranch suffused with character actor wattage like Bruce Dern, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Zerbe Slim Pickens and Joan Hackett.

Skyjacked (1972) There has to be a disater movie in here somewheres, I'm going with the obscure hijacking melodrama as it puts Heston in the middle of the action (in some of the other disaster pix of the era he is naught but a tiny picture at the bottom of the movie poster) with as usual a superlative supporting cast including Rosey Grier, Walter Pidgeon, Susan Dey and James Brolin.

The Omega Man (1971) For me this is the best of all of Heston's iconic sci fi movie roles, I mean who else could play the Last Man on Earth with such operatic brio? There are those who revere "Planet of the Apes" (And lets face it, Heston made science fiction respectable for the A-List not Stanley Kubrick)...but there is a strong performance that anchors this film single handedly and it is Heston's to be sure.

Studio One (1950) "MacBeth". True story, Heston loved Shakespeare, and I'd pay good money to see a kinescope of him playing the doomed Scottish King in a live TV broadcast, I just would. Lets hope that kinescope exists.

Heston was an actor whose career path was very contemporary, he was a reliable journeyman actor in television plays all thru the 1950's. When he broke thru in Hollywood, he consciously reverted to a leading man type one associates with tinseltown's golden age, a sort of post war Clark Gable if you will. So for all that I think the man deserves a retrospective...don't you?

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