IN THE ARENA: An Autobiography by Charlton Heston

IN THE ARENA: An Autobiography

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A spirited, sprawling, at times delightfully quirky memoir by Hollywood's own Mount Rushmore. With roles ranging from Moses to Michelangelo to Sir Thomas More to the Voice of God, Heston (Beijing Diary, 1990, etc.) dominated Hollywood for years in a series of lavish epics, including The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur (for which he won an Academy Award). In an era populated by steel-jawed men such as Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, Heston was perhaps the most ferrous of them all. Yet he was one of the few American Shakespearians of any note. And despite some stinkers (Soylent Green, anyone?), he also worked with many of America's best directors. This book could have certainly used a director's distaste for superfluity. Heston seems to have never met an anecdote, detail, or aside he didn't like. Surely he didn't have to discuss all of his 60-plus films. Heston's final chapter, a r‚chauff‚ buffet of stale ideological posturings--gun control bad, Western civilization good--also leaves a slightly sour taste. But he is, otherwise, a perceptive and engaging raconteur as he traces his career from high school theater and the obligatory--hut brief--down-and-out days in New York City to his ascent to Hollywood fame and fortune. Ego usually well in check, he is also his own best critic: ""I could play cowboys better than Laurence Olivier and Shakespeare better than Gary Cooper."" Heston offers many useful insights into acting and directing, and his recollections of the people he worked with (just about everybody) contain some real gems, especially his analysis of various directors' methods. A long-playing performance, not perhaps of Oscar caliber, but at least worth a nomination.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster