THE ACTOR'S LIFE: Journals, 1956-1976 by Charlton Heston

THE ACTOR'S LIFE: Journals, 1956-1976

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Soon after finishing The Ten Commandments, Charlton Heston began writing a paragraph or so at the end of each day's work or play--about film offers, script developments, filming problems, travel schedules, previews, openings, tennis scores, his wife's health problems, his kids' adorableness, etc. Here, edited to concentrate on movie matters and leavened with some 1978 afterthoughts, are the first 20 years of those paragraphs, dated and placed; and the cumulative effect, though far from dramatic and only fitfully entertaining, is an interesting study in the dollar-signed, self-deluding universe of even the most level-headed Hollywood star. Heston emerges as a decent, intelligent family man and professional actor--a nice antidote to the L.A. crazies. But his career, though a roaring success by commercial standards, seems strangely pathetic here as Heston ponders--with frank, detailed comments on the money side--the artistic pros and cons of which-movie-to-do. . . and somehow winds up in turkey after turkey, with some epic exceptions like Ben-Hur. The gap between his real-actor ambitions and his apparent instinct for quintessential Hollywood mediocrity is unsettling--and his high-falutin' streak culminates embarrassingly in a disastrous film of Antony and Cleopatra, conceived and directed by Antony/Heston. This skewed view of his own talents (he contends that his Thomas More in Man For All Seasons was better than Paul Scofield's) keeps the journal from being the clear-eyed picture of the actor's life one might have hoped for. But a few film personalities do peek out through the brief, diffuse diary entries: directors William Wyler and Orson Welles, colleague Laurence Olivier, and unstable co-star Ava Gardner (the only really unkind words about anyone from cautious nice-guy Heston). And movie fans will relish the inside dope on the Ben-Hut chariot race, the Planet of the Apes makeup, the Agony and the Ecstasy special effects. ""I don't think I'm a whore,"" Heston reflects on his commercially oriented career. And, however misguided or thwarted it may be, his good-humored but terribly earnest determination to treat his work seriously--Skyjacked, Earthquake, and all--will earn him some new admirers.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1978
Publisher: Dutton