BEIJING DIARY by Charlton Heston


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Diary with photos (16 pp. of b&w--not seen) of Heston's 1988 visit with his Nikonbearing wife to Beijing, where he was to direct Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial with Chinese stage actors. Heston's earlier diary, An Actor's Life (1978), was an earnest but fitful set of extracts whose cumulative picture entertained without digging very deeply. The slim text here, however, apparently needs the support of Ms. Heston's photographs. The story is simple enough. Heston was filming A Man for All Seasons when China's Ministry of Culture invited him to Beijing to direct an all-Chinese production of Wouk's play, which Heston had directed and starred in around the States. Arthur Miller had already directed Death of a Salesman there with some of the same actors Heston was to be presented with--and had written about it in the brilliant Salesman in Beijing (1984). The show was to be staged in Mandarin for the People's Art Theatre, and it was hoped that Heston would revamp the company into a troupe presenting a culturally accurate show of Western-style acting. Heston found himself facing a production already blocked in and actors who had most of their lines down. They worked days only, since many were engaged in evening performances at the PAT--at a pay of 50 cents a day! Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his labors is with cutting the text; the show would run so long in Mandarin that the audience would have to leave halfway through the second act to catch the last bus home. Leas compelling are his labors as a director directing actors in an unknown language; Heston simply does not get into his experience with any intensity, and aside from his work directing Captain Queeg's climactic big speech, all is quite gummy and toothless--even his cultural observations are generalized and undetailed. A half-felt performance that settles for too little.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1990
Publisher: Simon & Schuster