Charlton Heston Gets a Postage Stamp

2:00 PM PST 04/11/2014 by Paul Bond
USPS

At a ceremony in Hollywood, those who knew him said the star of "Ben Hur" and the original "Planet of the Apes" was unafraid of stirring political controversy.

Charlton Heston, the movie star, political activist and former head of the National Rifle Association, got his own postage stamp on Friday, unveiled at a ceremony at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The stamp bearing Heston's image is a painting taken from a photo shot by his widow, Lydia Clarke Heston, who attended Friday's ceremony, which was part of the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.

The Heston stamp is three years in the making and began with lobbying from Michael Levine, the actor's publicist of 21 years.

Heston is the 18th stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series from the U.S. Postal Service. Earlier ones included John Wayne, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Gary Cooper and Lucille Ball.

The ceremony, which preceded the worldwide premiere of the newly restored 1958 Heston film Touch of Evil, included remarks from representatives of the postal service as well as members of SAG-AFTRA. Heston was president of that organization's precursor, the Screen Actors Guild, from 1965 to 1971.

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The speakers, who included son Fraser Clarke Heston, a filmmaker who directed his father in the 1990 TNT movie Treasure Island, noted that Heston's political activism was sometimes controversial.

Several reminisced about Heston picketing against segregation in 1961 and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, when it took courage to do so, and remarked about his passionate support of the NRA.

"Heston fundamentally embodied a commitment to fight for what he valued -- no matter where or when he was needed," said Ned Vaughn, the founding executive vp of SAG-AFTRA. "Later in his life, some of those fights would earn him contempt from some of his colleagues in the entertainment industry. Becoming a Republican and giving his unwavering support to the work of his good friend Ronald Reagan. Giving compelling voice to his concerns about political correctness and cultural decline in our society, and, of course, fighting to protect the Second Amendment."

The event, hosted by TCM's Ben Mankiewicz, also included a video montage of Heston's work, with clips from Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments and the original Planet of the Apes.

After the montage, Fraser Clarke Heston told how his dad learned to drive a four-horse chariot for his Oscar-winning role in Ben Hur. When he worried he wasn't good enough to realistically race against several other teams in the arena, stunt director Yakima Canutt told him: "Chuck, you just make sure you stay in the chariot. I guarantee you're gonna win the damn race."

After the event, Levine told The Hollywood Reporter that when he launched his effort to put Heston's image on a stamp at a press conference three years ago, only one prominent person showed up: conservative political commentator Bruce Herschensohn.

"For the first two years, it wasn't easy and it wasn't popular. My sense is because of his work with the NRA," Levine said.

The effort gained steam about a year ago through a public petition and some friendly media, particularly from Christopher Ruddy and his Newsmax magazine, Levine said.

"Heston was an extraordinary guy, not just an extraordinary actor. He was a very unique man," Levine said.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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