Charlton Heston, Countercultural Hero, to Get USPS Stamp

by Tim Cavanaugh

The late Charlton Heston, who spun massive Hollywood stardom and popularity as America’s narrator-in-chief into a late-life career as a firebreathing Second Amendment advocate and president of the National Rifle Association, is being honored with a stamp from the U.S. Postal Service.

The Daily Caller’s Mike Piccione reports that the Heston stamp will come out this year as part of the USPS’s “Legends of Hollywood” series. He was by every measure a legend of Hollywood, who was able to play Moses toward the beginning of his career, carried arty and challenging pictures like Touch of Evil, and had the gravity to head up cast-of-thousands circuses like Ben-Hur and 55 Days at Peking — as well as playing an actual circus master in the first movie Steven Spielberg ever saw. And though he always pointed out that he’d been a staunch civil rights advocate, Heston’s work for gun rights and support for Ronald Reagan guaranteed him a permanent reputation as a rock-ribbed man of the Right.

But I suspect I’m not the only American of a certain age for whom Heston will always be a slightly countercultural figure, on the strength of his dystopian triptych from the late sixties and early seventies. Planet of the Apes is an anti-establishment fantasia in which Heston plays an authority-hating cynic at war with anti-science fundamentalists, and in which the Straussian concept of utilitarian religion is revealed to be a tool for the worst kind of moral monster. In Omega Man, Heston plays the last man in a depopulated Los Angeles, coming to terms with the Woodstock generation both spiritually (the Woodstock documentary is the one movie he watches on an endless loop) and physically (he gets busy with Rosalind Cash and ultimately sacrifices himself for a bunch of longhaired kids). The endlessly parodied Soylent Green is super-ironic Malthusian science fiction made when “overpopulation” was still a thing, with Heston and commie superstar Edward G. Robinson movingly enacting a tragic buddy relationship.

That was Heston. Like America, he contained multitudes, only a few of which will fit on a stamp.

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