Thursday, April 10, 2008

From My Cold Dead Hands

While this blog will never be accused of timeliness, I feel remiss for not addressing the death of Charlton Heston before now. I come to bury him not to praise him? As I consider his passing I am struck by all the recent death I have avoided, as I am hoping not to become a eulogy/poetry site, as awesome as that may be.

For several reasons I don't play dead pools (do these still exist outside CSI MIAMI? Does anything?), but if I did I would have made a lot of money off of Chuck. I can recall no more than two weeks ago emerging from my room after reading an item in Parade Magazine and informing my father "did you read Charlton Heston is dying" and then exactly one week later to the minute my father emerging from his having read the Washington Post to inform me "did you read Charlton Heston died?". Why are we all so enamored of telling others of someone's passing? I think people are probably more interested in playing the Angel of Death than in playing God. Except maybe heart surgeons, fingers crossed.

Charlton Heston, Paul Scofield, Arthur C. Clarke, Richard Widmark. All excellent men, all men people thought had probably died many years ago, and maybe they had. Not to mention Jules Dassin, the director of the brilliant RIFIFI and the awesome TOPKAPI. This will probably become a film blog, as it's the only thing I can credibly write about, but not now.

Richard Widmark, whose awesomeness I was only recently discovering, with films like PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, but my strongest memory is still watching him in JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG at my Uncle Dick's house with my father when I was 7. I feel like it was probably more awkward for him to tell me about the Holocaust than it was for him to talk about sex. It's certainly the most halting and slow he's ever been in trying to explain anything. Maybe he thought I wasn't ready to understand total evil, or maybe he just thought Spencer Tracy and Widmark had already done an adequate enough job and I was wasting his time.

Arthur C. Clarke, who along with Isaac Asimov was probably the true genius of Science Fiction. He was creating worlds that actually have happened, or will. One of the coolest things my father ever gave me was a box full of his favorite Sci-Fi. The title of one of them is actually the name of this blog. FIRST AND LAST MEN, a pretty bizzare but awesome supposition on the future evolution of man, with its Hegelian ideas about the ever constant rise. I personally choose to believe in Vonnegut's vision that we will evolve into an aquatic species that hunts for fish like seals do, but it's still a great read. Nevertheless, Clarke's CHILDHOOD'S END is a book I have a personal relationship with. I first took it off the cart when I was still in restraints, as a guest of the state. It was about 3 weeks after I'd gotten there, and it was the first time I realized there was a book cart because of course no one told me. I truly believe it pulled me out of madness. That and the love of my family, but that's not an escape. It's a really strange work, with a perhaps simplistic allegory at the center, but it's an awesome vision of the future and a wonderful humanist take at religion. Probably should have written him a letter while I had the chance, though I have no idea how to mail something to Sri Lanka.

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS is a movie they make you watch in school, of course when you're too young and you think it's boring. But Paul Scofield really is brilliant in it. I was told about it long before I saw it, and my father gave me his personal copy of the play with notes scribbled from his days at Georgetown, almost 45 years ago. It's still quite odd for me to think about my father as a student like I am now, and not only because he was doing so much better. He's really sort of retreated into a stubborn mindset that it's hard to fathom him being educated, with Pat Buchanan and Bill Clinton at his side no less in the swinging '60s. There's a statue to St. Thomas More near his house, who Paul Scofield played in the movie. Since I don't really believe in those things, I prefer to think of it as a statue to Scofield and to the time when when everybody smoked and they made square awesome biblical/relgious epics. It's cool the Pope is coming and all, but I look forward to the day when people can put t-shirts and football jerseys on Thomas More, or maybe Mardi Gras beads.

Speaking of biblical/religous epics, I finally return to the big daddy. How many times have you watched PLANET OF THE APES? That should probably be on the citizenship test. Heston was obviously not a great actor, but he was a great screen icon. The obits have dealt with all the big points. SAG President, Civil Rights activist, and of course in what most of them are considering some Whitmanesque multitude contradiction, President of the NRA. I've never been against guns, probably because I grew up with an uncle that tried to shoot elk to survive. For a month. Charlton just did it because he believed in it, because he thought guns were necessary. He had too many badass lines based on the threat of force not to. I choose to remember him as Hollywood's most ridiculous/awesome Mexican in TOUCH OF EVIL, and to quote it: He was some kind of man.

Are old time movie stars like World War 2 Veterans? I mean of course besides the ones who actually were. As we lose more of them do we lose a little bit of what America used to be? I don't mean the bad, but the musky, the Studebakers, the ridiculous high levels of pomade, good posture, great handwriting, stoicism, scotch and cigars, the necktie? Will they live on forever in 12 reels? If they are immortal, is America?

When Sam Goldwyn was told Ronald Reagan was going to run for Governor, he was reported to have quipped "No no, Ronald Reagan for best friend, Jimmy Stewart for Governor."

Charlton Heston for President.

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