Turner Classic Movies spotlights Oscar-winning icon
When your father was Moses, Ben-Hur and one of the first astronauts to crash-land on the planet of the apes, that’s quite a family history.
Fraser C. Heston has it, since the filmmaker is the son of the late Hollywood icon Charlton Heston … whose films are spotlighted by Turner Classic Movies on the penultimate day of its annual “Summer Under the Stars” event Sunday, Aug. 30. Included is the 1959 version of “Ben-Hur,” which brought the elder Heston an Oscar for best actor among its 11 wins. The day’s other features span science fiction (“Planet of the Apes,” “The Omega Man”), period pieces (“The Three Musketeers,” “55 Days at Peking,” “Khartoum”) and noir melodrama (“Touch of Evil”).
“I was very fortunate that as an adult, I could partner with my father on so many pictures and work with him as an equal collaborator,” says Fraser, who appeared as the infant incarnation of his father’s Moses in “The Ten Commandments,” director Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic. “He was very flexible and accepting of my creative vision when I started directing. He said, ‘If you want to do something a certain way, I’ll do my best to do it that way.’
“He also wasn’t afraid to come up with new ideas and push the boundaries a little bit,” Fraser adds, “so as a result, I think we had a really good creative relationship. And certainly, our personal relationship was stronger than ever, partially as a result of that.”
Fraser reasons that Charlton “was very lucky that he could come back every 10 years and sort of reinvent himself in a new genre. He did the ‘epic’ thing, then he did a couple of Westerns, then he re-energized himself in sci-fi. And then he went and did disaster movies.”
The Charlton Heston salute wraps up TCM’s traditional featured-performer-per-day August that began with Barbara Stanwyck and ends with Alain Delon on Monday, Aug. 31. Since it’s on a Sunday, the Heston marathon is introduced by Alicia Malone during the afternoon, and by Ben Mankiewicz at night.
A story Fraser tells about his father, related to the filming of the early “Ten Commandments” scene of Fraser as the baby Moses in a floating basket, suggests Charlton may not have been much different from his screen image.
“Dad was right there, and the basket almost sank. It was filling with water and he picked me up, and a social worker came over and said, ‘No, Mr. Heston, I’m the only one who’s allowed to hold the child at this point.’ And he just looked at her and said, using the voice he used as Moses, ‘Give me that baby!’ And, not surprisingly, she did.”