Charlton Heston… forever

ChuckI had a few possible subject headers in mind for this morning’s dedication of a first class postage stamp in honor of the late actor Charlton Heston — among them “Charlton Heston Goes Postal” and “Stamping the Terra” but somehow neither one quite fit the bill… or the man The crowd gathered this morning in the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the unveiling of the new “forever” stamp by a combined effort of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG-AFTRA), the American Film Institute, the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, the United States Armed Forces, and, of course, the United States Postal Service felt, as I did, a sense of great dignity and significance in the event, meaning it was time for reverence and respect. “From the moment he was paid to be an actor…” Ben Mankiewicz said by way of opening remarks “… Charlton Heston was a movie star.” Ben’s words were backed by an extremely moving TCM-produced montage of clips from Heston’s films, a wildly divergent selection of key titles ranging from his appearance in a student film production of Peer Gynt to his tentpole appearances in such larger-than-life films as The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, and Treasure Island — a 1989 made-for-cable adaptation of the Robert Lewis Stevenson novel directed by Heston’s son Fraser, who got the job from TCM founder Ted Turner. Additional speakers such as former SAG-AFRTRA Executive Vice President Ned Vaughn, current SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Gabrielle Carteris (reading a statement by ailing SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard), former Chair of the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee and former director of the American Film Institute Jean Firstenberg, New Mexico senator Mickey Barnett (a former governor of the United States Postal Service) and Fraser Heston himself all paid warm and emotional tribute to Heston’s command of the screen, his devotion to his family, friends and colleagues, and his involvement in such flashpoint issues as the Civil Rights Movement and the formation of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Charlton Heston is the 18th film and TV personality to be immortalized in the USPS’s “Legends of Hollywood” line of first class stamps, which puts him in the very good company of John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, James Stewart, James Dean, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper — among others — and the third Screen Actor’s Guild president to be given his own postage stamp, alongside James Cagney and Robert Reagan.

The celebration continued immediately after the ceremony with a special screening and world premiere of a newly restored print of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958), starring Heston in one of his most iconic roles.

The official USPS Charlton Heston Forever Stamp is the work of veteran Hollywood poster artist Drew Struzan.