In The Arena by Charlton Heston.
Hardcover: 592 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster(September 12, 1995)
You’d hardly expect Chuck Heston–as decent a guy as any American actor’s ever been–to produce a racy tell-all, and he doesn’t. Rather, he recounts his career, although only after glowingly recalling his rural Michigan childhood and poor adolescence in contrastingly tony Wilmette, Illinois–then as now among Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs. A drama scholarship to Northwestern University set him on the road to success and a string of distinguished films rivaled by few other actors of his generation. The stories of making those movies are the meat here, with seasoning coming from Heston’s parallel stage accomplishments, his activism with the Screen Actors’ Guild (he succeeded Ronald Reagan as SAG president), words of wisdom on the crafts of acting and filmmaking, tart asides on current cultural foibles (like Reagan, he’s a former Democrat turned staunch Republican), and loving references to wife and children. But there’s no gossip, which movie lovers who especially admire the grand-style filmmaking of Heston’s 1950s^-1960s heyday won’t miss a bit, so enthralled they’ll be with the production anecdotes about The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and El Cid, among others. Ray Olson
First off I will say I bought this book from the Friends of the Library for one dollar. (later, at home, I found it was autographed! I know it’s a true autograph because I have a photo of “Moses” signed by Mr Heston and it’s a perfect match)
Anyway, I bought the book because of the price, and because it was in mint condition (never looked like it was read) and because I actually met Charlton Heston at an autograph show when I live in California. He signed his skinny little butt off for two days all for charity. I thought that was nice of him.
I also admit that Mr Heston didn’t win any “good votes” from me with his love of guns. But that’s a personal thing. I’ve loved his movies over the years but never considered myself a “Heston Fan”..must have been those guns. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind if someone likes to Skeet Shoot or Target Shoot etc I just don’t like how easy they are to get and I’ll drop the subject because the subject here is his autobiography.
I think he did a very good job writing the book. Most of the time I felt as if I was sitting in a room and he was telling his story, which made me feel comfortable reading it.
I also found he had a good sense of humor, and often wrote tid-bits in parenthesis which made him even more human.
Although the bulk of his book was about his movies he did it in a way that made them interesting. He would talk about how he got the movie, who was going to be in it with him and what he thought of them. Who was directing and how did he get along with him It felt more like “behind the scenes” rather than a “list of my movies”.
Some stories were worth a chuckle like the one about Mr DeMille while shooting The Greatest Show on Earth….
“The actors did very well, but it was a tricky shoot. De Mille was giving last minute instructions one morning before a matinee when he noticed 2 extra girls chattering near the back of the tent. “young lady,” he said, pointing, “no, you with the red scarf, miss.. yes, you. I’m trying to explain to everyone what we have to do this afternoon, but you clearly feel what you’re saying to your friend is more important. Please come down here and use the microphone, so we can all hear your vital message.
Very reluctantly, the girl came down, shyly took the mike and announced, “I just said , I wonder when that bald-headed old son of a bitch is gonna call lunch.”
DeMill knew when he was licked, when the laughing died , he took the mike back, “Lunch” he said.”
While reading his book I learned many small things like: a second unit director is the unit assembled to shoot all the action scenes. The first unit directors would shoot all the dialogue and close ups with the principles.
I guess I didn’t even realize how many movies he made and how many I had seen! I do remember seeing Ben Hur as a class trip from school and was amazed that it had an “intermission” because the movie was so long! (but I have to admit that as handsome as Heston was….. Stephen Boyd made my heart go pitty-pat lol
Ok… so this took me forever to read..not because I didn’t find it a good book, but because of health issues. But slow or not I hope I never quit reading a good book!
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