Charlton Heston, dead at 84

As Moses and Ben-Hur, gentile Heston often played proud Jews.

heston88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Although not a Jew himself, the American actor Charlton Heston, who died Saturday night at 84, certainly had a tendency to portray Jewish characters. He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ben-Hur in the 1959 classic of the same name, and most famously portrayed the tablet-waving Moses of The Ten Commandments (1956). Such was Heston's association with biblical-era characters that one of his later works, Charlton Heston Presents the Bible, had him reading from the holy text in locations across Israel, including Jerusalem, Jericho, the Negev and Lake Kinneret. In what could have been Heston's most audacious Jewish role, the FBI recruited the actor amid the 1993 Waco, Texas, standoff involving David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. Heston was to have played the Voice of God to facilitate negotiations with Koresh, however the plan was never used. In a 2002 piece for The National Review, Jewish actor Richard Dreyfuss lamented that "millions of Jewish kids grew up with the confusion that A) Charlton Heston was Moses and B) Charlton Heston was not Jewish." Despite the apparent contradiction, Dreyfuss went on to compliment the actor's barrel-chested presence: "In the darkened mysterioso of the movie theater, Charlton Heston was 'just right.'" Despite gaining his early fame as Moses and Ben-Hur, in his final film role Heston portrayed the notorious Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele in My Father, Rua Alguem 5555 (2003). The movie focused on the story of Mengele's orphaned son meeting his aged father at the end of his life.