141: Charlton Heston Quiz: How Well Do You Know This Iconic Spiritual Hero?

atch out for spoilers toward the end of today’s quiz about actor Charlton Heston, who we’ve just lost after a remarkable, if sometimes controversial, career that spanned more than 100 movies and defined the look, the sound and the manner of spiritual heroism for millions.
    I’m not arguing today that we should embrace Heston’s vision of spiritual heroism — that’s open to debate — but I am saying that, if you want to understand 20th-Century American religious culture, then you’ve got to understand Heston.
    His rugged profile, deep voice and fearless manner — whenever he strode (and especially when he rode) across the screen — summoned American images of pioneers, cowboys and sports stars. He was The Rugged Individualist who Americans loved to envision themselves as embodying. Often, he was the man who simply was incapable of going bad — as if his joints wouldn’t allow him to bend in evil’s direction even when someone tried to push him that way.

    It’s true that his movie swan song was a highly controversial appearance in Michael Moore’s post-Columbine documentary about gun control. But, today, let’s set that important debate to one side — to examine the rest of Heston’s career and his enduring persona.
    There’s a fascinating jumble of images and expectations in the larger-than-life American icon known as Charlton Heston.

     Now here’s the “spoiler alert”:
    Most of our online readers won’t see the answers to today’s quiz until they click on the link at the end of the questions. But, you need to know that we’re including a couple of images with the answers today that may spoil the quiz if you see them too soon. So, wait to click until you’ve answered the questions — or, if you’re reading this via email or RSS feed — don’t scroll down too quickly today!


1.) Proof of Heston’s iconic power can be found in the current, 40th Anniversary issue of “New York” magazine, published before news of Heston’s death broke two days ago. Charlton Heston is the very first among “196 cultural works that best defined the city since this magazine began” — because of Heston’s shocking final scene in  “Planet of the Apes.” What happens in that scene?

A. He discovers King Kong is still alive and rules this futuristic world from New York.
B. He climbs the Empire State Building and screams, “Top o’ the World, Ma!”
C. He discovers the Statue of Liberty.
D. The film ends with an all-ape chorus singing “New York, New York.”

2.) While we’re exploring Heston’s science fiction career, do you remember “Soylent Green,” another cautionary tale about humanity’s self-destructive tendencies? In the 1973 film, Heston plays a detective in a futuristic metropolis, probing what’s gone gone horribly wrong with the social safety net. We won’t spoil the secret behind Soylent Green — you might want to rent the film this week. But, what is Soylent Green?

A. The color of the uniforms of a creepy new police force that is forming death squads.
B. The funding stream for a global plot to drug and conquer the world’s people.
C. A synthetic food substance required because the population has exceeded the capacity of farming.
D. The name of a new dictator bent on conquering the world.

3.) Before Will Smith made the hit sci-fi thriller, “I Am Legend,” which was just released on DVD — Heston made a movie version from the same novel by Richard Matheson, called “The Omega Man.” The most famous scene in “Omega Man,” which keeps kicking around the Internet to this day, featured Heston — as pretty much the last man on Earth — sitting in a theater, watching a movie, mouthing the words. Then he says, “Nope, they sure don’t make pictures like that anymore.” What was he watching?

A. Gone With the Wind
B. Casablanca
C. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
D. Woodstock

4.) OK, here’s an easier one: When Heston played Moses in “The Ten Commandments,” his single most famous role, where did the filmmakers get the image of Moses that they wanted Heston to portray?

A. The label of Cecil B. DeMille’s favorite brand of cigars.
B. A statue by Michelangelo.
C. The facade of the U.S. Supreme Court Building.
D. Title-page illustration in the King James Bible.

5.) Like Indiana Jones, Heston knew how to swing a mean whip — and sometimes had whips lashing in his direction. His most famous whip fight was in “Ben-Hur” — fought while he was roaring around an arena in a chariot, no less! Which of the following films also involved a crucial whipping scene?

A. Earthquake
B. Gray Lady Down
C. Planet of the Apes
D. Midway

6.) One of Heston’s biggest cult hits is a dark, black-and-white story of violence and corruption, “Touch of Evil.” Once again, Heston is the single, heroic figure determined to restore justice to this terrible little corner of the world. The film was famous because Heston was paired with a Hollywood legend, who played the truly “evil” character in the movie. The New York Times says the movie’s power lay in Heston’s “ramrod straight” figure standing up for goodness against his co-star, “an amorphous blob who all but rolls across the screen.” Who was the co-star?

A. Humphrey Bogart
B. Charlie Chaplin
C. Orson Welles
D. Jabba the Hutt

7.) Heston played a corrupt cardinal — twice. The character was loosely based on a real historical figure,  Cardinal Richelieu. What were the films?

A. Three Musketeers. Four Musketeers.
B. Major Dundee. The Mountain Men.
C. Dynasty. Crossed Swords.
D. El Cid. The War Lord.

8.) Critics sometimes joked that Heston seemed wooden, but the fact is that he was famous among his professional colleagues for carefully researching each role and even practicing skills and customs that would help him to portray each new character. Which of the following is an example of this famous attention to detail?

A. Baking shortbread and drinking ale while preparing for “Major Dundee.”
B. Painting and sculpting while preparing for “The Agony and the Ecstasy.”
C. Riding along with a real-life cattle drive for “The Big Country.”
D. Memorizing the Declaration of Independence for “The President’s Lady.”

9.) About the only thing most Americans remember about Heston’s political activism is his role at the NRA, but he was active in many other causes throughout his career. In 1992, for example, he successfully tackled one of these issues:

A. Placing a rare owl on the endangered species list, even though it threatened the future of an international logging company.
B. Pulling a rap song about killing cops from the marketplace, even though it involved a media company in which he owned shares.
C. Stopping the construction of a highway through endangered sand dunes, even though it would have helped him develop a major resort.
D. Making it illegal for businesses to set foot in a protected forest in the Pacific Northwest, even though it shut down a film production in which he was to star.

10.) Such activism wasn’t just something he developed late in life. One of the brave steps he took early in life has been mentioned in much of the coverage in recent days about his life and legacy. Which of the following is true:

A. He defied Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt.
B. He was arrested protesting trains carrying nuclear missiles in the Nixon era.
C. He joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march on Washington.
D. He joined a delegation asking President Johnson to end the Vietnam War.

When you think you’ve got all the answers, CLICK on the link below in the online version of this
quiz, and the ANSWERS will pop up!

    Ready? CLICK for the ANSWERS below …


1.) C. Bare chested and riding a horse through the ocean spray with a beautiful young woman holding on for dear life behind him — Heston rounds a corner and discovers the Statue of Liberty. But, check out the video clip at the end of these Answers to glimpse the full impact of that discovery.

2.) C. It’s a food substance. In fact, in this futuristic world there are various color-coded brands, including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow. However, when Heston finally discovers the secret behind the Green stuff, he screams: “You’ve gotta tell them! You’ve gotta tell them!”

3.) D. In 1971, Roger Ebert wrote a favorable review of the film, “Omega Man,” opening with these words: “

If anybody has to be the last man in the world, I suppose it might as well be Charlton Heston. At least we know we’re in good hands.” In the movie, Heston enjoys sitting back and watching the famous Woodstock musical documentary, mouthing the words of rock fans attending the festival.

4.) B. Heston got the role because his facial structure, physique and acting style was the spitting images of Michelangelo’s statue — after makeup artists added tons of hair, that is. Heston, by the way, insisted on playing the part barefoot, which he thought added authenticity.

5.) C. We’re back to “Planet of the Apes” on this whipping theme. Like John Wayne in “The Searchers,” Heston opened this movie with an utter loathing for all apes — and the apes confirmed his worst fears by whipping him mercilessly and catching him in a net. The dramatic hook of the film is that these apes are now the intelligent rulers of Earth and one of Heston’s captors announces that he’s “now in the custody of the Ministry of Science!” Disgusted with his captors, Heston shouts back, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” In the much-later remake of this movie, Heston switched roles and appeared in a cameo as an ape himself!

6.) C. It was Welles, but one wonders whether Jabba the Hutt wasn’t inspired by portrayals like Welles’ corrupt police captain in “Touch of Evil.”

7.) A. He played the scheming French cardinal in the Musketeers films produced in the mid 1970s.

8.) B. Heston had a lifelong interest in sketching, but he took special instruction in painting and sculpting to portray Michelangelo believably in “Agony and Ecstasy.”

9.) B. All of these answers sound like things that Heston might have done, given his personal interests. In fact, though, he was a Time Warner stockholder — and, nevertheless, he charged into a stockholders meeting with a successful campaign to withdraw Ice T’s infamous “Cop Killer.”

10.) C. Heston was an outspoken supporter of King and joined the march on Washington. Borrowing from his own experience in researching spiritual heroes, Heston called King, “a 20th-Century Moses for his people.”

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    AND FINALLY, click on the Video Screen below to watch the dramatic final minutes of the 1968 science-fiction thriller, “Planet of the Apes,” as Heston makes his dramatic ride along the ocean shore — and discovers the shocking truth behind the movie: Stubborn military leaders had touched off a nuclear Holocaust that virtually exterminated humanity. It’s not what he discovers — but how he discovers it in this final sequence — that made this film a cult classic. (If you don’t see a video screen in your version of this story, then click here to visit YouTube directly and watch Heston conclude “The Planet of the Apes.”)

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