Michael Aspel surprised movie legend Charlton Heston with the words 'Charlton Heston - this is your life - not so much a story, more an epic; it tells of a young man who was a struggling young actor posing for art classes in New York to pay rent of a fifth floor tariff and went on to become the friend of presidents - here you are with no fewer than five of them'. (Shown is a photo of George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon all listening to Heston making a speech).
Clips are shown from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, BEN-HUR and THE BIG COUNTRY, and Carroll Baker then comes on and describes Heston as a "giant of our industry". Holly Heston flies in from New York and has 'A wonderful memory of getting off an airplane in Spain and being surrounded by hundreds of people screaming El Cid, El Cid". Film of Jack Heston calling his grandfather 'Ba' was shown.
Aspel then began chronicling Heston's rise to fame, beginning with some remarkable footage of a young Heston in the title role of PEER GYNT, a semi-professional movie made in 1941. Walter Seltzer, Hal Wallis' head of publicity described trying to locate an unknown Heston at Hollywood airport , armed with only a fuzzy 8x10 TV still.
A message from James Stewart was read by Aspel: "Dear Chuck, this being such a great occasion for you, I'm deeply disappointed that ill health precludes me paying tribute to you in person. Nobody is more deserving of being a subject of This is your Life than you. Your career has been nothing short of brilliant and the manifold honours which have been bestowed on you bear witness to your exemplary life as a citizen and an actor. Your long married life to Lydia has been an example to all who Know you. Our long friendship has meant a great deal to me and I look forward to it's continuation for many years to come. Sincerely, James Stewart".
Other guests included Nina Foch, who played Heston's mother in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, a very frail Janet Leigh , Ronald Reagan was filmed reading a tribute, and Christopher Mitchum slightly irked Heston with his reminiscence about a Mexican border guard - 'You had to remember that, didn't you!' Dame Edna, John Forsythe and President George Bush gave filmed tributes, while other studio guests were Stephanie Beacham (who told a funny gun story) and Martha Scott, who played his mother in BEN-HUR. I found it strange that Fraser Heston, his son, wasn't seen or heard in this short (25 mins) tribute.
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