Charlton Heston: In the Arena

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Charlton Heston’s In the Arena is a good read. It appears this is actually written by Heston without the help of a ghostwriter. If so it is an even more insightful and honest look at the actor’s life. Unlike the rather grim and serious NRA spokesman we remember from his last years, In the Arena shows a man very in touch with himself, with both an ability to revel in the successes but also identify and learn from the failures.

Perhaps it helps that Heston was always fairly removed from the shenanigans and other hoopla often associated with the Hollywood lifestyle. Never known as a womanizer or a drinker, Heston is perhaps forced a bit to focus on that which is most important to the industry and his fans: his stellar career.

In the book we learn some great tidbits, such as the time during the filming of Major Dundee when Heston, saber in hand, charged director Sam Peckinpah. Also the insightful (and perhaps correct) analysis that El Cid would have been a much better film, perhaps even better than his epic Ben-Hur, had noted second director Yakima Canutt been involved in El Cid as well.

It is a long read but a surprisingly fast one. Even though most film fans will know the major plot points it is still a joy to see them from the author (and participant’s) perspective. Heston’s mixture of self deprecation and candor make it an extremely good one to pick up. You’ll finish it much faster than you think!

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