Actor Charlton Heston has died at the age of 84 of undisclosed causes. Heston announced he had symptoms consistent with ALzheimer's in 2002.

Heston's long list of screen credits includes everything from noirs to family films but his name will always be synonymous with the widescreen epics that flourished in the 1950s and '60s. Heston played Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments and achieved his greatest fame and most accolades as the title character of William Wyler's Ben-Hur. Other memorable roles included Orson Welles' Touch Of Evil and Planet Of The Apes.

Born in Evanston, IL, Heston attended Northwestern University, served in the Air Force, and, with his wife, worked as a model before beginning his professional acting career. Television work led to quick success that made Heston an in-demand leading man. He worked in that capacity until the mid-'70s, after which he appeared largely in supporting roles.

Politically, Heston began as an outspoken liberal and champion of The Civil Rights movement (and gun control) then moved sharply to the right. By the 1980s he was known as much for conservative politics as his acting. Heston served as the president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003, a difficult stretch that included the Columbine Massacre and made Heston a target of Michael Moore's documentary Bowling For Columbine.

Above all, Heston was an actor. His performances never let viewers forget this. He had little use for subtlety but a great flair for operatic emotions. Few have equaled him for this. Heston was already a man out of time in an era that had begun to favor the nuance of Method performers but he had a gift for command that made the shift in fashion seem irrelevant, if not wrongheaded. Other actors could have cursed the skies and damned mankind for destroying itself at the end of Planet Of The Apes. But try to picture anyone else bringing Heston's ferocity and conviction to the moment and you'll probably draw a blank.

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