Monday, April 07, 2008
façade: Charlton Heston, farceur?
"On screen, Mr. Heston parted the Red Sea in 'The Ten Commandments,' drove the Moors from Spain in 'El Cid,' painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 'The Agony and the Ecstasy,' baptized Jesus in 'The Greatest Story Ever Told,' and gave him a drink of water in 'Ben-Hur.'
"And on the seventh day, Mr. Heston did not rest."
So wrote movie critic Carrie Rickey in her gold-standard appreciation of Charlton Heston in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
I can't top that. Frankly, I have nothing to add to what Carrie wrote. Except for one observation.
In his long, 50-year Hollywood career, Heston made a lot of films, close to 100 (not counting his television appearances), but they were heavily dramatic and most of them period/costume pieces - Biblical epics, Westerns and such.
But to the best of my knowledge, Heston has only only two - count 'em - two comedies on his resumé: Jerry Hopper's "The Private War of Major Benson" (1955) and Melville Shavelson's "The Pigeon That Took Rome" (1962) and, in both, he played military men.
In "The Private War of Major Benson," he's a career soldier given a choice after mouthing off once too often to higher-ups: He will be drummed out of the Army, or he can keep his stripes if he takes command of - and shapes up - the ROTC program at a boys' academy. The Universal film, which was remade as Damon Wayan's "Major Payne" in 1995, would have been better suited to the talents of Glenn Ford.
"The Pigeon That Took Rome" cast Heston as another American soldier, this one behind Italian lines in World War II, who uses carrier pigeons fitted with messages to communicate the movements of the Germans - and who grows more and more in love with the daughter of the local family with which he's residing.
The ever-reliable Harry Guardino co-starred, handling most of the film's comedy, and Elsa Martinelli was Heston's love interest, whose father (Salvatore Baccaloni) fouls things up by cooking the pigeons for a family dinner.
The film is a little reminiscent of the military comedy that Jack Lemmon made with Richard Quine in 1957, "Operation Mad Ball," and in fact would have been a better fit with Lemmon.
That's not an original opinion. At the time of the release of "The Pigeon That Took Rome," Heston himself opined that it would have been better with Lemmon.
(Artwork: Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins in a scene from William Wyler's "Ben-Hur; The Philadelphia Inquirer movie critic, Carrie Rickey; Heston with Elsa Martinelli and Salvatore Baccaloni in "The Pigeon That Took Rome," and an ad for the film.)
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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com
Posted by joe baltake at 9:42 PM