Film ID: NEFA 21805 Video of NEFA 21805 Six Five 6 January 1968 - Charlton Heston Interview SIX FIVE: INTERVIEW WITH CHARLTON HESTON 1968 Visitor TabsDescription Tyne Tees television presenter Bob Langley interviews the Hollywood actor Charlton Heston for the Six Five news programme originally broadcast on 16 January 1968. He is in Newcastle to promote his new film, Will Penny, a cowboy movie. The interview begins with Bob Langley’s remark that it is curious the movie ‘Will Penny’ is Heston’s first Western for 10 years. Heston replies that the film is not a typical Western. The last one he made was ‘The Big Country’ and he has been trying to find a Western worth doing since then. He comments that well-made Westerns like Bonanza or Gunsmoke are now available on television, well written and with good actors. If you are going to make something for cinema, it has to be special. It took 10 years to find something he thought was that special. Bob Langley observes that, apart from the influence of television, he feels the whole motion picture industry is changing. “People no longer go to the movies, they go to a movie.” Some of the top-grossing films over the last 5 years have starred unknown or almost unknown actors. He asks if the day of the big time movie star who could draw people to the cinema is coming to a close. Charlton Heston replies that he thinks it has unquestionably already ended. He thinks that television has replaced film as the time-passing medium. Instead, cinemagoers go to see a specific movie. He does not believe there is an actor living who could draw audiences into a theatre in the same way. Bob Langley comments that a few years ago Heston was a staunch supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement, and presumably still is. He observes that, at that time, black Americans wanted equality and integration, but that the movement is currently more militant. He asks Heston how he sees his role now and how he sees the current situation. The actor states that he feels disenchanted with the Civil Rights Movement, as it has developed in America. He says that he was amongst delegates at the national conference of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations) in Miami Beach a month ago, representing the Screen Actors Guild, where he talked to ‘Red’ [Bayard] Rustin (leading strategist of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 to 1968). The two reminisced about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which Heston felt was a high-water mark of the Civil Rights Movement, resulting as it did in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. He says that he was very proud that day, not just as someone interested in the Civil Rights Movement, but as a citizen, to be in Washington where a quarter of a million people assembled, a situation with explosive potential, and there wasn’t a flicker of violence. He believes that, with the exception of England, there is not another country in the world that this could happen. Since that event, he feels the development of the Civil Rights Movement has been backwards. He thinks the adventure into violence is destructive, and that its leaders, men such as Stokely Carmichael, seem to forget that the machinery for the expression of citizen grievance by peaceful means is built into the United States Constitution. He believes the supreme laws of the country should be used. If you reject the Constitution, as he feels the irresponsible elements of the Civil Rights Movement are now doing, you can only do yourself an enormous disservice. Bob Langley asks whether the extreme situation in America calls for extreme measures as a response. Heston replies: “No, not if you go along with Thomas Jefferson, and I’m afraid I do.” Langley comments on the actor’s film portrayals of great men – Moses, Ben-Hur, Michelangelo – but what about Charlton Heston, he asks. Heston is a material success, but how would he like to see himself in the future? Where would he like to go from here? Charlton Heston replies that he is among a happy minority of people who make a living doing what he would do for nothing. He is quite content. He has no ambitions to produce or to go into politics. He is happy to go on acting. Langley asks what he would have chosen to be if he had not become an actor. Heston thinks he may have become a painter, or, with better skills on court, perhaps a tennis player. Context The other side of a gun-ho Ben-Hur Hollywood legend Charlton Heston reflects on the rise of Black Power and his role in America’s Civil Rights Movement. This Tyne Tees TV interview reveals another side to Charlton Heston, the Hollywood icon once described as a “rugged American frontiersman”. The actor famed for epic film roles as Ben Hur and Moses is on a visit to Newcastle promoting his new cowboy movie, Will Penny. Later notorious as a gun-loving President of the National Rifle Association, the younger Heston proudly reflects on his role in the landmark civil rights March on Washington with Martin Luther King in 1963. Charlton Heston, whose grandfather John B ‘Jack’ Carter had worked down Tyneside mines as a boy of eight or nine, was once a staunch supporter of civil rights and labour movements, before he embraced far-right Republicanism and gun ownership in the 80s and 90s. He led the ‘Hollywood delegation’, along with Harry and Julia Belafonte and Marlon Brando, towards the Lincoln Memorial to hear King’s historic speech, and later served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Ironically, this interview reveals his disillusion with the new militancy in the civil rights movement under SNCC leader Stokeley Carmichael and the rise of black nationalism, perhaps an early sign of his turn away from liberalism.