Heston was always able to channel some energies into the public arena. He was an active supporter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., calling him "a 20th-century Moses for his people," and participated in the historic march on Washington in 1963. (Right), he joined civil rights protesters picketing a whites-only restaurant in Oklahoma City in 1961.
Ben-Hur was released fifty years ago and won eleven Oscars (a record, now tied by Titanic and and the third film in the LOTR trilogy, The Return of the King). Heston also won the heart of every woman of my mother's generation. My mother-in-law in particular occasionally mentioned his name in a tone approaching lust.
He had many script lines chiseled into popular culture but for my generation his signature will be "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape".
His evolution into a conservative nearly overshadowed his considerable body of cinematic work, and his virulent gun-rights activism toward the end of his life -- as well as his creeping Alzheimer's -- was laid bare by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine.
Heston was a stellar actor and and an enthusiastic political activist on both sides of the political spectrum. He will always be a mythic figure, and to some a reverential one.