Monday, February 23, 2009
In Memory of Moses
Almost lost in the 2009 Oscar Telecast was the mention of the passing of one of Hollywood's great icons, Charlton Heston. Maybe it was because of his politics or his affiliation with the NRA that he received scant applause. Be that as it may, Heston became the face of both science fiction and the Bible in the 1950's and 60's.
In his rendition of Moses in Cecil B DeMille's The Ten Commandments, Heston created a character from Jewish antiquity in a way that was proud, strong, and decisive. This in a time when modern Jews were either relegated to secondary characters on screen at best, or were totally removed altogether. The Communist scare was in full swing in the U.S. and in Hollywood, and the only Jews allowed to be portrayed were those from long ago. At the same time, Israel had only been in existence for eight years while the Holocaust still fresh in Jewish minds. Jews were moving en mass to the suburbs, and as a result of all of this we were at a crossroads in terms of our Jewish identities.
So to see our hero so boldly portrayed, if slightly over the top, helped us to feel a sense of pride in ourselves and our ancestry we had not felt for two thousand years. There have been other actors to play Moses on the big and little screen since, like Sir Ben Kingsley, Mel Brooks and others, but there will always be a special place at least in my heart for Heston's. Plus you can watch him on television every year right around Passover part those seas one more time. Farewell Moses, we'll miss you.