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From My Cold, Dead Hands: Charlton Heston and American Politics Hardcover – August 18, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (August 18, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813124085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813124087
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heston was as much a bellwether in real-life politics as he was in Hollywood biblical epics, according to this intriguing biographical study. Historian Raymond surveys Heston's political life from his days as a civil rights marcher, Lyndon Johnson supporter and Screen Actors Guild president to his later turn as a Republican stalwart and National Rifle Association president. She analyzes this trajectory not as a rightward trek but as rooted in bedrock ideals—individualism, equal opportunity, moral responsibility—through shifting ideological tides. Throughout, she pegs Heston as a "visceral neoconservative" unwittingly in tune with neocon intellectuals like Irving Kristol (but without the Trotskyist past). In blockbusters from The Ten Commandments to Planet of the Apes, his resonant baritone, craggily handsome face and muscular, seminude physique glamorized an image of conservative masculinity that would color his offscreen political crusades. Raymond's film commentary is stiffly didactic ("Moses demonstrates his moral brand of individualism when he halts construction to save a slave woman") and her indulgent attitude—she sees no inconsistency between Heston's early union activism and his later stumping for right-to-work laws—can seem obtuse. Still, her well-researched, if somewhat smitten, profile sheds light on conservatism as a mass cultural phenomenon through one of its iconic luminaries. Photos. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"The study of conservative movements and figures is one of the most important trends in American historical scholarship during recent years. This book makes a contribution to that work by studying an important but neglected figure on the Right and tracing the odyssey of his intellectual conversion to conservative politics and his activism in the Republican Party and the gun rights movement." -- Allan J. Lichtman, American University



"Traces Heston's evolution from civil rights marcher and LBJ supporter to neoconservative and president of the National Rifle Association. It argues convincingly that Heston's fundamental values never really changed." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution



"Raymond performs some solid historical work and presents some eminently reasonable conclusions... Raymond's most estimable achievement is in illuminating Heston's pre-ideologue days, not only as a commendably early participant in the civil rights movement, but as a member of the National Council for the Arts from 1967 and as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 to 1971." -- Cineaste



"Heston's emergence into a major American political figure is examined in this work that chronicles the resurgence of American conservative thought and the birth of neoconservatism." -- Forecast



"Presents the fascinating story of Hestons political journey from a Democrat who marched for civil rights and was president of the Screen Actors Guild to his status as Republican avatar." -- ForeWord Magazine



"Recounts film icon Charlton Heston's transformation from on-screen Moses to off-screen neoconservative moral crusader." -- Library Journal



"Heston was as much a bellwether in real-life politics as he was in Hollywood biblical epics, according to this intriguing biographical study." -- Publishers Weekly



"Nothing is more common than Hollywood actors and actresses preening themselves by adopting this or that fashionable cause. Emilie Raymond's fine biography of Charlton Heston reminds us that it was not always thus. Heston's political thought and action, and his impact on American politics, deserve careful scholarly treatment. Emilie Raymond has supplied it." -- Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James



"Details the life of the Man of Big Roles and his use of celebrity to influence the debate over moral and political issues." -- San Diego Union-Tribune



"Emilie Raymond's meticulous research, insightful analysis, and balanced prose convincingly argue that Charlton Heston's legacy as a political activist and cultural warrior rivals his cinematic fame... This book is a must-read for political scientists and political historians." -- Southern Historian



"Raymond provides compelling histories of Hollywood unions, federal arts disputes and civil rights debates that Heston got tangles up in... Raymond successfully illuminates Heston's personal philosophy and his relationships with historical figures, and she highlights points of departure for what is now broadly considered the 'cultural wars'." -- Style Weekly



"As a history of Mr. Heston's leading role in political Hollywood, Ms. Raymond's book is long overdue." -- Wall Street Journal



""From My Cold, Dead Hands is far more than a biography -- it is a chronicle of the resurgence of American conservative thought and, in particular, the birth of neoconservatism."" -- John Neal, Book Babble

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tony Williams on December 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Raymond's book is an excellent example of the study of a star formed by his cultural circumstances and historical forces. Heston has often been unjustifiably vilified in the recent past for his unpopular views to the detriment of his acting achievements. This book reveals that Heston was not alone in his rightward swing since it reveals him, along with Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb, as liberal conservatives who belonged to the Democratic Party until historical forces changed their alignment. In many ways, they remained true to their beliefs while the Democratic Party changed from its conservative Eisenhower-Kennedy roots into Johnson Great Society that these people could not accept.

For those interested in social change in American society, this book is a very revealing treatment and explains much of what has happened during the last forty years. My only complaint is that Raymond has focussed on a limited amount of Heston films and has not examined others such as the Cold War western ARROWHEAD (1952) and THE CALL OF THE WILD where the Heston character undergoes a crisis of masculinity in one scene. It is easy to denigrate the actor as Michael Moore did unfairly in his interview in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE where he appeared oblivious to the actors failing health and his recent operation. During Whoopi Goldberg's unjustly short-lived TV talk show, she did not take the easy option of making the actor look like a fool but spoke to him in a meaningful conversation without having any hidden agenda. It is a shame Raymond does not cite this in the book which is a valuable cultural study of a star who engaged in activist neo-conservative politics.
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Format: Hardcover
Emilie Raymond writes a surprisingly engaging and thoughtful look at how Charlton Heston evolved from Democrat Civil Rights marcher to Republican NRA President. Her main hook is that Heston was experiencing and lamenting American culture from inside a life in the arts while intellectuals like Irving Kristol were lamenting it from inside intellectual circles. The progression of both men as liberals into neo-conservatives is an interesting premise and although I don't know if I would call Heston a neo-con as the result of this comparison, Raymond explains Heston's political transformation better than any other biographer.

Heston's own books do not go into the details that she provides here. It's an especially full account of Heston's experience as President of SAG and his fights with Ed Asner who wanted to make the union into a wing of progressive activism at the expense of representing members. The author makes a great point that Heston's perch as NRA President made him a national political figure and allowed his voice to be heard on any number of political issues as a result. Heston also made the NRA a bigger and stronger organization by weeding out some marginal characters that were influential in the organization beforehand.

This book is a great companion to other political/cultural studies of the 1990s.
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By EweeSweetie on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't read the book, as I bought it for a gift, but the person I gifted it to raved about it. The shipping was speedy and the book arrived in pristine condition.
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By S. DeGiorgio on April 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the title says, this book is about Charlton Heston's politics. The author speaks briefly of Heston's personal life and acting career, but goes into detail concerning his affiliations and his politics.
The author has done some very in depth research and delivers the information thoroughly and easily.
Even though the subject matter is very interesting, some may find this book dry at times.
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By Jeanette Ling on October 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Also a good read
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