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The making of a cultural conservative
on December 31, 2006
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. While it is easy to sneer at his now outmoded roles and jeer at his Alzheimer's diagnosis as did George Clooney, it is much more challenging to understand the man and his beliefs in an objective manner. Raymond has risen to the challenge in a book which has several significant insights but could have been much better if more of the star's films had been covered against the background of the changing social and historical forces documented in this valuable work.