Illinois native Charlton Heston died last night in Beverly Hills at the age of 84. Heston was born in Evanston on Oct. 4, 1923 and his name at birth was Charles Carter. His parents moved to St. Helen, Mich., where his father, Russell Carter, operated a lumber mill. Charles's parents divorced, and she married Chester Heston, a factory plant superintendent in Wilmette. After a few lonely Michigan childhood years, Charles had some trouble adjusting to the large New Trier High School where he took refuge in the drama department.
"What acting offered me was the chance to be many other people," he said in a 1986 interview. "In those days I wasn't satisfied with being me."
Calling himself Charlton Heston from his mother's maiden name and his stepfather's last name, he won an acting scholarship to Northwestern University in 1941. He excelled in campus plays and appeared on Chicago radio. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Force and served as a radio-gunner in the Aleutians.
In 1944 he married another Northwestern drama student, Lydia Clarke, and after his army discharge in 1947, they moved to New York to seek acting jobs. Finding none, they hired on as codirectors and principal actors at a summer theater in Asheville, N.C. Heston was best known for his roles as Moses in The Ten Commandments, Judah Ben Hur, Andrew Jackson, and other great character roles. His political views were varied at different points on the spectrum. In the 1960s he was considered a liberal for his active involvement with Civil Rights marches. But in the 1990s he took on the presidency of the National Rifle Association.