Sunday, 24 April 2011

Best Actor 1959: Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur

Charlton Heston won his Oscar from his only nomination for portraying Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur tells of a Jewish prince who becomes a slave due to be being betrayed by his old friend Marcella (Stephen Boyd) who has become a Roman centurion.

Charlton Heston performance in Ben-Hur certainly received criticism which certainly expands to Heston himself. Heston is an actor it would be hard for anyone to say he ever really disappears into a role. I would not say that is not automatically a problem with an actor, as due to the actor's style that may be impossible, and an actor who is good at playing in their own style can have a unique appeal which only he has. Heston does certainly have an appeal, with his distinct voice, and commanding stature. He is not that of an appealing actor to me though, but I will just say I do not automatically dislike him, and I will say he does have something that others actors could not imitate exactly. Heston was not the only choice for Ben-Hur, and it is interesting to examine two who stick out of the potentials. Burt Lancaster who probably would have given his straight man style performance and perhaps a bit boring, and Paul Newman who as he said probably would not have looked good in a Tunic, and also he failed to carry an epic well, in my opinion, in Exodus a year later.

My point though is although Heston does have less range than those actors he probably was the better choice for Judah Ben-Hur. I will say he most certianly does carry the picture. He carries the entire epic on his shoulders, and I did not find his performance to be overly empathetic but his strong command and presence in the role of Ben-Hur just worked for the epic, and that is all there is to it. Is it amazing acting? no, but it is an effective leading performance. Heston made me want to follow Ben-Hur through his journey, and his ultimate revenge. Now this is not a flawless performance obviously, that's why I said it was not great acting. Some of his line readings can be a be stilted at times, it is pretty obvious he was unable to cry on camera since he always turns away when he is going to, but I still felt most of the time what he did as Ben-Hur worked.  It is a strong and passionate lead performance, that fully services the film it is in. Hardly perfect, and perhaps a little overshadowed by the film itself but it is not a bad performance.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you liked him, I thought he would score 2 Jacks only. I probably given him 3,5 as well.

dinasztie said...

You liked him. I actually liked him too.

Please review Lemmon next! :)

Dazzling Aura said...

i tried to watch this film but something holds me back...the length. i like him in 10 Commandments though.

Michael Patison said...

Interesting thoughts. I am absolutely of the opinion that this was by his best performance. His range is, to be extremely generous, lacking, but I agree that he was the best choice, especially for the reasons you stated about Lancaster and Newman. The only thing I would say about Newman and Exodus is that, while it wasn't a very good movie by any stretch of the imagination, I don't think it was wholly or even mostly Newman's fault. Otto Preminger's direction was disgusting both as general direction goes and for its remarkably blatant anti-Palestinian overtones.

Michael Patison said...
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