Another year, another HestFest is in the can. I’ve been hosting a Charlton Heston film showing for more than 20 years. This time around, the theme was “The Passions of Chuck.” And we paired food with several films.
Starting off the day with an English breakfast of sausage, eggs, beans, and orange rolls (subbing for scones), we sparked up “A Man for All Seasons.” Heston plays Sir Thomas More, forced into dealing with those heretic Protestants. I like Heston in this, and the production isn’t bad. Heston directs, and he does a competent job, though some of the acting performances are…questionable. It is weird that Heston is like the only person without a British accent. This was my first viewing of “A Man for All Seasons,” and I enjoyed it.
Up next was “Ruby Gentry.” I’d watched this movie once, many years ago, in preparation for a HestFest, and I hadn’t really enjoyed it. So, I’ve never shown it before. This year, with the theme of passion, I figured it was as good a time as any. Watching the film again, I still don’t really like it. Everyone is kinda nasty and pretty stupid. Heston is a lout. Jennifer Jones is a monster. Karl Malden is an idiot. And it’s all mixed up in some Southern fried hillbilly stupid. What I did like, however, were the barbecue sandwiches and baked beans we ate along with the movie.
Another new-to-me movie was the next on the block. “The Private War of Major Benson” sees Chuck playing a tough as nails soldier who almost gets drummed out of the service for running his mouth. He ends up stuck in a Catholic school, trying to whip their ROTC program into shape. That’s right, it’s Heston VS children. And you know what? It’s pretty good. Full of goofy, family friendly humor typical of 50s comedies, it’s mild and entertaining. Heston is quite good as the frustrated straight-man, put upon by all the weird children. Apparently, this film was the inspiration for the 90s Damon Wayans movie, “Major Payne,” which I’ve actually never seen. I may have to change that. I kept expecting Woopie Goldberg to show up with some singing nuns.
“The Naked Jungle” is a favorite of mine, with some choice Chuck the Bastard. He’s playing a driven young man, cutting a plantation out of the Amazon jungle. When a mail-order bride turns out to not be what he wanted, it’s a battle of wills…until the tide of killer ants begins to roll. Then all bets are off.
Then it was time for Heston’s first time playing Andrew Jackson in “The President’s Lady.” They cram a ton into this relatively short movie. They skip a lot of Jackson’s more negative traits and leave off some of his bad behavior. But it’s a lot of fun.
And finally, we watched “The Agony and the Ecstasy” where Heston takes on the role of passionate painter Michelangelo, fighting with Rex Harrison’s pope to create a masterpiece. This is certainly the ‘best’ movie of the bunch. Harrison and Heston are very good together. To accompany the film, we had a fantastic lasagna, garlic bread, and Chianti. And then for dessert, we had peanut butter squares, because peanut butter was one of Heston’s favorite foods, and he often had to take it with him when he worked out of the country.
It was a solid 12 hours of Charlton Heston films. A few (heroes, I reckon) stayed for the whole thing. My wife and I had a great time hosting. And I know I’m already looking forward to next year. I have a possible theme: “Heston Lends a Hand.”
You can check out my reviews of the movies over on my Letterboxd page.