Hollywood He-Man to the End, Charlton Heston Dies Aged 84; (1) Whip Hand: His Role as Ben-Hur Won Him an Oscar (2) Gun Slinger: His Farewell to the National Rifle Association

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CHARLTON Heston, the actor who epitomised rugged masculinity on screenand off, has died at the age of 84.

By his side at his Beverly Hills mansion was Lydia, his wife of 64 years.

A strong supporter of the right to carry weapons, Heston once said that theonly way to part him from his gun would be to 'pry it from my cold, deadhands'.

He began a decline into dementia in 2002 when he announced he was sufferingsymptoms consistent with Alzheimer's. He said at the time: 'I must reconcilecourage and surrender in equal measure.' He had also recently battled prostatecancer but had been in remission.

Born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Illinois, the 6ft 3in actor'sprofessional name came from a combination of his mother's maiden name, LilaCharlton, and his stepfather Chester Heston's surname.

He proved the ideal star during the period when Hollywood was filling moviescreens with panoramas depicting the religious and historical past.

'I have a face that belongs in another century,' he often remarked.

Director Anthony Mann said: 'Put a toga on him and he looks perfect.' And FrankSinatra once joked: 'That guy Heston has to watch it. If he's not careful,he'll get actors a good name.' Heston starred in epics such as The TenCommandments, in which he played Moses, and Ben-Hur, in which he performed manyof his own chariot-racing stunts. That title role won him an Oscar in 1959.

He played a besieged astronaut in 1968's The Planet of the Apes but made surehis character was killed off in 1970's Beneath the Planet of the Apes so hewould not be sought for further sequels. The Apes films opened thesciencefiction 'No man could give more'

door to him and hits including The Omega Man and Soylent Green would come inquick succession.

He would also star in such disaster epics as Airport 1975, Earthquake andSkyjacked, in 1972, after which he wore a hairpiece in every role.

Heston portrayed John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told andMichelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy.

He once said: 'If you need a ceiling painted, a chariot race run, a citybesieged or the Red Sea parted, you think of me.' In 1985, Heston playedpatriarch Jason Colby in the TV soap opera Dynasty II: The Colbys ofCalifornia. …