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From My Cold, Dead Hands: Charlton Heston and American Politics

by Emilie Raymond

Availablecloth$50.00s 978-0-8131-2408-7
416 pages  Pubdate: 08/18/2006  6 x 9  photos

Charlton Heston is perhaps most famous for his portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. DeMille's epic The Ten Commandments and for his Academy Award-winning performance in the 1959 classic Ben-Hur. Throughout his long career, Heston used his cinematic status as a powerful moral force to effect social and political change. “From My Cold, Dead Hands” examines how Heston evolved into a major American political figure. Heston has campaigned for both Democratic and Republican candidates, marched in support of black civil rights, served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, helped shape policy for the National Endowment for the Arts, and served as president of the National Rifle Association. Disillusioned with the Democrats, Heston formally registered with the Republican Party in the 1980s, but he argued that the decision was in keeping with his longtime advocacy of individual rights. “From My Cold, Dead Hands” is far more than a biography—it is a chronicle of the resurgence of American conservative thought and, in particular, the birth of neoconservatism. Emilie Raymond convincingly argues that conservatives owe a great deal to Heston: his image of morality, individualism, and masculinity lent their movement credibility with a larger public, and he effectively campaigned for conservative candidates and causes. Meanwhile, Heston paved the way for many of today's Hollywood activists, using his popularity and image to fuel and legitimize his political activities. A balanced study of Charlton Heston and his work offscreen, “From My Cold, Dead Hands” neither glorifies nor maligns Heston but provides an engaging account of how he propelled his personal beliefs into the political mainstream of America.

Emilie Raymond, assistant professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University, specializes in twentieth-century U.S. history, political and cultural history, women’s history, and neoconservatism.

The study of conservative movements and figures is one of the most important trends in American historical scholarship during recent years. This book makes a contribution to that work by studying an important but neglected figure on the Right and tracing the odyssey of his intellectual conversion to conservative politics and his activism in the Republican Party and the gun rights movement. -- Allan J. Lichtman, American University

Traces Heston's evolution from civil rights marcher and LBJ supporter to neoconservative and president of the National Rifle Association. It argues convincingly that Heston's fundamental values never really changed. -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Raymond performs some solid historical work and presents some eminently reasonable conclusions... Raymond's most estimable achievement is in illuminating Heston's pre-ideologue days, not only as a commendably early participant in the civil rights movement, but as a member of the National Council for the Arts from 1967 and as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 to 1971. -- Cineaste

Heston's emergence into a major American political figure is examined in this work that chronicles the resurgence of American conservative thought and the birth of neoconservatism. -- Forecast

Presents the fascinating story of Hestons political journey from a Democrat who marched for civil rights and was president of the Screen Actors Guild to his status as Republican avatar. -- ForeWord Magazine

Recounts film icon Charlton Heston's transformation from on-screen Moses to off-screen neoconservative moral crusader. -- Library Journal

Heston was as much a bellwether in real-life politics as he was in Hollywood biblical epics, according to this intriguing biographical study. -- Publishers Weekly

Nothing is more common than Hollywood actors and actresses preening themselves by adopting this or that fashionable cause. Emilie Raymond's fine biography of Charlton Heston reminds us that it was not always thus. Heston's political thought and action, and his impact on American politics, deserve careful scholarly treatment. Emilie Raymond has supplied it. -- Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James

Details the life of the Man of Big Roles and his use of celebrity to influence the debate over moral and political issues. -- San Diego Union-Tribune

Emilie Raymond's meticulous research, insightful analysis, and balanced prose convincingly argue that Charlton Heston's legacy as a political activist and cultural warrior rivals his cinematic fame... This book is a must-read for political scientists and political historians. -- Southern Historian

Raymond provides compelling histories of Hollywood unions, federal arts disputes and civil rights debates that Heston got tangles up in... Raymond successfully illuminates Heston's personal philosophy and his relationships with historical figures, and she highlights points of departure for what is now broadly considered the 'cultural wars'. -- Style Weekly

As a history of Mr. Heston's leading role in political Hollywood, Ms. Raymond's book is long overdue. -- Wall Street Journal

“From My Cold, Dead Hands is far more than a biography—it is a chronicle of the resurgence of American conservative thought and, in particular, the birth of neoconservatism.” -- John Neal -- Book Babble