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

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9780813124087: From My Cold, Dead Hands: Charlton Heston and American Politics

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. Author Emilie Raymond examines Heston's role as a crusader for individual rights and his evolution into a major American political figure with a pivotal role in the conservative movement. Heston's political activities were as varied as they were time consuming. He worked with the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and first Bush administrations. He marched in support of black civil rights, served as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and helped shape policy for the National Endowment for the Arts before taking on his most high-profile position―president of the National Rifle Association. Over the course of his career, Heston became disillusioned with the Democrats; he formally registered with the Republican Party in the 1980s, arguing 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. Heston's brand of neoconservatism differed from that of the exclusively intellectual wing, and he came to represent a previously ignored segment of neoconservatives operating on the basis of more common, emotionally oriented concerns. The neocons brought new life to the GOP, and Raymond convincingly argues that Heston revitalized conservatism in general: his image of morality, individualism, and masculinity lent the conservative movement credibility with a larger public. He effectively campaigned for conservative candidates and causes, using his popularity and image to fuel and legitimize his political activities. Heston's high degree of political engagement not only paved the way for many of today's Hollywood activists but also helped popularize many of the beliefs of the neoconservative movement. A balanced look at Heston and his offscreen work, From My Cold, Dead Hands explains how this charismatic man of conviction propelled his personal beliefs into the political mainstream of America.

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About the Author:

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.

Review:

"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

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