The Charlton Heston Collection

A collection of photographs of Charlton Heston by Lydia Clarke Heston

Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) present The Charlton Heston Collection, an auction of more than 300 items from the home of the Oscar-winning actor on March 22 in Los Angeles.

Charlton Heston (1923-2008) is known in Hollywood history as one of the most remarkable period drama actors, winning accolades for his portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956), the chariot-racing lead in Ben-Hur (1959), a Spanish warrior in El Cid (1961), Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965), John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) and Mark Antony (1970 and 1973), among others.

The actor called his Beverly Hills mansion home for close to half a century, sharing it with his wife and their two children. Featured in the sale are contents from the home, including movie memorabilia, props, scripts, fine art, jewelry and rare books.

“Bonhams is pleased to present this tremendous collection of property from the home of Charlton and Lydia Heston,” said Director of Entertainment Memorabilia Catherine Williamson. “We think Heston’s many fans will enjoy getting a glimpse into the man behind the myth.”

“Their fascinating and varied collections reflect not so much a love of things but a joie de vivre, a passion for life and everything in it,” said Fraser C. Heston, the actor’s son.

A CHARLTON HESTON DIRECTOR'S CHAIRCharlton Heston started off in the industry doing low budget film and television productions until director Cecil B. DeMille casted Heston as a circus manager in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), which went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture. The turning point in Heston’s career came in 1956 when DeMille asked him to play the role of Moses in The Ten Commandments. He went on to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for William Wyler’s Ben-Hur, a film that won a total of 11 Oscars that year.

Pictured: A Charlton Heston Director’s Chair – Wooden folding director’s chair with brown leather seat and back, stamped to back in turquoise “Charlton Heston”, turquoise Greek key border stamped on the back and seat, three hooks to left side. Heston was pictured sitting in this chair on the set of Antony and Cleopatra (1972).
Seat: 21 x 31 3/4 in; height: 49 in.

The actor and social activist kept many items from his movies at his Beverly Hills home, such as a director’s chair with his name on it (estimate U.S. $800-1,200) the door knockers from Ben-Hur (estimate U.S. $3,000-5000), which were used on the doors of his study, as well as hisscript for Ben-Hur (estimate U.S. $12,000-18,000).

In their two-story library, Heston had numerous rare copies of William Shakespeare’s plays including Macbeth: A Tragedy, acted at the Dukes-Theatre, London, and printed for William Cademan in 1673 (estimate U.S. $25,000-35,000) and The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark, acted at his Highness the Duke of York’s Theater, London and printed by Andrew Clark for J. Martyn and H. Herringman, 1676 (estimate U.S. $15,000-25,000).

Heston was a passionate fan of Shakespeare and made his Broadway debut in Antony and Cleopatra in 1947. Then, in 1970 and 1973 took on the role of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, respectively, and also performed in Macbeth on several occasions.

Lydia Clarke Heston took up photography on the set of The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and made a number of photographs on-set of her husband’s movies. The auction includes several portraits of the actor by Lydia Heston as well as some of her treasured cameras. The couple also shared an interest in collecting works of photography, including examples by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) Portrait of Kate Keown(estimate U.S. $15,000-20,000); Ansel Adams (1902-1984) Redwoods, Bull Creek Flat, California (estimate U.S. $12,000-18,000) and other works by famed photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Tice.

Aside from being a renowned actor, Heston also served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild (1966-71), Chairman of the American Film Institute (1973-83) and President of the National Rifle Association (1998-2003). These organizations are represented by several items in the sale, including a personalized National Rifle Association seal (estimate U.S. $300-500) and a 14k gold SAG membership card (estimate U.S. $1,500-2,000).

Three paintings by 20th century illustrator J.C. Leyendecker are also featured in this auction. These were covers of Carter’s Monthly magazines, owned by an ancestor of Heston (born John Charles Carter), each estimated at U.S. $10,000-15,000. Among the highlights in Lydia’s collections are: an emerald, gold, and platinum ring (estimate U.S. $15,000-20,000); a diamond, ruby, and bicolor gold collar (estimate U.S. $12,000-18,000); and a pair of diamond, emerald and 18k bicolor gold bracelets (estimate U.S. $10,000-15,000).

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