Just saw the news that Charlton Heston died today at the age of 84. While the family isn't saying anything about cause of death, Heston revealed back in 2002 that he was showing symptoms of Alzheimer's; most likely that was a contributing factor.
I first began to notice Heston as a distinctive personality when he appeared in Planet of the Apes. By the time I saw him again in The Omega Man, I had caught several of his older films on television (in those pre-VCR days, you had to peruse TV Guide to catch earlier films... no rentals or video on demand in those bygone days!) and had come to admire the man. While he came out of the old Hollywood studio system of the 1950s, he somehow seemed different from so many other actors of that era. Heston seemed to have one foot rooted in the past and one foot firmly rooted in the contemporary era, embracing the best of both periods.
Heston's distinctiveness has made him easily imitated over the years--but he was one of those "signature actors" whose phrasing and body language immediately identified him. Heston wasn't just an actor, he was an archetype.
(I always thought that master manipulator Michael Moore should have been ashamed to have taken advantage of Heston in the early stages of Alzheimer's; Heston was an astute, intelligent, and thoughtful man who had embraced individual rights (including gun rights) in his prime, and it was cheap bullying for Moore to misrepresent himself in order to attempt to ridicule Heston later on. Of course, shame is beyond Michael Moore, so he never apologized for taking advantage of Heston's good nature.)
With each passing year, we lose more and more of these influential artists, actors, and musicians of Heston's caliber. I guess I should consider myself lucky to have been part of a generation that got to enjoy his work when he was in his prime...