That class examined the social impact of various types of motion pictures, and in the Western category, I chose a character study called “Will Penny” in which Heston played an aging cowboy, in direct contrast to the epic figures he’s mostly remembered for.
He came to my classroom — and later to my home — with easy candor and respect for his craft well-seasoned with frankness and humor.
That’s the Heston I like to remember — the one who once played an astronaut named Taylor who crashed on a distant planet ruled by English-speaking apes that clambered about the surrealistic backdrop of my campus for several weeks making a movie.
Heston did a nude scene — his first — in “Planet of the Apes,” and I found the notes of a conversation that so well caught his flavor that I had with him then about the growing frequency of nude scenes in movies and how he felt about being asked to do one.
He responded: “I have no idea why I’ve been selected to be the spokesman for the male nude. In ‘Planet of the Apes,’ the scene of my nudity was extremely important, and I would have fought like a tiger if there had been real opposition to leaving it in because it was essential to making the point of Taylor’s dehumanization. But I think it’s important to bear in mind that the male is never stripped naked for aesthetic reasons. The history of the female nude in films is happily a little longer and is often used for aesthetic effect — and I must say I’m in favor of it.”