Actor Charlton Heston's collection of rare Shakespeare folios up for sale

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments.
Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. PHOTO: ST FILE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - An auction of Charlton Heston's personal effects reveals the Oscar-winning actor to be a fastidious collector of movie memorabilia and an ardent William Shakespeare fan who bought up numerous rare scripts.

Bonham's is due to auction 300 items next week from the Beverly Hills home Heston shared with his wife Lydia Clarke for more than half a century, including props, scripts, fine art, jewellery and rare books.

Heston, who died in 2008, is best known for his starring roles in iconic films of Hollywood's golden age, including The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

But he also appeared in many of the Bard's plays, making his Broadway debut in Antony And Cleopatra in 1947 and going on to star in the film version as well as two big screen productions of Julius Caesar and Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996).

Heston's collection includes a number of rare copies of Shakespeare plays kept in his two-storey library, including late-17th century Macbeth and Hamlet scripts expected to go for up to US$35,000 (S$47,410) and $25,000 respectively.

The collection also features original leaves from the first four collected editions of Shakespeare's works, known as folios.

The auction house's entertainment memorabilia director Catherine Williamson says: "We think Heston's many fans will enjoy getting a glimpse into the man behind the myth."

The actor started out doing low budget film and television until director Cecil B. DeMille cast him as a circus manager in The Greatest Show On Earth (1952).

His break-out role came in 1956 when DeMille hired him to play Moses in The Ten Commandments and he went on to win a best actor Oscar for Ben-Hur.

His trove of memorabilia includes a director's chair with his name on it, frescoes from the set of The Ten Commandments and his script for Ben-Hur, valued at up to $18,000.

The auction also features photo portraits of Heston by his wife, who is now 92, and other works by famed photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and George Tice.

A famous gun advocate, the actor's personal effects also includes a personalised National Rifle Association seal and a 14-carat gold Screen Actors Guild membership card.

The couple's son, Fraser C. Heston, says: "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."