Hall of Great Western Performers | TheFencePost.com

Hall of Great Western Performers

Candy Moulton
Encampment, Wyo.

Every year the National Cowboy Museum inducts members into its Hall of Great Western Performers and this year’s nominees are Tom Selleck and the incomparable actor, the late Charlton Heston. The induction will take place in conjunction with the annual Western Heritage Awards April 17, in Oklahoma City.

For induction into the Hall of Great Western Performers, actors must have made significant contributions to the perpetuation of the Western film, radio or theatre. Through a solid body of works in motion pictures, radio or stage, the inductee must project the traditional Western ideals of honesty, integrity and self-sufficiency, according to a release from the Cowboy Hall.

Charlton Heston was born John Charles Carter in Evanston, Ill., in 1923. He studied acting at Northwest University, where he met his wife, Lydia. After serving three years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Heston and his wife moved to the New York theatre district. While we may often think of him in his roles as Moses in “The Ten Commandments” and Ben-Hur in “Ben-Hur” for which he won an Academy Award, Heston’s deep voice, chiseled features and demanding presence also landed him larger-than-life roles in many Western films.

One of Heston’s first Westerns was “Pony Express” in 1953, in which he played the legendary Buffalo Bill Cody. He portrayed another frontier icon a few years later in “The Far Horizons” as William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Other famous Heston Westerns include the 1958 film “The Big Country” opposite Gregory Peck, “The Mountain Men” in 1980, and “Tombstone” in 1993. The 1968 Western “Will Penny” was a film Heston often referred to as his favorite piece of work on screen.

Heston also was a tireless activist and supporter of the arts. He was the first chairman and president of the American Film Institute and was elected six times as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In the early 1960s he campaigned for racial equality throughout the Southwest and participated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 civil rights march in Washington, D.C. He lent his talent and energy to a number of federal agencies and institutions, such as the Department of Energy and Agriculture, the Red Cross and NATO. He was named co-chairman of President Reagan’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities and served as president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

His contribution as an actor and humanitarian resulted in an abundance of prestigious awards. Heston was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997 for his lifetime achievement in the performing arts. In 2003, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his accomplishments in movies and politics. A few of his many acting awards include two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe awards and a bronze Wrangler for Best Theatrical Motion Picture for his role in “Will Penny.”

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Tom Selleck was born in Detroit, Mich., and was raised in Los Angeles with his sister and two brothers. He attended the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship. He made his television debut on “The Dating Game” his senior year, and later signed a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox. Selleck’s first walk-on television role as a cowboy on the show “Lancer,” marked his first of many cowboy roles.

Selleck’s versatility in both television and film won the attention of audiences and critics worldwide. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of “Thomas Magnum” in the 80s television hit “Magnum P.I,” which garnered him both an Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award for “Best Actor in a Drama Series,” as well as four Peoples Choice Awards, four Emmy nominations and six Golden Globe nominations for this role.

Selleck’s easy-going persona also proved ideal for the Western genre of movies and television. His first major cowboy role was in the 1979 Western “The Sacketts,” where he worked alongside Western legends Glen Ford and Ben Johnson. He followed “The Sacketts” with another Louis L’Amour classic, “The Shadow Riders” in 1982. The 1990 motion picture “Quigley Down Under” is hailed by some critics as the actor’s best feature work. Selleck Westerns include “Last Stand at Saber River” in 1997, “Crossfire Trail” in 2001, and “Monte Walsh” in 2003. All three movies won a bronze Wrangler for Outstanding Television Feature Film in the Western Heritage Awards. Showtime’s “Ruby Jean and Joe” was Selleck’s third collaboration with Ben Johnson.

Tom Selleck has remained a major television icon with his CBS movie of the week franchise, “Jesse Stone,” based on the famous, best-selling books by Robert B. Parker in which he stars as Jesse Stone, a New England police chief investigating a string of murders. Selleck has co-written two of the seven produced movies for television and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007 for “Jesse Stone: Sea Change.”

Aside from his acting accolades, Selleck has devoted much of his time to philanthropic causes. He is a board member of The Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics; an advisory board member of the Character Counts Coalition; a spokesman for the National Fatherhood Initiative; a committee member of the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts; and is actively involved in the Student/Sponsor Partnership Program in New York City. In February 2009, Selleck joined the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund as national spokesman for the new Education Center being built on the National Mall.

The 2010 Western Heritage Awards are sponsored by the ConocoPhillips Company, Wrangler, W.S. Bowlware Construction, Inc. and The Oklahoman, with support from Museum Partners Devon Energy Corporation, Chesapeake Energy Corporation and the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation.

The Western Heritage Awards is a star-studded event that attracts red carpet-walkers from across the nation and around the world. For reservations or more information about the 2010 Western Heritage Awards, please call (405) 478-2250, Ext. 219 or visit http://www.NationalCowboyMuseum.org.