Heston was born John Charles Carter in No Man's Land, Illinois, an unincorporated area between Evanston and Wilmette, Illinois, the son of Lilla (née Charlton) and Russell Whitford Carter, a mill operator. In his autobiography, Heston refers only to his father participating in his family's construction business. Heston was of English and Scottish descent and a member of the Fraser clan.
When Heston was an infant his father's work moved the family to St. Helen, Michigan. It was a rural, heavily forested part of the state and Heston lived an isolated yet idyllic existence spending much time hunting and fishing in the backwoods of the area.
When Heston was 10 years old his parents divorced. Shortly thereafter his mother married Chester Heston. The new family moved to Wilmette, Illinois, a well-off northern suburb of Chicago. Heston (his new surname) attended New Trier High School.
Throughout Heston's life he was known by friends as "Chuck" (a common diminutive of Charles, his birthname) although his wife always called him "Charlie". His stage name Charlton Heston is drawn from his mother's maiden surname (Charlton) and his stepfather's surname (Heston), and was used for his first film, Peer Gynt, released in 1941. 
Heston frequently recounted that, while growing up in northern Michigan in a sparsely-populated area, he often wandered in the forest, "acting" out the characters from books he had read. Later, in high school, Heston enrolled in New Trier's drama program, playing in the silent 16 mm amateur film adaptation of Peer Gynt by future film activist David Bradley. From the Winnetka Community Theatre (Or, the Winnetka Dramatist's Guild as it was then known) in which he was active, he earned a drama scholarship to Northwestern University. Several years later Heston teamed up with Bradley to produce the first sound version of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which Heston played Mark Antony.World War II service
World War II
In 1944, Heston enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. He s
erved for two years as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-25 Mitchell stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands with the Eleventh Air Force. He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant. Heston married Northwestern University student Lydia Marie Clarke in the same year he joined the military.
 Theater and television
After the war, Heston and Clarke lived in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, where they worked as artists' models. Seeking a way to make it in theater, Heston and his wife Lydia decided to manage a playhouse in Asheville, North Carolina in 1947. They made $100 a week on the job. In 1948, they went back to New York where Heston was offered a supporting role in a Broadway revival of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, starring Katharine Cornell. Heston had success in television, playing a number of roles in CBS's Studio One, one of the most popular anthology dramas of the 1950s. Film producer Hal B. Wallis of Casablanca spotted Heston in a 1950 television production of Wuthering Heights and offered him a contract. When his wife reminded Heston they had decided to pursue theater and television, he replied, "Well, maybe just for one film to see what it's like."
Heston's most frequently played roles on stage include the title role in Macbeth, Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, and Mark Antony in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra