Bronson, Charles, 1921-2003

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Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky; November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) was an American actor who was often cast in roles of police officers, gunfighters, or vigilantes in revenge-oriented plot lines. He had long-term collaborations with film directors Michael Winner and J. Lee Thompson and appeared in 15 films with his second wife, Jill Ireland. At the height of his fame in the early 1970s, he was the world's No. 1 box office attraction, commanding $1 million per film.

Bronson was born on Nov. 3, 1921, in the Scooptown section of Ehrenfeld, Pa., a coal-mining town. His real name was Charles Buchinsky, and he was the 11th of 15 children born to Lithuanian immigrants. He knew little about his father, who died when Bronson was 10. Bronson knew abject poverty throughout his early years: his family was so poor that when he was 6 he was sent to school in a dress, a hand-me-down from an older sister. By the time he was 16 he was working in the coal mines, earning about $1 for each ton of coal he clawed out of the earth.

In 1943, he was drafted into the Army. His initial assignment, in Kingman, Ariz., involved maintenance and operations of the base messes. Later, he was a member of the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron. In 1945, Bronson was attached to a B-29 squadron of the 39th Bombardment Group, based in Guam, which conducted combat missions against the Japanese home islands.

After the war, Bronson held various jobs, working as a bricklayer, short-order cook and an onion-picker in New York State. He then went to Atlantic City, where he rented beach chairs on the boardwalk. There he met some vacationing actors from a Philadelphia troupe and persuaded them to let him demonstrate his ability to paint scenery. They were impressed and hired him, then let him do a bit of acting.

Bronson found that he liked acting more than painting, and in 1949 he went to California and took lessons at the Pasadena Playhouse. In 1951 he had a minor role in ''You're in the Navy Now,'' which starred Gary Cooper. He changed his name to Bronson in the 1950's because he thought that the anti-Communist crusade then being conducted by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy made it unwise for someone in the public eye to have a Russian-sounding name.

By the 1970's, Bronson had a loyal following, and even many critics agreed that although the scripts were usually bad, Bronson could be counted on to turn in a good performance. Among his credits by this time were ''The Magnificent Seven'' (1960), ''The Great Escape'' (1963) and ''Mr. Majestyk'' (1974). He also made four ''Death Wish'' sequels.

Bronson died on August 30, 2003 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81 years old.

Archival Resources
Relation Name
associatedWith American Museum of Vaudeville corporateBody
associatedWith Cullen, Frank, 1936- person
associatedWith Koch, Frederick R. (Frederick Robinson), collector. person
associatedWith Lovell, Tom, 1909-1997. person
associatedWith McNeilly, Donald, 1945- person
memberOf United States. Army corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army. Air Corps corporateBody
associatedWith Wilson, Gerald. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Los Angeles CA US
Pennsylvania PA US
Subject
Male actors
Motion picture actors and actresses
Violence in motion pictures
Action and adventure films
Actors and actresses, American
Occupation
Actor
Actors
Actors, American
Activity

Person

Birth 1921-11-03

Death 2003-08-30

Male

Americans

English

Information

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