Il brutto (Italy), Le sacre monstre (France)
3 November 1921, Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, USA.
30 August 2003.
Jill Ireland (1968 - 1990) (her death); 1 son, 1 adopted daughter
'Harriet Tendler' (1949 - 1967) (divorced); 2 children
'Kim Weeks' (22 December 1998 - present)
Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actor. (b. Nov. 3, 1921, Ehrenfield, Penn., as Charles Buchinsky.)
He once said, "I guess I look like a rock quarry that someone has
dynamited," but despite his craggy, unconventional features and
taciturn manner, Charles Bronson became an international star relatively late in his career, depicting men of action who were not
afraid to use violence to get a job done. Bronson was one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents, and though he was the
only member of the family to complete high school, he joined his brothers working in the coal mines to support the family. He served
during World War 2 as a tailgunner, then used his G.I. Bill rights to study art in Philadelphia and, intrigued by acting, enrolled at
California's Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was
Buchinsky's debut in You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts- mostly as tough-looking window dressing- in films like The
People Against O'Hara, The Mob (both 1951) and Red Skies of Montana (1952) and graduated to more substantial roles in Pat and Mike (1952,
where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!) and House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor).
He began playing Indians in 1954's Apache and received good
notices as Captain Jack in Drum Beat (also 1954, and the film in
which he was first credited as Charles Bronson). He alternated features like Vera Cruz (1954) with television work, and won larger
roles in B movies like Big House, U.S.A and Target Zero (both 1955). Good supporting roles continued in big features like Jubal (1956) and
Run of the Arrow (1957, as Chief Blue Buffalo), but his leads were confined to a string of B's like Gang War, Showdown at Boot Hill,
Machine Gun Kelly and When Hell Broke Loose (all 1958). Following his own TV series, "Man With a Camera" (1958-60, as photographer Mike
Kovac), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Master of the World, A Thunder
of Drums (both 1961), X-15 and Kid Galahad (both 1962), were followed with a solid role in The Great Escape (1963), as the claustrophobic
tunnel-digger Danny Velinski. He had more good parts in 4 for Texas (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), and the smash The Dirty Dozen (1967)
before heading to Europe, where he spent the next few years. He appeared in Guns for San Sebastian and Villa Rides (both 1968), and
then teamed with Alain Delon for Adieu l'ami (1968), which was a smash in France, before starring in the classic Once Upon a Time in
the West (1968), directed by Sergio Leone (who had originally offered him the role in A Fistful of Dollars that made Clint Eastwood a star).
These films established Bronson as a top box-office draw in
Europe, and the stylish Rider on the Rain, The Family (both 1970),
Cold Sweat (1971), and Red Sun (1972) raised him to the ranks of the most popular stars worldwide. Duplicating that success in the U.S.
came slowly with Chato's Land, The Mechanic, The Valachi Papers (all 1972), and Mr. Majestyk (1974), until Bronson's frequent collaborator
Michael Winner directed him in Death Wish (1974), a revenge fantasy about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are
raped. The movie was both controversial and extremely popular (and spawned four inferior sequels in 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1994). It also
established Bronson as a star in his own country and set the tough, cold, violent persona he would project from that time on. There were
some exceptions along the way, most notably the excellent Hard Times (1975, as a 1930s streetfighter), the offbeat black comedy From Noon
Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his wife, Jill Ireland), and The White Buffalo (1977, as Wild Bill Hickok). However,
Bronson stuck with action-thrillers like Breakout (1975), Telefon (1977), and Love and Bullets (1979) and spent the 1980s in gory
fodder like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), Murphy's Law (1986), and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989),
exterminating a variety of pimps and psychos. Bronson did some of his most interesting work in TV movies, including Raid on Entebbe (1977),
Act of Vengeance (1986, as United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski), and in the title role of The Sea Wolf (1993), although
his role as a stern father in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991) proved he could become a character actor if he chose to. He was
married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death in 1990.
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