The son of a Lithuanian coal miner, American actor Charles Buchinski) was expected to follow his father into the industry.
However, he served abroad during World War II, and returned determined to pursue a career in the arts. He began working backstage for a Philadelphia theatre company and, after a few small roles, fell in love with acting.
After a few scattered acting jobs in New York, Bronson enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse. By 1951, he was playing bit parts in films such as You're in the Navy Now and The Clown. His first role of importance was as Igor in House of Wax.
He was billed as Charles Bronson for the first time in Drum Beat, although he was still often stereotyped as a hoodlum or a convict. His first starring role was in 1958's Gang War, but he first achieved major recognition for Machine Gun Kelly the same year.
Bronson achieved his first fan-following with the TV series Man With a Camera, and appeared as one of The Magnificent Seven in 1960. He was hired by the director of The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges, again in 1963 for the film The Great Escape. Bronson played tunnel rat Danny Velinksi. He was back in army uniform for the 1967 film Dirty Dozen.
However, his next few roles tended to fit the mould of supporting villain and, in 1968, he moved to Europe, hoping to find bigger and better opportunities.
After success in such films as Guns for San Sebastian, Once Upon a Time in the West and Cold Sweat, Bronson returned to Hollywood as a fully-fledged star. His most successful films of the 1970s were Death Wish and its sequels, a series of brutal vigilante pictures. Bronson was a late blossomer in Hollywood terms as Death Wish didn't premiere until he was 53 years old and he became known for being a man of action and few words.
Death Wish had originally been written with Henry Fonda in mind who was disgusted by the film, which tells the story of a mild-mannered architect seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter by gunning down hoodies and rapists in New York. It was so successful that four sequels were made over 20 years.
In many of his 1970s films, Bronson co-starred with his second wife, Jill Ireland, who he had married in 1968 and had one daughter with. Unfortunately, she lost her fight against cancer in 1990.
During the 1980s, Bronson appeared in a number of increasingly violent films in which he was pitched as an avenging angel including 10 to Midnight in 1983, The Evil That Men Do (1984) and Assassination in 1987.
He appeared in The Indian Runner in 1991 and Death Wish 5: The Face of Death in 1994, but mainly did TV work after that. In 1998 he married Kim Weeks.
He died from pneumonia at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, after suffering from Alzheimer's in the last few years of his life, in Los Angeles on 30 August 2003.
BRONSON, Charles (aka Charles Buchinski, Chas. Buchinski, Charles Buchinsky) (Charles Dennis Buchinsky) [11/3/1921, Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. – 8/30/2003, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease)] – film, TV actor, artist, painter, married to Harriet Tendler [1929- ] (1949-1965) father of Suzanne Bronson [1956- ], Tony Bronson [1961- ], married to Jill Dorothy Ireland [1936-1990] (1968-1990) Zuleika Bronson [1971- ], stepfather of, composer actress Valentine McCallum [1963- ], Jason McCallum Bronson [1963-1989], adopted Katrina Holden Bronson [1968- ], married to actress Kim Weeks [1960- ] (1998-2003).
Guns for San Sebastian - 1968 (Teclo)
Once Upon a Time in the West – 1968 (Harmonica)
Red Sun – 1971 (Link Stuart)
Chato's Land - 1972 (Pardon Chato)
Chino - 1973 (Chino Valdez)