Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remembering Charles Bronson

Charles Dennis Buchinsky was born in Ehrenfield, Pennsylvania on November 3, 1921. Of Lithuanian decent he spent his childhood days in a coal mining town. Charles’ father died when he was ten and so he was forced to go to work in the coal mines. Wearing hand-me-downs and working in the mine’s office he still managed to be the first in his family to finish high school. In 1943 he enlisted in the Army, served as an aerial gunner serving in the South Pacific and received a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service. After the war he joined a theatrical group in Philadelphia then moved to New York where he shared an apartment with future TV actor Jack Klugman and found stage work. In 1950 he married and moved to Hollywood, taking acting classes and receiving small roles. He changed his name to Bronson, from the Bronson Entrance Gate at Paramount Studios, during the McCarthy hearings because he thought Buchinsky sounded too Russian. In 1954 he landed a substantial role as a Modoc warrior opposite Alan Ladd in "Drum Beat". He made many TV appearances in the ‘50s landing his own show "Man With a Camera" (1958-1960). His big break came when he was hired as one of the gunfighters, Bernardo O’Reilly, in the "Magnificent 7" (1960). He continued to appear in TV roles and films like "The Dirty Dozen" (1967). In 1968 he appeared as "Harmonica" in Sergio Leone’s western "Once Upon a Time in the West" and became an international star. Bronson would appear in five more Euro-westerns, "Guns for San Sebastian" (1967), "Villa Rides" (1968), "Chato’s Land", "Red Sun" (both 1971) and "Chino" (1973. He found a cult following in the U.S. with his series of "Death Wish" pictures directed by Michael Winner. He married actress Jill Ireland in 1968 and they remained married and appeared in several films together until her death in 1990. Bronson, a very quiet and secretive man, spent the rest of the decade working on his farm in Vermont and out of the public eye. He remarried in 1998 to Kim Weeks and died of pneumonia on August 23, 2003 in Los Angeles. Today we remember one of the Euro-westerns stars Charles Bronson on what would have been his 90th birthday.

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