Charles Bronson has played gunfighters, cops, vigilantes and soldiers. Long before these roles, he was a gunner who flew 25 missions flying out of Guam and earned a Purple Heart.
Charles Buchinsky was born into a poor Lithuanian family as the eleventh of fifteen children and went to work in the Pennsylvania coal mines at the age of ten when his father died. He changed his name to Bronson in 1954 after his agent suggested he do so as the anti-communist hearings in the fifties might have made the American public think he was a Russian.
He used his G. I. Bill to study art and acting and played bit roles in the early years including “You’re in the Navy Now” in 1951 and Vincent Price’s mute henchman, Igor, in the 1953 movie “House of Wax”. He continued to play bit parts until his breakout roles in “The Magnificent Seven”, followed by his role in “The Great Escape”. He played a variety of roles after that including a role as Elvis Presley’s trainer in “Kid Galahad”. His performance in “The Dirty Dozen” alongside fellow veterans Telly Savalas and Lee Marvin was a typical tough guy role for Bronson.
His fame grew in Europe as well where he was known as Il Brutto (The Ugly One) and “Monster Sacre”, (The holy monster} which were endearing terms. He finally got his long overdue attention when he began “The Death Wish” series.
Bronson always played a “man’s man” and is seen as the quintessential tough guy throughout his career. He died in 2003 at the age of eighty-one of pneumonia.