Charles Dennis Buchinsky,note better known as Charles Bronson (November 3, 1921 August 30, 2003), was an American actor of Lipka Tatar and Lithuanian descent, and one of the biggest action stars of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Bronson's films typically cast him as a cop or a gunfighter, with storylines primarily focused on revenge. In these roles he was not so much an actor as a force of nature.
Bronson worked in a Pennsylvania coal mine from the time he was ten years old, until he entered military service in World War II in 1943, enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Forces and serving as an aerial gunner in the 760th Flexible Gunnery Training Squadron, and in 1945 as a B-29 Superfortress crewman with the 39th Bombardment Group based on Guam. He was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received during his service.
Bronson's acting career began in 1950, though he wouldn't be known by that name until 1954 when he changed it on the suggestion of his agent, who feared that an Eastern European last name would damage his career due to The Hollywood Blacklist which was going down around that time. He also appeared on television during the 1950s and 1960s, including the lead role of the "Apache Kid" in the TV series Sheriff of Cochise, though his big-screen career wouldn't really take off until his role as one of The Magnificent Seven in 1960.
Bronson would later go on to play in many more movies, including Battle of the Bulge, The Great Escape, and The Dirty Dozen, but his first big lead role was that of Harmonica in Sergio Leone's masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West in 1968. He was originally considered for the role of the Man with No Name in A Fistful of Dollars, but Bronson turned down the role, which instead launched Clint Eastwood into stardom himself. He would go on to star in many action movies, including Red Sun, The Valachi Papers, and The Mechanic (1972), but perhaps the most memorable of his roles was that of Vigilante Man Paul Kersey in the Death Wish series.
In addition to the Death Wish series, Bronson's later work was done with Cannon Films with director J. Lee Thompson, who made ultra-violent films such as 10 To Midnight and The Evil That Men Do. An unusual role for him during this period was as the real-world murdered American coal trade unionist Jock Yablonsky in the Made-for-TV Movie Act of Vengeance, which despite its typical title was a serious and relatively non-violent political drama. His last big-screen role was the final installment of the Death Wish series, Death Wish V: The Face of Death, in 1994.
Bronson died of pneumonia in 2003, leaving quite a legacy behind him.
Britain's most infamous prisoner adopted his name.
- Igor in House of Wax (1953)
- Hondo in Apache (1954)
- Pittsburgh in Vera Cruz (1954)
- Captain Jack in Drum Beat (1954)note
- Sgt. Danforth in Never So Few (1959)
- Bernardo O'Reilly in The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- The Man in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Two" (1961)
- Chief Inspector John Strock in Master of the World (1961)
- Danny Velinski (the "Tunnel King") in The Great Escape (1963)
- Harry Starr in Bonanza (1964)
- Wolenski in Battle of the Bulge (1965)
- J.J. in This Property Is Condemned (1966)
- Joseph Wladislaw in The Dirty Dozen (1967)
- Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
- Joe Martin in Cold Sweat (1970)
- Link Stuart in Red Sun (1971)
- Joseph Valachi in The Valachi Papers (1972)
- Arthur Bishop in The Mechanic (1972)
- Det. Lou Torrey in The Stone Killer (1973)
- Paul Kersey in Death Wish (1974)
- Vince Majestyk in Mr. Majestyk (1974)
- John Deakin in Breakheart Pass (1975)
- Raymond St. Ives in St Ives (1976)
- James Otis in The White Buffalo (1977)
- Major Grigori Bortsov in Telefon (1977)
- Albert Johnson in Death Hunt (1981)
- Paul Kersey in Death Wish II (1982)
- Leo Kessler in 10 to Midnight (1983)
- Holland in The Evil That Men Do (1984)
- Paul Kersey in Death Wish 3 (1985)
- Joseph "Jock" Yablonsky in Act of Vengeance (1986)
- Jay Killion in Assassination (1987)
- Paul Kersey in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
- Lt. Crowe in Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989)
- Francis Church in Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus (1991)
- Mr. Roberts in The Indian Runner (1991)
- Paul Kersey in Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)
Tropes associated with Bronson
- Fake Nationality: You can count on one hand the number of characters he's played of his actual background (Russian-Lithuanian).
- Typecasting: After Death Wish, as a relentless vigilante.