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|08-31-2003, 10:48 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 15, 2000
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp...ronson_5Action Star Charles Bronson Dies at 81
11 minutes ago Add Top Stories - AP to My Yahoo!
LOS ANGELES - Charles Bronson (news), the Pennsylvania coal miner who drifted into films as a villain and became a hard-faced action star, notably in the popular "Death Wish" vengeance movies, has died. He was 81.
Bronson died Saturday of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife at his bedside, publicist Lori Jonas said. He had been in the hospital for weeks, Jonas said.
During the height of his career, Bronson was hugely popular in Europe; the French knew him as "le sacre monstre" (the sacred monster), the Italians as "Il Brutto" (the brute). In 1971, he was presented a Golden Globe as "the most popular actor in the world."
Like Clint Eastwood (news), whose spaghetti westerns won him stardom, Bronson had to make European films to prove his worth as a star. He left a featured-role career in Hollywood to play leads in films made in France, Italy and Spain. His blunt manner, powerful build and air of danger made him the most popular actor in those countries.
At age 50, he returned to Hollywood a star.
In a 1971 interview, he theorized on why the journey had taken him so long:
"Maybe I'm too masculine. Casting directors cast in their own, or an idealized image. Maybe I don't look like anybody's ideal."
His early life gave no indication of his later fame. He was born Charles Bunchinsky on Nov. 3, 1921 (not 1922, as studio biographies claimed) in Ehrenfeld, Pa. He was the 11th of 15 children of a coal miner and his wife, both Lithuanian immigrants.
Young Charles learned the art of survival in the tough district of Scooptown, "where you had nothing to lose because you lost it already." The Bunchinskys lived crowded in a shack, the children wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings. At the age of 6, Charles was embarrassed to attend school in his sister's dress.
Charles at 16 followed his brothers into the mines (the elder Bunchinsky died when the boy was 10). He was paid $1 per ton of coal and volunteered for perilous jobs because the pay was better. Like other toughs in Scooptown, he raised some hell and landed in jail for assault and robbery.
He might have stayed in the mines for the rest of his life except for World War II.
Drafted in 1943, he served with the Air Force in the Pacific, reportedly as a tail gunner on a B29 (some reporters questioned whether Bronson had exaggerated his service). Having seen the outside world, he vowed not to return to the squalor of Scooptown.
He was attracted to acting not, he claimed, because of any artistic urge; he was impressed by the money movie stars could earn. He joined the Philadelphia Play and Players Troupe, painting scenery and acting a few minor roles.
At the Pasadena Playhouse school, Bronson improved his diction, supporting himself by selling Christmas cards and toys on street corners. Studio scouts saw him at the Playhouse and he was cast as a gob in the 1951 service comedy, "You're in the Navy Now" starring Gary Cooper (news) (it was also Lee Marvin (news)'s first film).
As Charles Buchinsky (or Buchinski), he played supporting roles "Red Skies of Montana," "The Marrying Kind," "Pat and Mike" (in which he fell victim to Katharine Hepburn (news)'s judo), "The House of Wax," "Jubal" and other films. In 1954 he changed his last name, fearing reaction in the McCarthy era to Russian-sounding names.
Bronson's first starring role came in 1958 with an eight-day exploitation film, "Machine Gun Kelly." He also appeared in two brief TV series, "Man with a Camera" (1958) and "The Travels of Jamie McPheeters" (1963).
His status grew with impressive performances in "The Magnificent Seven," "The Great Escape," "The Battle of the Bulge," "The Sandpiper" and "The Dirty Dozen." But real stardom eluded him, his rough-hewn face and brusque manner not fitting the Hollywood tradition for leading men.
Alain Delon (news), like many French, had admired "Machine Gun Kelly," and he invited Bronson to co-star with him in a British-French film, "Adieu, L'Ami" ("Farewell, Friend"). It made Bronson a European favorite.
Among his films abroad was a hit spaghetti western, "Once Upon a Time in the West." Finally Hollywood took notice.
Among his starring films: "The Valachi Papers," "Chato's Land," "The Mechanic," "Valdez," "The Stone Killer," "Mr. Majestyk," "Breakout," "Hard Times," "Breakout Pass," "White Buffalo," "Telefon," "Love and Bullets," "Death Hunt," "Assassination," "Messenger of Death."
The titles indicate the nature of the films: lots of action, shooting, dead bodies. They were made on medium-size budgets, but Bronson was earning $1 million a picture before it was fashionable.
His most controversial film came in 1974 with "Death Wish." As an affluent, liberal architect, Bronson's life is shattered when young thugs kill his wife and rape his daughter. He vows to rid the city of such vermin, and his executions brought cheers from crime-weary audiences.
The character's vigilantism brought widespread criticism, but "Death Wish" became one of the big moneymakers of the year. The controversy accelerated when Bernard Goetz shot youths he thought were threatening him in a New York subway.
Bronson made three more "Death Wish" films, and in 1987 he defended them:
"I think they provide satisfaction for people who are victimized by crime and look in vain for authorities to protect them. But I don't think people try to imitate that kind of thing."
He is survived by his wife, Kim, six children and two grandchildren. Funeral services will be private.
|09-01-2003, 12:09 AM||#2|
Join Date: Jun 06, 2003
That's so sad. I was a fan of his for a long time. It looks like we lost another Hollywood legend.
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