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National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day: Charles Bronson

1 Comment 30 August 2011

Wow folks. We hear at the NOR are pretty excited today. We’re in the business of death so we’re normally upbeat people but today…..wow. It is with extreme pleasure we present today’s Dead Person of the Day coming straight from those stiffs at the AP. This obit is 10 out of 10 shovels and if the NOR had been around in 2003 (the year of publication) this would be a leading candidate for our Golden Gravestone Award. Not only does this exceed excellent marks in our three categories of Readability, Reliability and Legacy, but its just an anthology of a great American. Without further ado we give you today’s DPD:

Charles Bronson (November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Charles Bronson, 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 ugly man). In 1971, he was presented a Golden Globe as “the most popular actor in the world.”

Like Clint Eastwood, 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 Buchinsky 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 Buchinskys 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’ father died when he was 10, and at 16 Charles followed his brothers into the mines. 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. 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.

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