Charles Bronson dead at 81

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/31/03 09:01 PM

Nothing to do with magic, but Charlie Bronson died today at age 81. Just saw him as the mute assistant to Vincent Price in "House of Wax" the other day. He was not a great actor, but he was a great presence onscreen. Particularly in one of the few quality roles he had, as Sean Penn's father in "The Indian Runner."
I love schlock movies, and always wanted to see the one that never got made where Bronson was going to play a mountain climber called into action to rescue passengers when a plane crashed into the Empire State Building (which really did happen).
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 08/31/03 09:33 PM

That's a shame. I had no idea he was that age: a result of remaining "ageless" in film, I'm sure. He was in several action movie favorites of mine: "The Dirty Dozen," "The Great Escape," "The Magnificent Seven," "Battle of the Bulge." I also liked him in "The Mechanic" and, of course, the original "Death Wish" was a dandy flick. Lot's of good stuff there!

Thanks Mr. Bronson!
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Postby mark » 08/31/03 10:30 PM

Yes, I was a fan of the Great Escape as well, and had it playing on the DVD just a few weeks ago driving to L.A. on a trip to the Castle. One of my favorite characters was played by Charles Bronson, and two others also deceased, Steve McQueen and Donald Pleasence.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 09/01/03 11:03 AM

I followed Bronson (Buchinsky) since the early days when he was in a television series called "Man With a Camera." He started out playing North American Indians (Apache, Chato's Land, White Buffalo, Run of the Arrow)and hard-core toughs (Remember his roles as Joe Valachi and Machine-Gun Kelly?). He also played unlikely roles such a Liz Taylor's lover-artist in The Sandpiper - 1965). I loved the four films he did with Michael Winner, including the one Dustin mentioned (The Mechanic). BTW, Kate Hepburn beat him up in "Pat and Mike," a truly unlikely victimization.

Believe it or not, when I was a thinner youth (circa 1964)I answered an ad for "extras" needed for a film being shot in New Orleans. When I was interviewed, they interviewer said, "Would you like to be a stand-in? You are the right height, weight, and coloring for this bit player." I said yes because stand-ins made more money. The film was "This Property Is Condemned," which starred Natalie Wood. Bronson was also in it and I had a chance to see him in the flesh. BTW, the bit player was a guy named Robert Redford.

I also saw Bronson when Walter Hill was shooting "Hard Times" in New Orleans in the 70s.

When I worked for Eastern Airlines, I met a flight one afternoon. (Ticket lifts opened doors to the aircraft.) I was surprised to see Bronson inauspiciously stroll through the door, wearing blue jeans, a sweat shirt, and dark glasses. Although he was still lean-and-mean and shyly menacing, nobody seemed to notice him. I of course was chary about approaching him but followed him as he walked toward the terminal. I finally walked alongside him and said, "I was hesitant to approach you, Mr. Bronson..." He stopped and gave me the Bronsonian, sleepy stare--the one that looks like he's on the verge of kicking your ass, just for good measure. Then I blurted, "I was afraid you might hit me with a sock filled with rolls of nickles!" (I don't know what came over me...) Thankfully, Bronson grinned...We then walked down to baggage claim and I asked, "How long do you think it will be before someone walks up and asked for an autograph?"

"I don't get that much," he said.

No sooner had he said it when a woman came up and asked for his autograph, pen in hand. He was gracious and courteous. No smile, though.

Yes, we will re-watch and enjoy Death Wish, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen...but my all-time fave is his kick-ass role as the Harmonica-Playing Mystery Man in "Once Upon a Time in the West."

The sound of that harmonica still haunts me...
So does his late-breaking grin...

Onward...
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Postby GAMOLO » 10/01/03 04:32 PM

Following up on Jon's opening remarks, Bronson could be somewhat dissembling in interviews regarding his youth.
I grew up in Allentown, Penna., which was adjacent to (the then) great Bethelem steel works, at one time the world's largest such facility.
Bronson always claimed he grew up in the anthracite (hard) coal mining regions, west of Bethelem, which supplied coal for the steel furnances. Mining such coal, was, of course, a though, depressing life. Bronson always claimed he did this prior to WW2 and after his service experience always said he went into acting to escape his prior life.
Depending on the circumstances, he variously claimed to be of Jewish origins (presumably helpful(?) especially in the late 1940's and the 1950's during his NYC days of mostly early television work) and later of non Jewish Ukrainum parentage, especially after he started living abroad became a huge film star in Europe during the 1970's and 1980's. He was virtually off the Hollywood radar screen at that time but Europeans loved the persona he created.
Hollywood finally "got it" and the "Death Wish" franchise developed a cult following.
Like Lee Marvin, he was one of a kind.
As was said when Steve McQueen died..."He was not a great actor....but was a great MOVIE STAR.
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Postby Chris Bailey » 10/02/03 12:00 PM

The Mechanic is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Once Upon A Time In The West was great too. I always wondered what that movie would have been like if Clint Eastwood would have accepted.
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