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...