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Charles Bronson: the Original Macho Star


The author is an air warrior, global traveler, writer, and hobbyist



When I was in school, I remember playing truant and bunking school to go over to the Rex cinema in Mumbai (now defunct) to see a movie with Charles Bronson. If I remember correctly it was Guns for San Sebastian in which he co-starred with Anthony Quinn, another great star. Seeing Bronson in the role of a tough man, made him my hero and I saw almost all his movies, even those that were released a decade earlier in re-runs like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and Cold Sweat among others.

Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky) November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) was an American actor who was often cast in roles of police officers, gunfighters, or vigilantes in revenge-oriented plot lines. He had long-term collaborations with film directors Micheal Winner and J Lee Thomson.

At the height of his fame in the early 1970s, he was the world's No. 1 box office attraction, commanding $1 million per film. You can add the inflation part and you can get an idea of what was the star value of Charles Bronson.


The Macho Star

Charles Bronson had a large following in India, where his movies were well received. It's a pity though, that he never visited India. Charles Bronson was a Hollywood actor in the classical model. His career spanned a period when Hollywood was at its zenith. He brought to life a tough and macho image. He was the original he-man star.

One series of films that won him popular acclaim was the Death Wish series. The last of which he acted in 1995. The Death Wish series consists of five movies starring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and daughter raped. The first film was made in 1974 and the last in1995. He stopped acting after this movie as ill-health overtook him. He was also a victim of Alzheimer's disease. All the five Death Wish movies brought to the fore a man as tough as nails: he was a real American hero.

Death Wish franchise is an American action and crime drama laced with extreme violence. The series is based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield. The last of the series was The face of death. There was a 6th film planned but it never took off as Bronson fell ill. The studio planned to make a 6th film without Bronson but it became bankrupt and the matter ended.

The Face of Death is the final film in the franchise.

Bronson's talent was not confined to the Death Wish series but his macho image in many other films came to the fore. The French call Charles Bronson "the sacred monster." These words aptly describe Bronson. He was also an actor whose screen presence led him to be described as the "man of few words" and "man of action." These qualities propelled Bronson to become one of the "big three" of the film world's macho-men of the 1970s. Bronson acted in close to 100 films in a carrier spanning 48 years.


At the top

Bronson's place in the sun was at its apogee during the seventies and eighties. As he turned in some excellent performances in a number of films like Death Wish(1974), Once upon a time in the West (1969), Break Out (1975), and much more. During this period, he was one of the highest-paid stars of Hollywood.

Bronson perhaps would have risen to greater heights but he turned down quite a few roles that would have propelled him to the top. Sergio Leone offered Bronson the part of "Man with No Name" in A Fistful of Dollars. Bronson declined, arguing that the script was bad. Clint Eastwood bagged the role and made the most of it. Bronson was again approached for a starring role in the sequel For a few Dollars More but he rejected it. Bronson was offered a choice of either of the roles of Tuco and Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Probably he didn't want to play second fiddle to Clint Eastwood who had the main role. The roles went to Elli Wallach and Lee Van Clef. He did audition for the role of Superman but the producers found him too musclebound and preferred Christopher Reeve.

Bronson died in 2003 at the age of 82. But he left behind a legacy that will be hard to match, particularly in the genre of western and tough man roles. To back up his tough man image, Bronson also supported a muscular body. Perhaps, his years as a coal miner helped form his physique after his father died when he was only 10. One other aspect of Bronson's life was his family, which took preponderance over anything else. Married to Jill Ireland for 22 years until her death in 1990, he had a special affection for her and starred in 14 movies with her in the lead. Bronson had two other wives also.

Charles Bronson will be remembered as a star that brought justice to roles that demanded a hero with a tough macho image. He was a star with a difference and deserves a niche of his own.

Last word

Probably the thing that bugs most people is that Bronson never won an Oscar but then even Richard Burton and Peter O' Toole, both great actors also never won Oscars. I think it is more a reflection on the Oscar award than the actors.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 02, 2021:

I like the question And I'm glad that somebody is interested in old soldiers. In the 65 war, he was based at Baghdogra and had little to do as trouble from China was expected. He got orders to move to Punjab but by then the war was over. He always felt it was a mistake not to have been given the order to bomb East Pakistan because of the timidity of the Indian government. Had that been done the Kashmere problem would've been solved a long time back and Bangladesh created.In the 71 war he had converted to Canberra and took part in 12 raids on Karachi city. More in detail on that later in an article.

tom on April 02, 2021:

what was your fathers role in 1965 and 1971 war

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 02, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, Bronson slowly faded away.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 02, 2021:

TOM, Bang on, and congrats for getting your 150th diecast car. One of my earlier bosses when I was the vice presidentHiranandani had purchased the Bentley. Bronson was an actor par excellence but yes he had a lot of divorces and perhaps the only woman he really loved was Jill.

tom on April 02, 2021:

first wife divorced,after jill another undivorced marriage

tom on April 02, 2021:

i have watched all his movies,lithuanian ,2003 died 1980s career declined,played shomron in raid on entebbe,wife brtish actress jill ireland,maximum hero heroine pair world record malayalam hero prem nazir and sheela,next pair charles and jill,guns of san sebastian quinn and bronson, before jill two divorces.bw picture is still from raid on entebbe.sir i have purchased my 150 th diecast car a bentley,firoz khan copied western movies as chambal dacoits

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 02, 2021:

Thank you Bill for sparing time and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 02, 2021:

I always enjoyed Bronson's movies. I'm quite certain I've seen them all, or nearly all of them.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on April 02, 2021:

Jimmy, thanks for commenting.

Jimmy Elsdon on April 02, 2021:

This is a wonderful article on a superhero. You have rightly brought out that Charles Bronson never won an Oscar but he won the hearts of the people that matter. There was no better actor than him in a macho role

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