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Charles Bronson - A Tribute

Obituary and tribute by: Jack Foley

DEATH Wish and Magnificent Seven actor, Charles Bronson, has died at the age of 81.

The Hollywood tough guy died from pneumonia at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, August 30, and is survived by six children and two grandchildren.

Born Charles Buchinski on November 3, 1921 - one of 15 children of a Lithuanian coal miner in Pennsylvania, US - Bronson began his career working in coal mines, along with other members of his immigrant family.

He would also take part in the sport of boxing, which helped to define the distinctive features he said looked 'look like a rock quarry that someone has dynamited'.

After carrying out his military service in World War Two, he decided to study acting in California, becoming one of the major action stars of Hollywood in the 1960s, along with Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen in films such as The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen.

His big breakthrough came in 1960, when he appeared alongside Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven, in a role which rates among the finest of a distinguished career.

His cold-hearted killer, turned surrogate father to a trio of Mexican village children, has long tugged at my own heart-strings, and his death scene is one of those 'if only it wasn't like that' moments reserved for the best type of movies.

He followed this with The Great Escape, in which he was one of the few to escape, despite suffering a fear of the dark, and The Sandpiper.

Then, in 1967, he became a member of The Dirty Dozen, alongside Lee Marvin, before opting to take his career in his own hands and heading the way of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef by agreeing to star in the films of Sergio Leone.

First up, came the likes of Guns for San Sebastian and Villa Rides, which helped to secure him leading man status, before he nabbed the role of the harmonica playing gunslinger in Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in the West, which catapulted him into the realms of superstardom.

By 1971, he was awarded the accolade of the world's most popular actor, despite a limited range and unemotive style.

Upon his return to America, he won the role of vigilante Paul Kersey in the Death Wish series, directed by Michael Winner, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although the films were criticised for their violence, Bronson regularly defended them and there is no denying the benchmark the original set in cinema history.

He also appeared in more than a dozen films with his second wife, Jill Ireland, who died of cancer in 1990.

And although his latter career was spent in straight to video movies, he had enough in his CV to place him among cinema's greats, and will be sorely missed by a legion of fans.





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