Craggy faced tough punched his way to stardom. My favorite Bronson role was as the only surviving member of the Dirty Dozen . My favorite of his leading roles was in Hard Times, Walter Hill's directorial debut about a taciturn street fighter in New Orleans in the '30s managed by James Coburn. What an unlikely success story Bronson was!
- 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.
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 made trouble and landed in jail for assault and robbery.