Actor Charles Bronson Dead at 81

Actor Charles Bronson Dead at 81
Charles Bronson, an action superstar who appeared in several horror projects over the years, is dead.
Updated: 09-01-2003

Charles Bronson, the Pennsylvania coal miner who drifted into films as a villain and became a hard-faced action star, notably in the popular "Death Wish" vengeance movies, has died. He was 81.

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."

He was born Charles Buchinsky on Nov. 3, 1921, 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 raised some hell and landed in jail for assault and robbery.

He might have stayed in the mines for the rest of his life except for World War II.

Drafted in 1943, he served with the Air Force in the Pacific, reportedly as a tail gunner on a B29. Having seen the outside world, he vowed not to return to the squalor of Scooptown. He was attracted to acting not, he claimed, because of any artistic urge; he was impressed by the money movie stars could earn.

Charles Bronson had parts in nearly 100 films in his career, as well as countless TV shows and documentaries. He is best known for his action movies, including numerous Westerns and war movies, along with 1974's classic revenge tale, "Death Wish". In 1953 Bronson stared with Vincent Price in the horror film "House of Wax", as well as being featured in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" in 1959.

Funeral services will be private.

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