Today we observe the 93rd birthday anniversary of legendary cinematic tough guy Charles Bronson. Here he is with Timothy and Jim Hayward in a scene from Andre’ De Toth‘s noir masterpiece Crime Wave (1954).
Born Charles Dennis Buchinsky to a Lithuanian coal-mining family in Pennsylvania (one of fifteen children), Bronson was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. After a stint in the coal mines himself, he flew bombers in World War II and received a Purple Heart. Odd jobs after the war brought him to a theater group in Philadelphia. He soon found himself in New York City and then Hollywood, determined to pursue an acting career. Like Timothy, he turned in many small and/or uncredited performances in film and on television throughout the 1950s. His big break came when Roger Corman cast him in the title role of Machine-Gun Kelly (1958). Shortly afterwards he won the lead in the TV series Man with a Camera (1958-1960). Important supporting turns in films such as The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1964) and The Dirty Dozen (1967) followed. He then headed to Europe and made several spaghetti Westerns, including Sergio Leone‘s incredible Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He came back to the United States a bona fide star, and he remained one until his untimely death from pneumonia in 2003. He once said, “Someday I’d like a part where I can lean my elbow against a mantlepiece and have a cocktail.”