Charles Bronson: True Stories Of The Hollywood Tough Guy

By | November 2, 2019

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Charles Bronson in 'Once Upon A Time In The West' (1968). Source: IMDB.

So many actors throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s tried to exude a tough guy machismo, but Charles Bronson was the only guy was actually tough. He didn’t just grow up as the son of a coal miner, he was a child who was a coal miner. Bronson only got out of the mines thanks to World War II. 

Bronson became one of Hollywood's go-to tough guys in westerns and action movies, appearing in The Great Escape (1963), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Once Upon A Time In The West (1968), and Death Wish (1974), among many others. Before hitting the big screen, he was a regular on TV, having appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Have Gun Will Travel. He also starred as Mike Kovac in Man With a Camera, which ran for two seasons (1958-60) on ABC.

Throughout his life, he never had the demeanor of an actor, he didn’t like to talk about himself and when he did talk about his process he seemed to consider it to be much more of a job than anything else. Charles Bronson was an American classic, pensive, private and stoic. He was also one hell of a great actor. 

He Was Very Poor Growing Up

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source: wikipedia

Growing up in the coal mining town of Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, known as Scooptown, Bronson was the 11th of 15 children living in a company house owned by the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company. Money was so tight in the Buchinsky family that he often had to wear hand me downs from his sisters when he went to school. He explained:

This would have been the summer before I started school. I remember my father had shaved us all bald to avoid lice. Times were poor. I wore hand-me-downs. And because the kids just older than me in the family were girls, sometimes I had to wear my sisters' hand-me-downs. I remember going to school in a dress. And my socks, when I got home sometimes I'd have to take them off and give them to my brother to wear into the mines.

Even though he was working in the mines as a child, he was the first member of his family to graduate from high school. At the time he was reportedly earning one dollar for each ton of coal that he mined.