Monday, September 14, 2015

Charles Bronson (1921-2003)

Birth name: Charles Dennis Buchinsky
Birthdate: Thursday, November 3rd, 1921
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

Died: Saturday, August 30th, 2003
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Alzheimer's Disease and pneumonia

Best known for: Actor known for his tough guy action roles, weather-beaten good looks and, in later years, a move toward more violent films such as the Death Wish franchise.

Charles had always excelled in action roles in both the movies and on TV, whether it was serial Westerns or blockbuster war movies, but in the 1970s, as he reached his 50th year, this speciality for the genre only grew when he signed with United Artists to make several action pictures, beginning with 1972's Chato's Land. These films were somewhat churned out, but were no less successful, and one of these films was Death Wish, released in July 1974 and directed by Michael Winner. Charles played a New York architect turned vigilante called Paul Kersey who hits the streets and murders random drop-outs after the murder of his wife (Hope Lange) by "street punks".

Charles aged 53 in Death Wish, and
aged 73 in Death Wish 5
And so Charles Bronson was "reborn", as it was the Death Wish films which would dominate his career right through until his retirement more than 20 years later. There was Death Wish II in 1982, in which Kersey turns vigilante again after "street punks" murder his daughter and housekeeper, and then Death Wish 3 in 1985 in which Kersey is recruited by a crooked detective to help rid New York of its infernal "street punks".

In 1987 came Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, by which time Charles was 66 and not quite as physically convincing as he was in 1974. In this fourth installment Kersey switches location to Los Angeles and takes on a bunch of drug dealers responsible for the overdose of his girlfriend's daughter. Charles's final performance as Paul Kersey came in 1994's Death Wish 5: The Face of Death, in which Kersey goes after a New York mobster threatening his girlfriend's fashion business.

There were just three more acting roles for Charles before he retired, all of them television movies made under the Family of Cops banner. In November 1995's Family of Cops, Charles plays police commissioner Paul Fein who gets involved in his oversexed daughter's life when she's accused of murdering a married man she sleeps with. It's obvious by this time that Charles is in no way a convincing action star any longer, hence the "family" of cops surrounding him to take on some of the more action-packed fare.

Charles in his last role in Family of
Cops III, aged 77
A sequel came in February 1997's Family of Cops II: Breach of Faith, which involved a tussle with the Mafia, and Charles's very last acting credit was in Family of Cops III: Under Suspicion, televised on January 12th, 1999. After filming in Toronto finished on the project, Charles had a hip replacement in August 1998, and retired from the industry, aged 76. In December 1998 he married his third wife Kim Weeks (his Family of Cops co-star), who he'd been in a relationship with for eight years.

What wasn't known at the time was that during the filming of Under Suspicion, Charles was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. He'd been suffering from ill-health for a couple of years, and was finally diagnosed in 2000, after Kim began to notice her husband changing from "energetic and quick-witted to seeming dazed".

Charles at the Malibu Film Festival
in March 2001, aged 79
In 2001 his family made public Charles's condition, saying he was no longer able to leave the house alone and was having holistic and conventional treatment in both New York and Los Angeles. His sister Catherine Pidgeon said: "The family has known for almost a year something was wrong because Charles just hasn't been himself. He speaks very slowly and sometimes his words are slurred."

However, at this point at least, Charles still recognised his family and they spent that Christmas together. Catherine added: "Kim rarely leaves his side. She's devoted to him and vows to stick by him."

After being in hospital for several weeks, he died on August 30th, 2003 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, aged 81, with Kim at his side. He was buried at Brownsville cemetery in West Windsor, Vermont, the town he'd lived in for 30 years, at the foot of Mount Ascutney. He left an estate worth $48m, which included an $8m house in Malibu and a $4.8m beach house and ranch in Vermont.

For an insight into the real Charles Bronson, here's a lovely CNN interview with him from 1993 when he was filming The Sea Wolf for TNT, his first project after taking a year off following the death of his beloved second wife, actress Jill Ireland, in 1990.

1 comment:

  1. They just don't make them like him anymore, I never missed any of his films as he was so convincing in any role he took on.May he rest in peace as his work lives on?

    ReplyDelete

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