Born on November 3, 1921, Charles Bronson grew up in a coal mining area located in Croyle Township, near Pittsburgh. His family lived in a small shack that was so tiny they had to take turns sleeping in it. The shack was situated just a few yards away from the tracks used by coal carriages.
Charles Bronson’s childhood was bleak, and he grew up feeling like a loner who had to constantly haggle for money. His father passed away when he was a teenager, so he left school to work as a coal miner and support his family.
Bronson later recalled that during his time working in the mines, he felt like a child who was considered the “lowliest of all forms of man,” which led to him developing a profound sense of inferiority. He also remembered how his hands were rough and unsightly from the hard labor, and how living in the dirt and being on his knees all day was a terrible experience.
Charles Bronson considered being enlisted in the armed forces as one of the greatest things to happen to him. In the military, he had access to good food and clothing, and even had the opportunity to improve his English language skills. Joining the armed forces paved the way for him to become one of the most iconic actors in Hollywood.
Following his service in WWII, Bronson returned to the United States and pursued a career in art before enrolling at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. One of his instructors recognized his talent and recommended him to director Henry Hathaway, leading to his debut film in 1951, “You’re in the Navy Now.”
In the early years of his film career, Charles Bronson appeared in numerous movies but was mostly uncredited. He gained critical acclaim for his role in the 1954 film “Vera Cruz,” which eventually led to a leading role in the 1958 movie “Machine-Gun Kelly”. His breakthrough performance came in the 1974 movie “Death Wish”.
In the 1950s, Bronson changed his name as he believed his Russian-sounding name may not have been well-received by audiences during the anti-Communist era.
Despite his rising fame, the dark cloud of his difficult childhood loomed over him, causing him to avoid people who seemed invasive or intimidating.
Bronson was married three times between 1949 and 1967. His first marriage was to Harriet Tendler, and the couple had two children.
After divorcing Harriet Tendler, Charles Bronson married Jill Ireland, a British actress. The couple had one child together, but unfortunately, Jill passed away in 1990 after a battle with cancer.
Bronson’s third marriage was to Kim Weeks, which lasted from 1998 to 2003.
In his final weeks, Bronson was seen wandering around Beverly Hills in a confused and disoriented state due to his Alzheimer’s disease. After suffering from pneumonia, his health rapidly declined, and he passed away at the age of 81.