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The Bronson File

George Costanza had the Penske File while I had the Bronson file. Ever since starting this blog I have made no secret that while growing up Charles Bronson was my favorite movie tough guy so time for another tip of the hat to the screen’s most feared vigilante.

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A short while ago while cleaning out the closet full of movie memorabilia (see here) I found all kinds of goodies including the dog eared file where I kept all kinds of news clippings pertaining to Bronson.

I even found a couple of homework projects where I featured the tough guy. If anything this proved I was a budding know it all even as a kid growing up. Here’s the grade 6 cue cards for my speech in English class on Bronson where I was basically urging my fellow students to check out his films.

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Then there was the Grade 9 Art class silk screening project using an image carved into a metal plate. This was probably one of the few assignments I actually finished. If I recall correctly, art wasn’t one of my stronger subjects.

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Since Dad was a fan it made it easier to tune into the Bronson films that would turn up on televsion from the iconic roles in a trio of sixties classics, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen to earlier seventies films that were turning up regularly on the small screen. Then every now and then there would be a network premier of something like Telefon to keep me happy.

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Imagine my surprise when Bronson began filming a new flick in western Canada about the story of Albert Johnson and the manhunt launched by the Canadian Mounties to bring him to justice. The film reteamed Bronson with another iconic tough guy in Lee Marvin. The working title for this outdoor adventure was Arctic Rampage but the film was subsequently released as Death Hunt. To top it off he was featured on our weekly newspaper’s television guide with a story from the films set.

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Sadly Bronson was thrust into the media on a regular basis when the love of his life Jill Ireland waged a courageous battle with breast cancer that ultimately claimed her life. While he played a hero on screen, Jill became one in real life as she fought the disease in a very public arena writing a successful book she titled Life Wish.

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Nowadays I have original copies of Bronson’s film posters but in the days when my allowance wasn’t enough the newspaper prints would have to do.

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Here’s a rare title that was actually a straight drama yet played off his persona with the title Act of Vengeance. It was a U.S. Cable release but in Canada was actually released theatrically.

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Lastly this headline because I like it.

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Any Bronson favorites? Comments or recollections from the days when tough guys just seemed a little tougher by throwing a scowl or glance versus the muscle bound heroes of today?

11 Comments »

  1. Great stuff that makes me think of ye olden dayes, when there was an Eatons in the centre. City TV and The Record tv guide… Bronson I didn’t get into until older, Once Upon a Time in the West and Death Wish are faves but I still haven’t seen many of his, so here’s an idea: you should do a post recommending essential Bronson.

  2. Thanks to my old man I was lucky enough to be brought up on Bronson films such as Hard Times and Mr Majestyk. Love your collection.

    “Hey Buddy you want my opinion you’re in the wrong business!”

  3. For my Dad and I it was always, and still is, Clint Eastwood, although you don’t see him make as many tough-guy movies as he once did. But getting back to Bronson, I was first introduced to his work when I saw ‘Breakout’ at the drive-in back in 1975, but I think my favorite role of his would be Danny Tunnel King in ‘The Great Escape’…although I also enjoyed his early work in ‘Crime Wave’ and ‘House of Wax’, too.

  4. Bronson was an egregiously under-rated actor. You can see him in supporting roles in a lot of movies before he became a star, and he pftem steals the movies. He does this in The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape. He was like Robert Mitchum, in that he never once delivered a line awkwardly or falsely. (Arnold Schwarzenegger, in comparison, has never delivered a line convincingly.)

    Unfortunately there are numerous credible accounts that he was personally chronically angry, and went around scaring and offending people. James Garner’s autobiography has an anecdote recounting how he did just that. Richard Fleischer, who directed him in “Mr, Majestyk” has similar stories to tell about Bronson’s constant bullying of other people.

    An interesting detail comes from Walter Hill, who directed him in the prize-fighting movie “Hard Times.” Hill claims that, in spite of Bronson’s astonishing natural muscularity, he had poor wind because of smoking, and could not sustain his fight scenes for more that twenty seconds. Hmm.

    But a great actor, with a unique performer’s intelligence all his own.

    • I too am familiar with many of the off screen stories including the books you mention here as I have read them both. The Fleischer book is a great read by the way. Until his later years when i felt he should have retreated to character parts he always delivered the goods. Turning down City Slickers late in his career proved to be a huge mistake. Having said that I do love Jack Palance and am a big fan of his as well.

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