One thing that the internet has allowed me to do since starting Mike’s Take nearly 8 years ago is to connect with fellow film fans and in some cases, writers and historians. I guess it was inevitable that I would cross paths with Paul Talbot who has quickly become the leading authority on the career of Charles Bronson. I guess that makes me second????? He’s been kind enough to visit Mike’s Take on occasion and I’m very happy to have shared some old articles and trivia bits with him when I thought it might be beneficial in his research.
I’m also very excited to have him join me here for this spotlight on Charles Bronson as we celebrate his 100th birthday this month.
Paul Talbot is the author of the books BRONSON’S LOOSE!: THE MAKING OF THE “DEATH WISH” FILMS and BRONSON’S LOOSE AGAIN!: ON THE SET WITH CHARLES BRONSON. He has written numerous film-related articles for print and online magazines. Talbot has contributed to over a dozen Bronson-related Blu-rays by providing commentary tracks, producing video interviews, and/or contributing extras.
On to our Q&A ….
So why Charles Bronson? Why not one of his contemporaries like Palance, Marvin or Eastwood?
PT : I love Palance, Marvin, and Eastwood. But there was already a good deal of information that was available about them. Bronson seemed to be more mysterious. I decided that I had to find his story.
Not to date ourselves but my first Bronson movie at the theater was Borderline in 1980. What was your first Bronson movie on the big screen and were you already a fan by that point as I was.
PT : I grew up in the Boston area in the 1970s, which was the peak of “Bronsonmania.” The local UHF channels always showed a lot of movies and my mother and I would watch a lot of movies and we never missed an Elvis Presley movie. One afternoon we watched KID GALAHAD, which featured Bronson as Elvis’ boxing trainer. It was the first time I saw Bronson and I was intrigued by his presence. I few days later, my father and I watched his favorite movie, which was THE GREAT ESCAPE. Those two movies started my Bronson obsession. Many older Bronson movies were on television at that time and old TV episodes with him also turned up. Sometimes the station announcer would say something like: “Tonight’s episode of BONANZA stars Charles Bronson!” In spring of 1975, I saw numerous, relentless TV ads for Bronson’s new film BREAKOUT and I was desperate to see it. BREAKOUT was the first Bronson movie that I saw theatrically. I was in elementary school at the time and I was able to walk to the Cabot Cinema in Beverly, Massachusetts to see it. After that, I saw every later Bronson movie at a theater except for FROM NOON TILL THREE, THE WHITE BUFFALO, and CABO BLANCO because they didn’t play near me. I had to see those three on TV.
Are you a collector of Bronson memorabilia? Posters, lobby cards, props? If yes, do you have a favorite piece?
PT : I have a huge collection. I was hoping that I could use more of my collection in my books, but there were issues with rights. My original US one-sheet for DEATH WISH and my Spanish one-sheet for BREAKOUT are my favorite posters. I have many lobby cards, pressbooks, presskits, etc. The information in pressbooks and presskits is very important to historians. I also have a huge collection of Bronson-related screenplays. It fascinates me to see how films change during the various drafts. A few years ago, there was an auction of screenplays from the estate of Bronson’s agent. They were the scripts that were actually sent to Bronson’s agent for consideration. They each went for a lot of money, but I picked up a few, including THE VALDEZ HORSES and a first draft of DEATH WISH II. The prize item that I got from that auction was a draft of the script for DOLLAR NINETY-EIGHT, which was Bronson’s never-made dream project. It was a semi-autobiographical story set in the Depression that was to star Bronson as a coal miner. Bronson and Jill Ireland wrote the original script. A few years ago, I did an introduction to some theatrical showings of 10 TO MIDNIGHT to publicize my second show. A friend of mine is a prop maker and he made an exact replica of the “device” that Bronson finds in the killer’s bathroom! The audience loved seeing that item from my collection!
Like many of his acting generation, Bronson, was enormously busy guesting on series television in the 1950’s and 60’s. Are there some appearances that stand out you’d like to recommend to our readers?
PT : Bronson did a lot of great work on TV in his pre-stardom days. Much of his early TV work is lost or hard-to-find, but a lot of great stuff remains. Some of my favorites are: The “And So Died Riabouchinska” (1956) episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, which is an eerie story with Bronson as a detective interrogating Claude Rains as a disturbed ventriloquist. “The Killer” (1956) episode of GUNSMOKE with Bronson in a fantastic performance as a cowardly gunman. The “Fight” episode of M SQUAD (1958) with Bronson (teamed with Lee Marvin) as a boxer. The “Butch Cassidy” (1958) episode of TALES OF WELLS FARGO has Bronson as the famous outlaw and pairs him with fellow future legend James Coburn for the first time. The MAN WITH A CAMERA series (1958 – 1960), which stars Bronson as photojournalist. The series is low-budget, but Bronson is in great form in every episode. The brilliant “Two” (1961) episode of TWILIGHT ZONE, with Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery as rival survivors of a future world war. The “Death Tree” (1962) episode of THE UNTOUCHABLES with Bronson as a brutal prohibition-era gangster. The “Duel at Daybreak” (1965) episode of RAWHIDE, which features the only teaming of Bronson and Eastwood.
The 1960’s offered the great trifecta, The Magnificent 7, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. How important were these films in the development of both Bronson’s image and industry standing?
PT : Those movies were massive world-wide hits when they were first released and they still stand as three of the greatest action-adventure epics ever made. When casting those films, the producers and directors cleverly chose a variety of unusual male actors. Bronson stood out with his creviced, memorable face, imposing physique, and unusual voice. That trio of films helped establish him as a major supporting actor of the 1960s. They were all especially-popular in Europe and Asia and inspired foreign producers to consider Bronson for lead roles.
I’m a big fan of Bronson’s Fierro in Villa Rides, I believe he steals the film from Mitchum and Brynner. What do you think of his performance and was Sam Peckinpah ever actually in line to direct?
PT : Bronson is great in that film. I’m not sure if he steals it from Mitchum and Brynner. I think those three all work well together. It’s a great trio. I don’t know if Peckinpah was ever supposed to direct. Peckinpah wrote the early drafts, but the final draft was by Robert Towne. So, if Peckinpah was the original director, he left early in the writing process. It’s too bad that Bronson never worked with Peckinpah. It’s surprising that Bronson was never on Peckinpah’s THE RIFLEMAN TV series. VILLA RIDES was the first film in which Bronson sported what would become his signature mustache and it was the first Bronson film to have an appearance by his this-girlfriend/future-wife Jill Ireland (although she only appears briefly and without Bronson). VILLA RIDES was the last film to have Bronson in a secondary role. While he was filming it, he got an offer to co-star with Alain Delon in FAREWELL FRIEND, which would turn Bronson into a star.
Is Once Upon a Time in the West the best film Bronson ever appeared in as my son would have everyone believe? It’s his all time favorite movie.
PT : I’m glad your son feels that way. Movies and stars only endure when they are embraced by a new, younger generation. I would have to agree that OUTIW is the best film that he appeared in. It is a bonafide masterpiece that must be viewed by anyone interested in film history or film artistry. A friend of mine recently asked for a recommendation for a Bronson Western for him and his teenage son to watch. I suggested OUTIW and they both loved it. It was the first Bronson film that the son had seen.
As far as the Death Wish films go, would you care to rank them 1 to 5? You can approach this either best to worst or most enjoyable to least enjoyable. I always say there is a difference.
PT : My ranking from best to worst: Ranked #1: The original. The first DEATH WISH is a masterpiece and is one of the best films (of any genre) of the 1970s. It is not an action film. It is a gritty, scary, dark psychological drama. The issues it deals with are just as relevant today. The sequels were all enjoyable, but they were disappointing and they became progressively more absurd and more cartoonish, much like the James Bond and Dirty Harry movies did. Ranked # 2: DEATH WISH 3. A surreal, dark comic classic that isn’t really a sequel to DEATH WISH or any other movie. In fact, it’s not like any other movie ever made. DEATH WISH 3 takes place in an alternate reality. At this point, the DEATH WISH movies were no longer shocking and disturbing depictions of real-life urban crime. The movies had become garish fantasies with creative, over-the-top revenge sequences. No longer a complex character, Kersey was now a cartoon superhero with fearsome hand-to-hand combat skills and a constantly increasing arsenal of weapons. I never get tired of watching DEATH WISH 3 and it always brings the house down when I screen it for friends or a public screening. Ranked #3 DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN. J. Lee Thompson replaced Michael Winner at this point and this is the best-directed entry since the original. DEATH WISH 4 has a more-involved plot than the first two sequels. This fourth installment stands as a solid, efficient action programmer and is a good example of late 1980s VHS fodder. By this point, Kersey has become more like a trained assassin than a street vigilante and this movie plays more like a sequel to THE MECHANIC than a DEATH WISH sequel. Ranked #4: DEATH V: THE FACE OF DEATH. A decent, fast-paced finale for the series. Bronson looks great, and the film has good stunts and amusing moments of very dark humor, including a scene with a poisoned pastry. Ranked # 5: DEATH WISH II. It is extremely disappointing that Michael Winner didn’t try to make another serious, scary film like the original. DEATH WISH II is nothing more than a sleazy, routine remake. The revenge sequences deliver the goods and the exterior street scenes feature some of the best Bronson images of the 1980s. But the movie’s atmosphere is unpleasant and, even in edited versions, the rape scenes are repugnant and endless and are the nadir of the series. (I should note that many of my fellow DEATH WISH fans do not agree with my order of rankings.)
Michael Winner or J. Lee Thompson?
PT : Tie. I love both of those underrated directors. Both are talented artists and craftsmen. They both made good films with (and without) Bronson.
On the topic of J. Lee, what do you feel is the best film he helmed with Bronson starring?
PT : Tie between THE WHITE BUFFALO and 10 TO MIDNIGHT.
I believe Thompson’s White Buffalo is steadily gathering a well deserved cult following, what do you think of the film?
PT : I love THE WHITE BUFFALO. I remember being excited by the TV commercials and newspaper ads when it first came out. I didn’t get to see it when it was in theaters because it did not play near me. I had to wait until it played on TV under the title HUNT TO KILL. I’ve seen it many times since. It has an eerie, surreal quality to it. It was a costly flop when it was first released and it used to be considered a “bad movie.” But, as you said, it has been building a strong cult following among Bronson, Western, and monster-movie fans. I have done extensive research on the film and on the real-life Wild Bill Hickok and Crazy Horse. I will be doing an audio commentary track for a Blu-ray with a new 2K transfer that will be released in 2022.
When Bronson critics jump on me about his lack of range in picking roles, I love to point to Hard Times, St. Ives and From Noon Till Three. How do you think he fared in these?
PT : HARD TIMES is a genuine, unforgettable masterpiece and one of the more underrated films of the 1970s. It has one of the best scripts and roles that Bronson ever had and Walter Hill is one of the greatest directors that Bronson ever worked with. Bronson is perfectly cast in that with his stoic face. HARD TIMES is a good film to show people who are not familiar with Bronson or who do not like his other movies. Bronson is fine in ST. IVES. That film starts off well with Bronson roaming through sleazy Los Angeles locations, but I think the plot becomes too convoluted and there should have been more action in the climax. FROM NOON TILL THREE ranks as the most unusual of all Charles Bronson vehicles. He is very good in the film and displays a light touch. That was a daring role and film for him to do.
Do you think Bronson’s association with Cannon hurt his chances at landing bigger films with the majors in the 1980’s?
PT : Well, I don’t think he had a choice. The original DEATH WISH was the only Bronson film that was a genuine blockbuster at US theaters. His last film for a major studio was TELEFON, which was a huge disappointment at American box offices when it opened at Christmastime of 1977. His films like LOVE AND BULLETS (1979), CABO BLANCO (1980), and BORDERLINE (1980) sold poorly in the US. Bronson did not want to do DEATH WISH sequels, but Cannon was the only company that was offering him lucrative film deals. After he shot DEATH WISH 3, he accepted a fraction of his normal salary to play a union leader in the straight dramatic film ACT OF VENGEANCE (1986), which was made for HBO. Bronson was hoping that film would lead to more dramatic roles or supporting parts in serious, major films. But those offers did not come and he accepted a lucrative, multi-picture deal with Cannon.
Are you aware of any movies Bronson actually turned down that were made with someone else stepping in to the role he passed on? I’m aware of City Slickers and Firepower but feel free to mention those and any others.
PT : Bronson was offered the role that Robert Mitchum played in THE YAKUZA. Bronson’s agent knew that he had a huge following in Japan, but Bronson’s people was afraid that the film would not play to an international audience.
I need to in jump here and sing the praise of both Robert Mitchum and The Yakuza from director Sydney Pollack. Outstanding film and comes with my highest recommendation.
Any favorite interview that stands out among those who kindly shared their personal experiences working with Bronson?
PT : I’m grateful to all of them. A number of them have passed on and I’m glad that I got their stories. But I guess I would have to say Michael Winner was a favorite. He was hilarious.
If we set Jill Ireland aside, what leading lady do you think had the best on screen chemistry with Bronson?
PT : Linda Cristal in MR. MAJESTYK. They looked good together and were believable as a working-class couple.
Have you been able to unearth any of the deleted scenes I know existed at one time including the missing bare knuckle street fight in Hard Times that was prominent on the film’s lobby cards? Or maybe that scene from Breakout where he’s wearing a Priest’s collar. Any others I’m not aware of?
PT : No. The major studios rarely saved deleted film materials. The additional fight scenes in HARD TIMES were added at the request of some of the investors. Walter Hill has said in interviews that the released version is his preferred cut of the film. I was involved with the extras on the Blu-ray release of BREAKOUT that came out from the UK label Indicator. We asked Sony to look for any deleted scenes, but they found none.
I really enjoyed your commentary on the blu ray release for Cabo Blanco, a film I refer to as the lost Bronson movie, any news of a complete version surfacing since you recorded the commentary for the Kino Lorber release?
PT : No. I was in contact with a European film print collector who was looking for the two-hour cut of CABO BLANCO, but he never found one. The two-hour cut was only released in Italy, France, Sweden, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, and Venezuela. Then the negative was cut to create the shorter, now-standard version. Unless someone finds a longer theatrical print from the initial release, the long version is lost for good.
If you could suggest just one Bronson movie to a newbie in order to turn them on to the Bronson mystique what would you suggest?
PT : I would suggest THE MECHANIC. If the opening dialogue-free 15 minutes of that movie doesn’t turn you into a Bronson fan, then nothing will.
Many might be surprised to learn Bronson filmed a Christmas movie for television, Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus in 1991, I think it’s one of his better roles, any specific performance you’d like to spotlight that others might have overlooked?
PT : I love the cable-TV movie THE SEA WOLF (1993) with Bronson as Wolf Larson, the classic villain from Jack London’s story. THE SEA WOLF is my favorite Bronson film of the 1990s.
Now that you’ve wrote a book on the Death Wish films and a follow up project on a number of his other films, can we expect a third volume on Charles Bronson?
PT : Yes. I have a great deal of material gathered. But I don’t know when I will have it put together. I’ve been concentrating on commentary tracks because that it what I get offered. It seems that people would rather listen than read.
And further to that, any new commentaries coming you can divulge? I for one want to see a special edition of Red Sun restored to blu.
PT : I would love to do a commentary for RED SUN, but I haven’t heard anything about an upcoming Blu. In a few weeks, I’ll be recording a commentary track for a Blu-ray of VIOLENT CITY, which will be out in late 2021 or early 2022. Then I’m doing a track for THE WHITE BUFFALO which will be out in first-quarter of 2022.
Here’s a question I just had to ask……
Did you ever score yourself a bottle of Mandom cologne or maybe even sing the commercial’s theme song in the shower?
PT : I did get a bottle of Mandom from the Japanese Amazon. The scent was surprisingly weak. It’s actually an aftershave (aka “toilet water”), not a cologne. I doused some on my back once and went to a bar. But I don’t look like Bronson, so I got no response.
A special thank you to Mr. Talbot for joining me here at Mike’s Take. The time he has taken to chat with me on several occasions is appreciated as are the books and commentaries on Charles Bronson, the actor that has captured my imagination since Dad let me sit in and watch the Dirty Dozen with him as a youngster on the late show many years ago.
Be sure to grab yourself some copies of Mr. Talbot’s books. They’re both informative and full of facts, interviews and trivia associated with Bronson, the films and those who worked alongside of him.
Follow the links to purchase.
Bronson’s Loose! The Making of the Death Wish Films
I sent a message to Paul once and he asked if I could find any more information (I couldn’t), on a film called “Playing the Tough Guy”. I read about it in the development section of of a UK film magazine called “Film Review”, I think it was 1989 I have looked for years for further information but I have never found any (it was suggested that it would be a comedy)
So many projects were tossed about in trade papers and media outlets that never came to fruition and as this is before the internet it’s hard to track anything down at times.
Not heard of this one. Used to always love Variety’s Cannes issue to see tons of pages for movies that never came to fruition even if they had a star or director attached.
Congratulations Mike. Most enjoyable and informative.
Thanks George. Hope you’re doing well and ready to spring some rare posters for me to see from your vast collection.
Love this! Never knew about the books, so I will be sure to get them. Thanks for posting!
Thanks. Books are well researched and Mr. Talbot knows his stuff and also worth listening to when he’s doing commentary on blu ray releases.
Love it Mike, very cool to get some extra insight on Bronson from his biographer.
Thanks. was fun to chat with Mr. Talbot. He’s very approachable on Bronson topics.
Lovely conversation on our all favourite tough guy, indeed. Have read both of Mr. Talbots books on “the man” and want to clarify that these are not biographies, but books dealing with a selection of his movies plus background infos. As far as I am aware of, NO BIOGRAPHY has yet been written about Charles Bronson. Nobody has yet uncovered details about his early life, his parents, his many siblings and so on and on, like eg LEE SERVER did regarding ROBERT MITCHUM and AVA GARDNER or NICK TOSCHES on DEAN MARTIN.
I know, that is difficult, maybe even impossible considering how much time has passed, but it’s nevertheless a shame that there is no authoritative biography covering the life and times of one of the 3, 4 highest paid stars of the 70ies. Books covering his movies do exist, but none covering his life. A pity!
There is a book called “Charles Bronson The 95 films and 156 television appearances” which gives a bit (but not much) more and there are “The films of Charles Bronson” by Jerry Vermilye (17 pages about “The Man” and “Charles Bronson” by (I think maybe) David Thompson which I think was published by W.H. Allen(I have lost my copy!)
I’ve collected them all thru the years and the Films of and the 95 appearances were very helpful early on when trying to find and discover for yourself all the films and tv shots.
Thank you very much! I was not aware of the 2nd, but am familiar with the first, which is the most complete book on our heros’ movies and has all the movie-infos, synopsis, shooting infos, critical response, etc., but just 4 pages (!) about the man himself. Written in 1999 by Michael Pitts, when C.B. was still alive, it is an impressive work about his movies, but not a biography.
There were several books written about C.B., some as early as in the later 70ies, early 80ies, but none covers his life in any details, just the usual Sketche infos on a few pages. A book like eg BABY,I DON’T CARE, an amazing 600 pages (!) read by Lee Server on another great stoic guy named Robert MITCHUM, is sorely missing about C.B.. Too much time has passed, I guess, to still manage writing that and which high class author would invest say 5 years to research and write a massive book about his personal his life …? (I’d be happy with 300 well written pages … like Stone Wallace did on George Raft, maybe the first Bronson-type stoic on screen … please!).
We do have CHARLIE AND ME by his 1st wife Harriet Bronson, but that’s not really a great read and does not cover neither his early life nor his most prolific period …
Lee Server, you got a couple of years to spare ….? 👍🙂👏👏
Never realised there was such a dearth of information about his early life. I wonder of Bronson blocked that.
That´s a good question. I don´t think/assume he “blocked” that, bec. of being something like “ashamed” of his roots. I don´t remember if it was an interview or an article, in which I heard or read about all the odd jobs he did before becoming an actor (really everything you can image, which needed a guy with strength), so he was not reluctant of his past or his “humble upbringings”, but he did not give many interviews. He was quite a taciturn guy (that´s again confirmed by Talbots books), who probably thought that all this would not be of much interest to anybody. I assume nobody asked in detail, so he never went into it any deeper.
I would also assume that at some point he must have been asked by some publisher to have some ghostwriter write his biography (nearly every star gets such offers and most do agree), but he obviously declined (or was too old to remember enough/Alzheimer in later years).
The outcome of that is that one can sum up Bronsons early life on something like 10 pages, if that much at all, that´s it. When I compare that to the wonderful pages in eg.. Lee Servers book about Mitchum, Ava Gardner and other actors, then that´s indeed a shame. I consider these early stages of the life of a person quite important, because they form the personality. How long was B. “in the mines”, for example (short, but how short?). What odd jobs did he exactly do, when, where, why? Some vivid recounting of all that would be a splendid read. That guy lived “a life in full”, but all we have is pieces of it. And how was is work considered by his fellow-actors/actresses, how did they get along (some not too well, I know), etc etc. Most of them are dead as well, so that´s all lost to the ages. Hardly anyone still here to ask …
You make some very good points. But bear in mind movie biographers are unlike normal biographers. Too much of the material is easy at hand or colleagues easy to contact. Normal biographers are more like historians and dig out someone’s work history, medical history, school reports etc, So I’m sure the information is there if someone wants to put in the hard work.
Yes, you are right on that. Besides, those really superbly written bio´s, when you really “feel” that you “are there” and even look into the mind/soul of that person, are party fiction anyway. If the hard data are uncovered (provided the data are still there, I mean “work contracts” – if any were made – medical reports, etc etc), then one would have to check “how life of a teen coalminer usually was” and how people in this or that situation usually feel and react and fill the blanks.
Nick Tosches wrote some stunning pages about the life of Dean Martins parents and life in Steubenville in LIVING HIGH IN THE DIRTY BUSINESS OF DREAMS (I highly recommend this rollercoaster read) and I am sure there was no one he could interview. It all comes from other peoples reports and historical books, which he had to find and read. That´s quite a lot of time-consuming research, which makes sense if 100.000´s of copies are likely to be sold, but a Bronson-bio might probably sell some few 10.000 copies. Not enoug to put a couple of years life into that, I understand that. (I wonder how many copies of “Charles Bronson – the 95 films and 156 television appearances” were sold).
Lee Server did not have the problem of a taciturn Mitchum, because Mitchum liked to tell stories about his life, but Bronson didn´t.
Anyway, we´ll all meet the man in heaven some day (not too soon, but some day). I´ll conduct an interview then. 🙂
You certainly make a fair point about remuneration vs effort but it did always surprise me that nobody came out of the woodwork and said they had worked alongside him or his 14 brothers and sisters never commented on what it was like growing up with him. Maybe that stuff exists and needs digging out. I might give it a try some day.
I’ve yet to read the Charlie and Me book. As for Server, love that Mitchum book and yes one of the better researched of it’s type.
Yes I love those books Lee Server putt out on Mitch and Ava. I actually picked up another simply because he was the writer titled Handsome Johnny. An underworld figure with ties to Hollywood back in the day. Just need to find some extra time to get into it.
Yes, I also came accross “Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin” (what a title, haha!), when I checked which other books he wrote. Problem is, it´s quite expensive to order books from the USA to be sent to Europe (postage, customs, arghh), that I didn´t go for it yet (I need a physical book, can´t read on a screen). I am convinced it´ll be a good read and 544 pages (yeah) is just what I love: a meaty story about an interesting life (although an ugly one, I guess). Putting out bio´s of 200 pages is ridiculous, because a worthwhile subject needs more space to be explored. 500+ pages are what´s needed for that and I am sure this book delivers.
Would love if you could comment on it once you´re through. If you say “go”, then I´m gonna buy it, too! 🙂
I too check out the number of pages in bios and if I don’t see a number beginning with at least a 3 I am less inclined to buy. Do my best to let you know. My biggest problem is getting to them. I seem to buy 2 for every one I read.
Absolutely brilliant and epic read Mike. Such great questions and superb answers and knowledge from Paul Talbot. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Thank you.
Thanks buddy, this one was fun to put together with someone who even I (master of Bronson history) have to bow to.
Reblogged this on Six Degrees of Stoogeration! and commented:
I’m sorry, but the first thing to come to mind when I read this is that he’s got one degree of Stoogeration and the infamous line from Death Wish 3: “They’re teeth.” He was a damn fine actor and proved that sequels don’t HAVE to get worse as they go on–my older sister and I caught Death Wish 5 after dozing through whatever big budget junk that would’ve been out then. Ah, the old days…cigarette machines in the lobby, no one caring why you had that yuge purse, and the ability to pay for one movie and go to the next when it sucked.
I recall the days when I would go to a small movie theater that had 6 screens. We’d leave one movie and jump into another line making it’s way to the seats. Yeah the good old days.
Fabulous interview with a true expert. Great to get mentions of some of his lesser known pictures and also Bronson’s understanding of where he stood in the box office tree. Jealous of his pressbook collection but he’s correct in that so often rights issues prevent usage of images for books which is a big shame. Rights problems were less of an issue in the pre-1970s unless it was something like Seven Samurai.
Thanks. I’m very thankful he was open to a chat that I could share with others. Yes as a collector of memorabilia, I’m sure he has plenty of cool treasures I’d love to see. I never thought much about rights issues when just wanting to put a pic in a book but obviously an issue.
You can do what you like with pix on the internet but not in print. No idea why. Generally, though if it is pre-1970 you will be okay. I think to do with US copyright laws.
>>You certainly make a fair point about remuneration vs effort but it did always surprise me that nobody came out of the woodwork and said they had worked alongside him or his 14 brothers and sisters never commented on what it was like growing up with him. Maybe that stuff exists and needs digging out. I might give it a try some day.<<<
Yes, that´s indeed a very good point: he had 14 (!) siblings and also to my knowledge none of them ever spoke about how it was growing up with Charles Bronson (maybe there is some forgotten newspaper article?) and their youth in/around the mines and stuff like that. That´s indeed pretty unusual and might indicate he didn´t want that (?). Only his 1st wife wrote a book (I haven´t read), but that never made any impact (I read a few pages online and they were not really a good read).
Besides we (or at least I) know literally nothing about the family he came from (like eg. we do of Loretty Lynn) except that one older (ddicted, I think) brother once visited him on the set of DW II, that´s all. It does indeed look as if this family was totally estranged. Could be. 😦
The more you talk about it, the more intrigued I become. I wished I lived in the US where i might be more easily able to access early information about school, work etc. I used to use a database for regional and local US newspapers for some of my books so I might have a poke around that.
The “problem” with finding information about the early years of C.B.´s life (and the socio-oeconomic situation of families like these in those years back then, which is equally important in trying to understand his personality) is that most of this information (esp. newspaper articles from say the 50ies/60ies) is not digitalized. It´s not (yet) available for access from all over the world.
One would have to start in Ehrenfeld, where it all began, and dig through local newspapers of that time and lateron. IF his siblings ever gave interviews and spoke about their upbringing, then more likely in some local paper(s) printed in PA (Ehrenfeld and vicinity) and that in the decades of the 60ies to 70ies (maybe also 80ies, but I doubt that). I would start checking newspapers from 1963, when THE GREAT ESCAPE hit the screens and then 1967, when THE DIRTY DOZEN was released. Those were his “beginnings” of becoming a star and if local newspapers in PA ran articles about C.B., then they would have “dug out” some of his siblings in those years (and maybe lateron).
I´d start talking with the local librarian, which newspapers were printed back then, if s/he knows any old articles about C.B., and then start reading. That´s a huge load of work, nothing that can be done in a few days. It´d probably require a month there alone (in Ehrenfeld, I mean).
Before that, one has to read everything ever published about him, which can be found in books and online, make a draft of what to write and then dig for the holes/fill the gaps by old “detective work”: going places, digging up people who knew him (in later years, all others are most likely dead) and conduct interviews. One would have to know, which info is needed before going places, so I´d estimate at least a year of research, reading everything accessible, every book, every digitalized article, then a couple of months, maybe even another year for a draft, then one more year for filing gaps, going places, conductiong interviews and the final draft would be another 6 months to a year, so a total of 4, maybe even 5 years.
That´s such a huge amount of time that only a professional writer with financial backing could do that. I couldn´t (besides I am no writer) since I got a family to feed with a bread&butter job.
May I ask wherefrom you are? I am from Austria/Europe. 🙂 Just being curious (sorry).
I am Scottish. But I have written over a dozen books on the movies. I don’t expect to make a living from them which is just as well because they never sell huge amounts of copies. My most successful book was “The Making of The Magnificent Seven.” But since I am semi-retired and never expected to make much money from writing I tend to write what I want about subjects that interest me – and which, often, everyone else has ignored. So I did 250,000 words on the history of Hollywood Reissues – “Coming Back to a Theater Near You” and another on the history of the wide release “In Theaters Everywhere.” I expect to spend a couple of years on research for any book I write and then maybe another year on the writing. But often the germ of one book comes from another. For example, The Magnificent Seven was the fist major film to get a very wide release so that got me interested in that subject. And it was a flop on initial release, only going into profit from a substantial number of reissues so that sparked the other book. So I’ll probably poke around the CB legend and see what I come up with.
That´s indeed MAGNIFICENT! 🙂 I immediately checked on your books and found them on “goodread” and other sites. There are even some of your commentary on M7 on YT (will listen to later). Semi-retired is a state I´d love to be, too! Sometimes I think there´s a book inside me, I hope it´ll come out when I am also (semi-)retired, which will be in app. 10 years (am 54 now). At the time being family, movies & a boring job take up too much time, but that´ll change and then … :-))
That said, yes, I do agree that a lot of data are still “ou there”. I am pretty sure that the army kept all paperwork regarding everyone who ever served them stored, it´s just a question if it´ll be possible to find someone helpful there, who unearthes all they have re C.B. (I think his time in the Army is pretty important). After that it´s Hollywood studios and agents files, that should also still be somewhere, at least enough to get the most important infos. Paul Talbot might/should help.
What´s really going to be tough is to find info on his first app. 15 years, his family and upbringing. That´s the toughest part to re-search. If that can be done, then the book could be written. I have never done anything like that, so my few cents might not be worth anything, but if I dare say something, then I would try to get – by e-mail – in touch with the municipality, the library and the Church(es, I assume ther are several) at Ehrenfeld and ask them if they have anything on file re the Buchinsky family (I hope there was not more than one family with that name …). First municipality, second library and that might already lead a trace to which Church they were members ofattending to. Curch records are usually kept over centuries, so at least that should still be there.
That way children and grand-children of his siblings could be traced and maybe they still have old stuff and recollections, which were passed on from members of the family to still living members. A lot of that could be done by e-mail, it just depends on if one comes accross helpful people (if not, then it looks dreary). The family of CB was pretty large as well, his children are still living (I hope) and some of them might share recollections and photos of their life with CB, after all it´s soemthing to be proud of, isn´t it?!
The way I see it it would not be a book about his movies, although they would of course be a part of it, but about the man himself, his life, his views, what he believed in, what he cared for, what made him go, what didn´t, how he handled life & the hardships & the luck that came along, how he became who he was in later life, the private ups and downs, etc etc. A meaty slice of life and I bet his life was as interesting as the one Robert Mitchum led (I don´t say more interesting, but also not less interesting).
It all comes down to finding people, who come forward with infos, recollections and a certain amount of yet unknown data, if that can be accomplished then a book about CB would be doable.
Just my few cents, of course. 🙂
Thanks for your advice. He grew up in a fascinating time and it would be wonderful to be able to explore it though I suspect, as you say, it will be tough. I’ll keep you posted. he was certainly a determined young man to go from coal mining to the movies. I’m equally convinced he was a lot less taciturn in the early days than his screen persona suggests – I doubt if you would get far in Hollywood by being rude.
Yes, I absolutely agree to that. I have read comments on the IMDb (IMDb has become quite UNinteresting since comments can´t be made there anymore!) and elsewhere, that he was a complete gentleman in normal life (as long as you were not intrusive, then he went silent), read many books and was nice to talk to. On set he rather preferred to be left alone (his fear of germs? very “today” now …), he did not get along too well with Al Lettieri (hear say), but in general he was not troublesome.
That is exactly such a point, which needs clarification. I think that he was a totally different type of guy in “real life”, that his normal persona always gets mixed up with his screen persona and a book, which goes into his personal life in depth would bring a lot of light into these questions.
He also painted in his spare time and I read a year or two ago, that one of his “rare” (few?) paintings was sold (I forgot to whom). Aside from such bits and pieces nothing is known of that part of his life, which would also be worth looking into deeper.
He lifed on a huge farm with his big family, they even had 2 or 3 ponds there, and he was often out for hours “in the wilderness”. Again a piece of info that somehow hangs in the air.
I wonder if Paul Talbot got into his private life any deeper?
As much as I love discussing his movies, a lot has already been said about them, so there is not that much left to be said about his movies, what really needs to be looked into is the life & times of that singular guy. Even back then in the 60ies and 70ies with other top drawers like Eastwood and McQueen, Bronson was something of an enigma and whilst a lot of literature exists about McQueen and Eastwood, hardly anything is known about “the private Bronson”.
That said I am convinced that you are dead right when you say that he would not have become a major star, if he would have behaved like a troglodyte … (Hollywood history is full of presumptuous assholes, who were “goners” pretty fast again – if he´d fit that bill he´d never have become the major star he was).
Really enjoyed reading this, great questions and tons of insight.
Thanks. You know I’m always looking to feature and chat up Bronson. 🙂
This was a lot of fun, Mike, and informative as well. And not only were the answers great, but so were your questions…varied and engaging, with some depth to them you don’t normally see in Q & A discussions such as this. Looking forward to more of these if and when you’re able!
Fun doing this one and I do have a Lee Marvin Q&A in the works with author Dwayne Epstein.