Charles Bronson experienced a difficult upbringing in a coal mining town outside Pittsburgh. When he reached Hollywood stardom, he couldn’t shake the pain of his past.
“During my years as a miner, I was just a kid, but I was conceived that I was the lowliest of all forms of man.”
He also remembered the headaches he got from work as an impressionable teenager. Even worse, he developed a terrible inferiority complex.
He said everybody working in a coal mining town had an inferiority complex. To them, the railroad workers and steelworkers were the elite.
Actor Charles Bronson and wife Kim Weeks arrive at The Carousel of Hope Ball benefiting The Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes October 28, 2000 at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills. | Source: Getty Images
Bronson also recalled how his hands were rough and unsightly from work. One day, he remembered dancing with a girl, and his hand snagged on her dress and wouldn’t come loose:
“Very few people know what it is like to live down there underneath the surface of the world, in that total blackness.”
He added that living on his knees and breathing in that dust, unable to shake it off, was terrible. Bronson spoke of being born with a number two shovel in his mouth instead of a spoon.
American actor Charles Bronson and Italian actress Claudia Cardinale during the filming of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western ”Once Upon a Time in the West” Italy, April 1968. | Source: Getty Images
“During my years as a miner, I was just a kid, but I was convinced that I was the lowliest of all forms of man,” he said. He recalled that being drafted into the army was the best thing to happen to him. He was well-fed and well-dressed.
He even got the chance to improve his English skills. Being drafted into the army allowed him to become of the most iconic actors in cinema.
BRONSON’S CHANCE AT STARDOM
After Bronson returned to the U.S. after serving in WWII, he studied art, then later enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.
Actor Charles Bronson poses backstage after presenting “Best Supporting Actress” award during the 46th Academy Awards at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images
One of his teachers was so impressed with his skills that she recommended him to director Henry Hathaway. Bronson soon debuted in his first film, “You’re in the Navy Now,” in 1951.
Early in his career, he appeared in films often but mainly was uncredited. In 1954 critics loved him in the movie “Vera Cruz,” which later scored him a lead in the film “Machine-Gun Kelly” in 1958.
He thought that his Russian-sounding name wouldn’t be well-received by the public during the anti-Communist era.
American actors Charles Bronson and David Carradine relaxing at the Cannes Film Festival, 1977. | Source: Getty Images
Acting wasn’t his only job. He worked as a bricklayer, a short-order cook, and an onion-picker in New York State. He later moved to Atlantic City, where he rented benches on the boardwalk.
He also had a short stint as a painter but later found that he liked acting more than painting. But it was in 1974, that he worked on his breakthrough film, “Death Wish.”
This film was so popular that four sequels were created over the decades. Fans loved Bronson’s role in “James Coburn in Hard Times.”
Actor Charles Bronson listens to his wife, actress Jill Ireland play the guitar in London, 9th January 1969. | Source: Getty Images
He changed his name to Bronson in the 1950s because he thought that his Russian-sounding name wouldn’t be well-received by the public during the anti-Communist era.
But despite his rising stardom, the dark cloud of his childhood loomed over him. His co-star, Andrew Stevens, said that Bronson avoided people who seemed intrusive and threatening.
But when he felt safe and unsolicited, Bronson let his guard down and was opening, charming and humorous.
Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in 1979 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
BRONSON’S PERSONAL LIFE AND DEATH