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Top Five Charles Bronson Performances


Det Jim McLeod
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He was a granite faced tough guy who could give great performances when given the chance. He rarely gave interviews and there has some things written about him being cold and distant at times. Billy Crystal said he was angry and foul mouthed when he was offered the Jack Palance role in "City Slickers" and flatly turned it down. I saw a Dick Cavett interview on youtube he did in 1972 and he seems calm and personable. Although he does mention getting angry with the director of "Someone Behind The Door" in which Bronson grabbed and throttled the man. Richard Attenborough was also on that Cavett show and the two "Great Escape" co stars greet each warmly, which was nice to see. 

Anyway here are my 5 favorites, in chronological order, what are yours?

 

1. The Magnificent Seven (1960)He stands out in a great cast as an Irish/Mexican gunman protecting a village from bandits. He also becomes a hero to the children there, he was very touching in his scenes with them.

2. The Great Escape (1963) He plays a Polish POW in a Nazi camp, he is called The Tunnel King since he is adept at digging tunnels for the escape, unfortunately he also suffers from claustrophobia. One of the few times he used an accent and he is pretty good at that as well. 

3. The Dirty Dozen (1967) Once again he is part of a macho group of tough guys and once again he does stand out. This film about US soldiers convicted of crimes on suicide mission against the Nazi is much different than the two films above. Those had a mostly likable group of heroic types. Here we get killers, rapists and thieves. The reason Bronson stands out is because he is one of the few sympathetic members, as he killed in self defense, much different from scheming wiseguy John Cassavettes and sadistic woman hater Telly Savalas. 

4. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) He is a mysterious stranger who comes into town looking for cold hearted hired killer Henry Fonda. Bronson has a great ghostly presence in this one, his first and last appearance in the film are haunting.

5. Death Wish (1974) He plays a liberal New York architect who becomes a gun toting vigilante when his family becomes a victim of violence.  This is a tough gritty revenge film which later has some moments of dark humor. Bronson is excellent as he first is disgusted by his use of violence but later comes to like it. Most of his films after this one were junk, including all the sequels to this one, but I feel these five assure him a place as a Hollywood legend. 

 

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

Thanks, it's been awhile since I saw that one, but it has very memorable ending.

Bronson steps out of his comfort zone to take on this sort of role. The beginning of the movie, where there's no dialogue for the first twenty minutes, is also very memorable.

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I remember liking Bronson as a Soviet KGB agent and the chemistry he had with his costar Lee Remick in director Don Siegel's Telefon (1977). 

(...and which was sort of a variation on the Cold War themed The Manchurian Candidate)

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Hard Times, dir. by Walter Hill, featuring Bronson and co-starring James Coburn and Strother Martin, yah I would have to say this is my fave Bronson film. He ruthlessly kicks butt in 1930s New Orleans and its a great statement about manhood because his character is perceived as 'too old for the fight game'.

But in he strolls, without any ego at all, and not very many words either--just very workmanlike and with his fists alone, simply lays waste to every-friggin-BODY.

Bronson was always criticized for being stone-faced but he acts with his eyes. All the time. His face is always doing some small slight ...something. More sensitive than people admit. He knows how to pay attention to the cast around him; unlike Arnie or Vin Diesel or Duane Johnson or Bruce Willis or any of the other moderns.

In my household, we grew up with names like Eastwood, Bronson, Coburn, Garner, McQueen, Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Yul Brynner, Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Scheider, Hackman, Carradine ...

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5 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

2. The Great Escape (1963) He plays a Polish POW in a Nazi camp, he is called The Tunnel King since he is adept at digging tunnels for the escape, unfortunately he also suffers from claustrophobia. One of the few times he used an accent and he is pretty good at that as well. 

 

maxresdefault.jpg

Personally I would rank Bronson's turn as Flight Lieutenant Danny Velinski, DSC DFC RAF/"the Tunnel King" in The Great Escape as the best bit of screen acting that I have seen from him.

I particularly liked the bit when he is in the tunnel the night of the escape and the lights come back on after the air raid and John Leyton tries to calm him down by saying that they look like the lights on the promenade of Blackpool.  He then asks him, "Have you ever been to Blackpool Danny?"  Bronson replies "Yes, ... no ... I don't know" which perfectly captures someone so frozen with dread that they cannot even think straight.

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Always dig talkin' 'bout Bronson movies. Here at least was one guy who stayed consistent throughout almost his entire career. Its admirable. I hate backsliding, such as Eastwood going sappy in 'Madison County'. Eeerg!

Eh well. Sure, I could add-on to the above and name more of Bronson's most famous, most well-known titles but instead I'd like to cite some where Bronson stays Bronson, but maybe steps out of his comfort zone or plays against type. Or, where he actually laughs.

  • From Noon 'til Three. Co-stars (as usual) with his wife. It's a western and Bronson (as usual) plays a sharpie scrounging around after some loot he has heard about. But the film is also quite a romance too --Bronson must hold Jill Ireland hostage for the length of an afternoon, for some reason. And yes, he laughs (open mouthed laughter baring all his teeth) in this flick. Maybe he was actually having a good time on the set.
  • Cold Sweat. European thriller set either in Italy or South-of-France. Bronson plays an 'average joe' swept up in the doings of a crime gang run by cunning villain James Mason. It's quite a decent romp with lots of outdoor photography.
  • Breakout. Co-starring Ireland, Randy Quaid, one of legendary Vint brothers (Alan Vint I believe) and Robert Duvall. This is actually one of the most fun action films I've ever seen. Little-known-fact: even before 'Jaws' this film spear-headed the concept of 'summer blockbuster'.
  • Rider on the Rain. Same plot as 'From Noon 'Til Three but without the humor, the romance, or the western setting. Taut, moody, European suspense/thriller, instead.
  • Honor Among Thieves. Bronson and Alain Delon! This is a really fun Italian heist thriller. Totally slick and clever and posh. The two men play ex GI's who pair up hunting (as usual) for loot. Suspecting each other the whole time they're together.
  • You Can't Win 'Em All. A buddy movie with Tony Curtis. Action-adventure set during the Turkish Revolution of the 1920s. Bronson and Curtis actually have a pretty nice chemistry.
  • Murphy's Law Of all his late-career cop flops, this is the sole entry which I think turns out well. Storyline is nothing unique; Bronson is a rogue tough-guy detective who must track down the slayer of his stripper ex-wife in order to clear his name. Only, he has a totally irritating, annoying punk goth girl handcuffed to his wrist at the same time! A star witness who hates his guts and lets him know it. Its surprisingly a hoot! Co-stars Carrie Snodgress as the villain.

Bronson also did a TV version of Jack London's 'The Sea Wolf'. Finally, what's that flick where Bronson plays a struggling novelist who shacks up with a precocious teenage waif? Somewhat controversial but I thought it was fine.

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I'm going to go out on a limb with this question, although I guess I'm focusing more on the movie than on Bronson's performance.  While I like a lot of the Bronson-related movies mentioned above (e.g., The Great EscapeThe Dirty Dozen), the movie of his that I actually like the most is Pat and Mike:

Image result for charles bronson pat and mike

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I thought Red Sun (1971) was an interesting take on the traditional western in that it took world events into consideration.

redsun0.jpg

Its a culture clash of ancient Japan with the 19th century wild west. And it really doesn't work without Bronson. Its in the era when there is no clear good guy/ bad guy. He can play them both and does here.

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In 'Magnificent Seven' I have to admit that Fernando's death scene (as he shoves the kids safely out of the way) is one of the least convincing I have ever seen. It looks like a playful invisible finger, a genie, or gust of wind suddenly topples him over; or maybe the effect of a violent sneeze. Because there's sure no blood or impact from the presumed bandit bullets!

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1 hour ago, GGGGerald said:

I thought Red Sun (1971) was an interesting take on the traditional western in that it took world events into consideration.

redsun0.jpg

Its a culture clash of ancient Japan with the 19th century wild west. And it really doesn't work without Bronson. Its in the era when there is no clear good guy/ bad guy. He can play them both and does here.

I've never seen this film. Thanks for mentioning it.

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12 hours ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

1. The Magnificent Seven (1960)He stands out in a great cast as an Irish/Mexican gunman protecting a village from bandits. He also becomes a hero to the children there, he was very touching in his scenes with them.

My image of Bronson in the 70's was always from the action movies and loopy Michael Winner "Death Wish" movies, so he always came off as too granite and antisocial to like, but putting him in as Kurosawa's "good" wood-chopping samurai gunfighter raised my respect for him.

Second time I was ever impressed with Bronson was as a retired, death's-door Wild Bill Hickok at the end of the West, joining with mountain man Jack Warden and a future Crazy Horse to fight The White Buffalo (1977) - A very overlooked movie (Dino DeLaurentiis was still in laughingstock mode after "King Kong" and "Orca") that's just now resurfacing on the Streaming Orphans.

warden-and-bronson.jpg?w=563&h=317

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Yeah, I can go along with the OP list, but probably would replace DEATH WISH with HARD TIMES 

Always liked Bronson, and especially since I discovered we come from similar backgrounds( families of Eastern Europeans and Pennsylvanian coal miners). And unfortunately, that's where ANY similarity ends!  :D  :( 

Sepiatone

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My favorites would be From Noon till Three, Telefon, and Breakheart PassAssassination with Jill Ireland is a sentimental favorite as well.  Came across Man With A Camera TV series on a local station a couple of years ago.  Typical of the period, but entertaining.

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On 3/29/2019 at 8:48 AM, Det Jim McLeod said:

 

He was a granite faced tough guy who could give great performances when given the chance. He rarely gave interviews and there has some things written about him being cold and distant at times. Billy Crystal said he was angry and foul mouthed when he was offered the Jack Palance role in "City Slickers" and flatly turned it down. I saw a Dick Cavett interview on youtube he did in 1972 and he seems calm and personable. Although he does mention getting angry with the director of "Someone Behind The Door" in which Bronson grabbed and throttled the man. Richard Attenborough was also on that Cavett show and the two "Great Escape" co stars greet each warmly, which was nice to see. 

Anyway here are my 5 favorites, in chronological order, what are yours?

 

1. The Magnificent Seven (1960)He stands out in a great cast as an Irish/Mexican gunman protecting a village from bandits. He also becomes a hero to the children there, he was very touching in his scenes with them.

2. The Great Escape (1963) He plays a Polish POW in a Nazi camp, he is called The Tunnel King since he is adept at digging tunnels for the escape, unfortunately he also suffers from claustrophobia. One of the few times he used an accent and he is pretty good at that as well. 

3. The Dirty Dozen (1967) Once again he is part of a macho group of tough guys and once again he does stand out. This film about US soldiers convicted of crimes on suicide mission against the Nazi is much different than the two films above. Those had a mostly likable group of heroic types. Here we get killers, rapists and thieves. The reason Bronson stands out is because he is one of the few sympathetic members, as he killed in self defense, much different from scheming wiseguy John Cassavettes and sadistic woman hater Telly Savalas. 

4. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) He is a mysterious stranger who comes into town looking for cold hearted hired killer Henry Fonda. Bronson has a great ghostly presence in this one, his first and last appearance in the film are haunting.

5. Death Wish (1974) He plays a liberal New York architect who becomes a gun toting vigilante when his family becomes a victim of violence.  This is a tough gritty revenge film which later has some moments of dark humor. Bronson is excellent as he first is disgusted by his use of violence but later comes to like it. Most of his films after this one were junk, including all the sequels to this one, but I feel these five assure him a place as a Hollywood legend. 

 

 

 

no Hard Times?

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“Finally, what's that flick where Bronson plays a struggling novelist who shacks up with a precocious teenage waif? Somewhat controversial but I thought it was fine.”

it was Lola (Twinky in the UK, also known as London Affair). Seemed like a really odd choice for him, but I guess he filmed it right before he became such a huge star. Imagine if someone like George Clooney tried to make that movie today. 

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Great reminder there, regarding 'Death Hunt'. What a superb action flick. Colossal.

Yeah you can't make a movie today about a grown man shacking up with a teenager. Reality is too real for today's ****-waist chickensh*** gutless, West Coast cowards.

My least favorite Bronson movie has gotta be 'Breakheart Pass'. What a yawner. No diss on anyone if it happens to be your choice but my god. I can't abide it. Maybe I'm just too familiar with bad Alistair McLean novels but this is a groaner. McLean just doesn't work on film unless you really, really, really put a lot of work into the adaptation.

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Rider On The Rain. A huge hit in Europe. Some other favorites: The Valachi Papers, The Mechanic (the remakes with Jason Statham were junk) Once Upon A Time In The West and I liked seeing him reunite with James Coburn in Hard Times.

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