CHARLES BRONSON by David Downing


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Not quite the usual star tribute--but rather a short Oust over 100 pp.), critical review of actor Bronson's film-history, a career that fills Downing with ""a sense of waste."" Son of a downtrodden immigrant laborer, Bronson--nÉ Bunchinski--went to Hollywood after WW II service, studied at the Pasadena Playhouse, got minor movie-roles, aspiring only to be ""a high-class character actor."" But, after innumerable westerns in the Fifties, he and his agent decided to aim for B-level stardom rather than A-level supporting roles: movie leads and a TV series followed, then The Magnificent Seven, enabling him ""to display the range and depth of his talent""; but Bronson squandered the subsequent opportunities--""making awful movie after awful movie,"" turning down the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns that made Clint Eastwood a superstar, failing to choose roles that would add up to a star-class ""persona."" At last, however, Bronson got smart enough to star in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (which Downing regards, unpersuasively, as a masterpiece) and other European films. The persona was finally achieved: ""the individual whose rigid self-control enables him to escape the control of others. . . a Clint Eastwood who looked and sounded convincing talking to children."" But, despite the successful use of the persona in Death Wish (""his acting skills had never been seen to greater effect""), Bronson's bad taste, lack of persona-awareness, and ""alarming narrowness of mind"" have led to inevitable decline. More film-essay than biography (despite a few private-life tidbits), and only half-convincing.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's