Features

Brains or Bronson

National | MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME: Farewell to the rough-hewn movie star who tapped a public frustration with soft-on-crime liberals-and to other notables who passed away

Issue: "Pryor commitment," Sept. 13, 2003

Charles Bronson, who died at 81 from complications of pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, epitomized the hero who was all man. A Pennsylvania coal miner turned B-29 tailgunner, the former Charles Buchinsky at first had trouble landing any roles in Hollywood other than villains.

With his cragged face, his gravelly voice, and his hefty build, Mr. Bronson did not look like the glamorous, pretty-boy leading men. He left Hollywood for Europe, where the French called him le sacre monstre (the sacred monster) and the Italians Il Brutto (the ugly man). But European audiences loved him and in 1971 he was presented a Golden Globe as "the most popular actor in the world."

Mr. Bronson starred in some classic American westerns and war movies, such as The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and The Dirty Dozen (1967). But his biggest impact came in the three Death Wish movies, beginning in 1974, when he played a once-liberal architect whose wife is killed and whose daughter is raped by street thugs, whereupon he goes on a vigilante crime-fighting binge, blowing away the bad guys in spectacular style.

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To a public sick of crime and the refusal of the liberal-dominated legal system to do anything about it, movies like Mr. Bronson's and the similar make-my-day films of Clint Eastwood were exhilarating. They marked a momentary turning point in Hollywood away from 1960s liberalism back to the values of "the moral majority," and they brought masculinity-including the virtue of fighting for one's family-back into style.

Frank E. Bolden (Aug. 28), 90, one of two accredited black war correspondents during World War II, who wanted to use journalism to show whites that black soldiers wouldn't "turn and run," but would fight bravely for their country.

Jack Eisner (Aug. 31), 77, Holocaust survivor, millionaire businessman, and author of a book about his life experiences that became a Broadway play and a movie. Imprisoned and tortured at three concentration camps, he testified against Nazis and helped the U.S. government find war criminals.

John Gould (Aug. 31), 94, author for more than 60 years of a weekly Christian Science Monitor column; it was the longest-running column in the country.

Donal Lamont (Aug. 14), 92, Roman Catholic bishop expelled from white-ruled Rhodesia in 1977 for opposing its policies of racial discrimination. He pleaded guilty to a charge of allowing nuns to provide medical attention to black rebels fighting to overthrow Rhodesia's last white leader, Ian Smith.

John Lansdale Jr. (Aug. 29), 91, security and intelligence chief of the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, N.M., during World War II.

Willa Player (Aug. 27), 94, the first black woman in the nation to head a four-year college, Bennett College, in Greensboro, N.C.; she hosted in 1958 a speech by Martin Luther King when no one in the city would host him.

John J. Rhodes Jr. (Aug. 24), 86, former U.S. House Republican leader who urged President Nixon to resign during the turbulent days of Watergate.

David Truman (Aug. 28), 90, Columbia University provost and dean forced out after he helped put down a 1968 Vietnam protest in which students seized five school buildings. He left Columbia to become head of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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