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Wilfrid Brambell (1912-1985) (born March 22, 1912 in Dublin, Ireland; died January 18, 1985 in London, England, UK) was an Irish film and television actor, best known for his roles in the British television series Steptoe and Son and The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night.

His television career began during the 1950s, when he was cast in small roles in three Nigel Kneale / Rudolph Cartier productions for BBC Television: as a drunk in The Quatermass Experiment (1953), as both an old man in a pub and later a prisoner in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) and as a tramp in Quatermass II (1955). All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only at the time in his forties.

It was this ability to play old men that led to his casting in his most famous role, as Albert Steptoe, the irascible father Steptoe and Son. Initially the role was merely a one-off for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse anthology strand: however, its success led to a full series being commissioned, which lasted throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. There were also two feature film spin-offs, a stage show and an American re-make entitled Sanford and Son, based on the original British scripts. In the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx.

The success of Steptoe and Son made Brambell a high profile figure on British television, and earned him the major role of Paul McCartney's grandfather in The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. A running joke is made throughout the film of his character being "a very clean old man." This is in reference to his on-screen son, Harold, in Steptoe and Son constantly referring to his father as "you dirty old man!"

Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. Corbett, who played Harold Steptoe in Steptoe and Son, detested each other, and were barely on speaking terms outside of takes by the end of the programme's run. In a series almost entirely based around the pair of them with no other regular characters, this made production of the series difficult and stressful.

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. Earlier in his life he had been married, from 1948 to 1955, to Molly Josephine, but the marriage ended after she gave birth to the child of their lodger, Roderick Fisher, in 1953.

After the final series of Steptoe and Son was made in 1974, Brambell had some guest roles in films and on television, but both he and Corbett found themselves heavily type cast as their famous characters. In an attempt to take advantage of this situation, they undertook a tour of Australia in the late 1970s with a Steptoe and Son stage show: however, with the pair openly despising each other, the tour was a disaster and a working relationship proved impossible. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. Brambell did, however appear on the BBC's television news to pay tribute to Corbett after the latter's death from a heart attack in 1982.

Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. He was seventy-three. News of his death received far less attention than that of his co-star, and his funeral was sparsely attended.


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He was seventy-three. News of his death received far less attention than that of his co-star, and his funeral was sparsely attended. A stepson, Jason McCallum Bronson, preceded him in death after succumbing to a drug overdose in 1989. Brambell himself died less than three years later, of cancer. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife Kim, four children, two stepchildren and two grandchildren. Brambell did, however appear on the BBC's television news to pay tribute to Corbett after the latter's death from a heart attack in 1982. Bronson died of pneumonia while suffering from Alzheimer's disease at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, California. On one occasion, Brambell used bad language and was openly derogatory about the Australian people in an interview. At the time, Bronson (who shared the screen with McCallum in The Great Escape) bluntly told McCallum: "I'm going to marry your wife." Two years later, he made good on his boast and married Jill.

In an attempt to take advantage of this situation, they undertook a tour of Australia in the late 1970s with a Steptoe and Son stage show: however, with the pair openly despising each other, the tour was a disaster and a working relationship proved impossible. He met her when she was still married to actor David McCallum. After the final series of Steptoe and Son was made in 1974, Brambell had some guest roles in films and on television, but both he and Corbett found themselves heavily type cast as their famous characters. She was his second wife. Earlier in his life he had been married, from 1948 to 1955, to Molly Josephine, but the marriage ended after she gave birth to the child of their lodger, Roderick Fisher, in 1953. Bronson was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death in 1990. Indeed, when he first became famous for Steptoe and Son, it was still illegal in the UK. After the famous 1983 case of Bernhard Goetz, the actor recommended that people not imitate his character.

Brambell was also a homosexual, at a time when it was very difficult, almost impossible, for public figures to be so. He became a crime-fighting vigilante by night, a highly controversial role, as his executions were cheered by crime-weary audiences. In a series almost entirely based around the pair of them with no other regular characters, this made production of the series difficult and stressful. He is also remembered for Death Wish (1974) which spawned several sequels, In Death Wish he played a Paul Kersey, a prosperous liberal New York architect until his wife was murdered and daughter raped. Corbett, who played Harold Steptoe in Steptoe and Son, detested each other, and were barely on speaking terms outside of takes by the end of the programme's run. In the westerns The Magnificent Seven (1960) and the epic Once Upon a Time in the West, (1968) he played heroic gunfighters, taking up the cause of the defenseless. Brambell had a difficult private life: he and Harry H. Bronson's most famous films include The Great Escape, (1963) in which he played Danny Welinski, nicknamed "The Tunnel King", a Polish prisoner of war, The Dirty Dozen, (1967) in which he played an Army death row convict conscripted into a World War II suicide mission.

A running joke is made throughout the film of his character being "a very clean old man." This is in reference to his on-screen son, Harold, in Steptoe and Son constantly referring to his father as "you dirty old man!". He became quite famous on that continent, and was known by two interesting nicknames: The Italians called him "Il Brutto" ("The Ugly") and to the French he was known as "le sacre monstre," the "sacred monster." Even though he was not yet a headliner in America, his overseas fame earned him a 1971 Golden Globe as the "Most Popular Actor in the World." That same year, he wondered if he was "too masculine" to ever become a star in the US. The success of Steptoe and Son made Brambell a high profile figure on British television, and earned him the major role of Paul McCartney's grandfather in The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. Although he began his career in America, Bronson first made a serious name for himself acting in European films. In the latter, Brambell's part was taken by Red Foxx. In 1961 Bronson made an appearance with Elizabeth Montgomery in The Twilight Zone, in the episode "Two". There were also two feature film spin-offs, a stage show and an American re-make entitled Sanford and Son, based on the original British scripts. One of his earliest screen appearances under his new name was as Vincent Price's henchman in 1953 horror classic House Of Wax.

Initially the role was merely a one-off for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse anthology strand: however, its success led to a full series being commissioned, which lasted throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Lithuanian was a name for people living in that regin of Poland). It was this ability to play old men that led to his casting in his most famous role, as Albert Steptoe, the irascible father Steptoe and Son. (Bronson is in fact half Polish). All of these roles earned him a reputation for playing old men, though he was only at the time in his forties. During the McCarthy hearings he changed his last name to Bronson as Russian-sounding names were suspect even though Buchinski is really spelled Buchinski and is more Polish then Russian. His television career began during the 1950s, when he was cast in small roles in three Nigel Kneale / Rudolph Cartier productions for BBC Television: as a drunk in The Quatermass Experiment (1953), as both an old man in a pub and later a prisoner in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954) and as a tramp in Quatermass II (1955). After the war, he decided to pursue the profession of acting, not from any love of the subject, but rather because he was impressed with the amount of money that he could potentially make in the business.

Wilfrid Brambell (1912-1985) (born March 22, 1912 in Dublin, Ireland; died January 18, 1985 in London, England, UK) was an Irish film and television actor, best known for his roles in the British television series Steptoe and Son and The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night. In 1943, Bronson was drafted into the Air Force and served as a tail gunner onboard B29 bombers. His family was so poor that at one time he was forced to wear his sister's dress to school because he had no other clothes. He was born as Charles Dennis Buchinski in the notorious Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania neighborhood of Scooptown, the 11th of 15 children of Lithuanian and Polish immigrants. He was blunt, physically powerful, and had a look of danger that fit such roles.

In most of his roles he starred as a brutal police detective, a western gunfighter, or a mafia hitman. Charles Bronson (November 3, 1921 - August 30, 2003) was an American actor of "tough guy" roles.

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