Thursday, October 7, 2010

Give Charlie a hand

Several years ago, it was all the rage for movie stars -- Ben Affleck, Jennifer Tilly and Jon Favreau, for three -- to profess a love of card playing. But if these actors couldn’t ostentatiously show off their card sharping on such television programs as CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN, would they have even cared?

Late screen tough guy Charles Bronson, on the other hand, seemed to ante up for more genuine reasons: to bond with working-class, below-the-line crew members on his film productions. (He was much less concerned about fraternizing with fellow thespians.)

“Charles Bronson never spoke to any of us,” actor Jay Sayer told film journalist Tom Weaver in a recent interview. “He played cards with the stuntmen, with the extras. Because he had much more in common with them than he did with the actors.”

Sayer wasn't the only actor brushed off by Bronson.

“He ran a little nickel-and-dime poker game with the make-up girls and the hair girls,” echoes later Bronson co-star Robert Axelrod. “I walked in once and said, ‘How do I get a seat?’ He turns up to me and said, ‘You don’t.’”

Sayer appeared with Bronson in 1958’s MACHINE-GUN KELLY, and Axelrod was a supporting player in four of the star’s ‘80s vehicles. So it’s very likely that Bronson kept up these games during his heyday of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

And if the actor dealt, drew and discarded only out of an authentic love for his crew members and for card games, it would make perfect sense. After all, Charles Bronson was likely the most authentic tough guy the big screen will ever see.