The son of a Lithuanian coal miner, American actor Charles Bronson claimed to have spoken no English at home during his childhood in Pennsylvania. Though he managed to complete high school, it was expected that Bronson would go into the mines like his father and many brothers. Experiencing the world outside Pennsylvania during World War II service, however, Bronson came back to America determined to pursue an art career. While working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, Bronson played a few small roles and almost immediately switched his allegiance from the production end of theater to acting.
After a few scattered acting jobs in New York, Bronson enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949. By 1951, he was in films, playing uncredited bits in such pictures as The People Against O'Hara (1951); You're in the Navy Now (1952), which also featured a young bit actor named Lee Marvin; Diplomatic Courier (1952); Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952), as a waiter(!); and The Clown (1953). When he finally achieved billing, it was under his own name, Charles Buchinsky (sometimes spelled Buchinski). His first role of importance was as Igor, the mute granite-faced henchman of deranged sculptor Vincent Price in House of Wax (1953).