Ernest Borgnine is a true Hollywood legend. The burly Italian with a large smile was comfortable playing screen heavies, and a variety of character actors, for over 60 years. And, he got a late start, after spending a decade in the United States Navy.
He served with distinction aboard the USS Lamberton (DD-119). His numerous military decorations included the Good Conduct Medal, American American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Defense Service Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. He was officially discharged as Gunner’s Mate 1st Class.
His mother suggested he learn acting after the war. After graduating from the Barter Theatre in Virginia, he landed his first stage part in State of the Union. He was good enough to secure roles in The Glass Menagerie and Harvey, his Broadway debut.
He had a prolific movie career, appearing in From Here to Eternity, Vera Cruz, Johnny Guitar, Bad Day at Black Rock, The Dirty Dozen, The Flight of the Phoenix, Ice Station Zebra, The Wild Bunch, The Poseidon Adventure, Red, and a small film that turned out to be his signature effort. In all, he shared screen time in over 200 movies.
Marty was a teleplay that was adapted onto the big screen in 1955. Written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Delbert Mann, it became an international sensation. Borgnine only got the opportunity to star when Rod Steiger accepted the chance to appear in Oklahoma, playing Jud Fry. Ironically, Ernest lost the audition to the versatile Steiger to co-star in the Rogers and Hammerstein-musical.
A hard-working actor, Ernest Borgnine never shied away from the small screen. He was rewarded in 1962 by given the chance to star in McHale’s Navy. Though it poked fun at his early profession, he treasured the opportunity to don his uniform in a laugh-out-loud satire. His character mirrored the actor’s personality as a jovial prankster. He remained lifelong friends with his co-star Tim Conway. Airwolf was another series he starred in. Borgnine was also memorable in Little House on the Prarie, Magnum P.I., The Love Boat, Walker Texas Ranger, Murder She Wrote, and the final two episodes of ER.
Beating large-budget films, Marty won an Oscar for the motion picture, Chayefsky, Mann, and Borgnine. It was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant by the Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1994. His later career was interspersed with many well-deserved accolades. He became the oldest actor to be nominated for an Emmy, when he was 92. Last year, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. He received his statuette at the televised gala. GRACE KELLY AND ERNEST BORGNINE ——>
His personal life was turbulent. He married five time, including to actress Katy Jurado, and briefly, to Ethel Merman. When the Broadway star wrote about the six week union in her memoirs, the Chapter was maliciously a blank page! Borgnine countered that he mistakenly thought he wed Rosemary Clooney…
Turner Classic Movies is planning a 24-hour film tribute to the career of this fine actor on July 26th. Also, on Sunday, July 15th, Antenna TV will run a 21-hour marathon of McHale’s Navy. The marathon starts at 7 a.m (ET), and will air 42 episodes of the sitcom.
The durable cinematic icon, and a real gentleman, Ernest Borgnine was 95.
Until next time> “never forget”