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Ernest Borgnine, still making movies at 94, will be a celebrity presenter at the 50th annual Western Heritage Awards in Oklahoma City

During a telephone interview from his home in California, Ernest Borgnine, 94, enthusiastically talked about his latest movies and plans to serve as one of the celebrity presenters at the 50th annual Western Heritage Awards this weekend at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
BY KAREN KLINKA Published: April 15, 2011

At age 94, Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine maintains a zest for life that age has not diminished.

During a telephone interview from his home in California, Borgnine enthusiastically talked about two recent movies in which he had solid roles and outlined plans to serve as one of the celebrity presenters at the 50th annual Western Heritage Awards this weekend at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Established in 1961, the Western Heritage Awards salute works in literature, music, television and film that best portray the history and culture of the American West. Wrangler Awards, a bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback, will be presented for works completed in 2010. Qualified professionals outside the museum staff judged all categories of entries. This year, Wranglers will be presented to creators of Western-genre works in 13 categories and to inductees into the Hall of Great Westerners and the Hall of Great Western Performers.

The awards weekend kicks off tonight with the Jingle-Jangle Mingle, a casual ticketed event, honoring award winners and Hall of Fame inductees. Festivities will include hors d'oeuvres, live entertainment and a book signing and CD/DVD autograph session. Limited tickets are available.

The black-tie awards banquet, which will be Saturday night, is sold out. However, in honor of the awards' golden anniversary, the museum is offering tickets to a live screening party. These tickets will include admission to Saturday's 5 p.m. reception, heavy hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and a streaming of the awards ceremony show, beginning at 6 p.m., in a specially equipped room at the museum.

Renewed enthusiasm

Museum Executive Director Chuck Schroeder is not surprised the awards banquet is sold out. “This is the third year we've done so,” Schroeder said. “I think it's because there's renewed enthusiasm for Western values, Western history and the chance to learn more about the authentic and the legendary people who shaped the American West.

“I also think more people are rediscovering that there's a lot of fun to be had at the cowboy museum.”

In a career that's spanned six decades, Borgnine was an unconventional lead in many movies, including his Academy Award-winning turn in the 1955 film “Marty.” On television, he played Quinton McHale in the 1962-66 series “McHale's Navy” and co-starred in the mid-1980s action series “Airwolf.” He also portrayed a variety of characters in such film classics as “From Here to Eternity,” “Bad Day at Black Rock” and “The Dirty Dozen” and the iconic Western “The Wild Bunch.” In 2008 Borgnine, then 92, earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the long-running TV series “ER.”

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50th annual Western Heritage Awards

When: Today and Saturday.

Where: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.

Information: 478-2250, ext. 219.

Ticketed events: Jingle-Jangle Mingle, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today, $40; live awards screening, 5 p.m. Saturday, $75.


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