Oscar-winning film star Ernest Borgnine dies at 95

By CHRISTOPHER WEBER and BOB THOMAS Modified: July 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm •  Published: July 8, 2012
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The cast took the show to the big screen in 1964 with a “McHale's Navy” movie.

Borgnine's later films included “Ice Station Zebra,” “The Adventurers,” “Willard,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Greatest” (as Muhammad Ali's manager), “Convoy,” “Ravagers,” “Escape from New York,” “Moving Target” and “Mistress.”

More recently, Borgnine had a recurring role as the apartment house doorman-cum-chef in the NBC sitcom “The Single Guy.” He had a small role in the unsuccessful 1997 movie version of “McHale's Navy.” And he was the voice of Mermaid Man on “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Carface on “All Dogs Go to Heaven 2.”

“I don't care whether a role is 10 minutes long or two hours,” he remarked in 1973. “And I don't care whether my name is up there on top, either. Matter of fact, I'd rather have someone else get top billing; then if the picture bombs, he gets the blame, not me.”

Ermes Efron Borgnino was born in Hamden, Conn., on Jan. 24, 1917, the son of Italian immigrant parents. The family lived in Milan when the boy was 2 to 7, then returned to Connecticut, where he attended school in New Haven.

Borgnine joined the Navy in 1935 and served on a destroyer during World War II. He weighed 135 pounds when he enlisted. He left the Navy 10 years later, weighing exactly 100 pounds more.

“I wouldn't trade those 10 years for anything,” he said in 1956. “The Navy taught me a lot of things. It molded me as a man, and I made a lot of wonderful friends.”

For a time he contemplated taking a job with an air conditioning company. But his mother persuaded him to enroll at the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford. He stayed four months, the only formal training he received.

He appeared in repertory at the Barter Theater in Virginia, toured as a hospital attendant in “Harvey” and played a villain on TV's “Captain Video.”

After earning $2,300 in 1951, Borgnine almost accepted a position with an electrical company. But the job fell through, and he returned to acting, moving into a modest house in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.

His first marriage was to Rhoda Kenins, whom he met when she was a Navy pharmacist's mate and he was a patient. They had a daughter, but the marriage ended in divorce after his “Marty” stardom.

Borgnine married Mexican actress Katy Jurado in 1959, and their marriage resulted in headlined squabbles from Hollywood to Rome before it ended in 1964.

In 1963, he and Merman startled the show business world by announcing, after a month's acquaintance, that they would marry when his divorce from Jurado became final. The Broadway singing star and the movie tough guy seemed to have nothing in common, and their marriage ended in 38 days after a fierce battle.

“If you blinked, you missed it,” Merman once cracked.

Next came one-time child actress Donna Rancourt, with whom Borgnine had a daughter, and finally his happy union with Tova.

On Jan. 24, 2007, Borgnine celebrated his 90th birthday with a party for friends and family at a West Hollywood bistro. He seemed little changed from his years as a lusty villain or sympathetic hero on the screen. His only concession to age had come at 88 when he gave up driving the bus he would take around the country, stopping to talk with local folks along the way.

During an interview at the time, Borgnine complained that he wanted to continue acting but most studio executives kept asking, “Is he still alive?”

“I just want to do more work,” he said. “Every time I step in front of a camera I feel young again. I really do. It keeps your mind active and it keeps you going.”

AP-WF-07-08-12 2124GMT



A list of Ernest Borgnine's best-known films

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Among the best-known Ernest Borgnine films:

China Corsair, 1951

The Whistle at Eaton Falls, 1951

The Mob, 1951

The Stranger Wore a Gun, 1953

From Here to Eternity, 1953

Johnny Guitar, 1954

Demetrius and the Gladiators, 1954

The Bounty Hunter, 1954

Vera Cruz, 1954

Bad Day at Black Rock, 1955

Marty, 1955

Run for Cover, 1955

Violet Saturday, 1955

The Last Command, 1955

The Square Jungle, 1956

Jubal, 1956

The Catered Affair, 1956

The Best Things in Life Are Free, 1956

Three Brave Men, 1957

The Vikings, 1958

The Badlanders, 1958

Torpedo Run, 1958

The Rabbit Trap, 1959

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, 1959

Man on a String, 1960

Pay or Die, 1960

Go Naked in the World, 1961

Barabbas, 1961

McHale's Navy, 1964

The Flight of the Phoenix, 1965

The Oscar, 1966

The Dirty Dozen, 1967

Chuka, 1967

The Legend of Lylah Clare, 1968

The Split, 1968

Ice Station Zebra, 1968

The Wild Bunch, 1969

A Bullet for Sandoval, 1970

The Adventurers, 1970

Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came, 1970

Willard, 1971

Bunny O'Hare, 1971

Rain for a Dusty Summer, 1971

Hannie Caulder, 1971

The Poseidon Adventure, 1972

The Neptune Factor, 1973

Emperor of the North Pole, 1973

Law and Disorder, 1974

Sunday in the Country, 1975

The Devil's Rain, 1975

Hustle, 1975

Won Ton Ton — The Dog That Saved Hollywood (cameo), 1976

The Greatest, 1977

The Prince and the Pauper, 1977

Convoy, 1978

Ravagers, 1979

The Double McGuffin, 1979

The Black Hole, 1979

When Time Ran Out, 1980,

Escape From New York, 1981

High Risk, 1981

Deadly Blessing, 1981

Young Warriors, 1983

Spike of Bensonhurst, 1988

Turnaround, Laser Mission, 1989

Any Man's Death, 1990

Moving Target, 1990

Mistress, 1992

All Dogs Go to Heaven 2, 1996 (voice)

McHale's Navy, 1997

Gattaca, 1997

BASEketball, 1998

Abilene, 1999

Castlerock, 2000

The Long Ride Home, 2003

(Source: Internet Movie Database) AP-WF-07-08-12 2139GMT

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