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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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ernest Borgnine, the beefy screen star known for blustery, often villainous roles, but who won the best-actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955, died Sunday. He was 95.

At the 1996 Western Heritage Awards in Oklahoma City, Borgnine was inducted into Hall of Great Western Performers.

His longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, told The Associated Press that Borgnine died of renal failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife and children at his side.

Borgnine, who endeared himself to a generation of Baby Boomers with the 1960s TV comedy “McHale's Navy,” first attracted notice in the early 1950s in villain roles, notably as the vicious Fatso Judson, who beat Frank Sinatra to death in “From Here to Eternity.”

Then came “Marty,” a low-budget film based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play that starred Rod Steiger. Borgnine played a 34-year-old who fears he is so unattractive he will never find romance. Then, at a dance, he meets a girl with the same fear.

“Sooner or later, there comes a point in a man's life when he's gotta face some facts,” Marty movingly tells his mother at one point in the film. “And one fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it. I chased after enough girls in my life. I-I went to enough dances. I got hurt enough. I don't wanna get hurt no more.”

The realism of Chayefsky's prose and Delbert Mann's sensitive direction astonished audiences accustomed to happy Hollywood formulas. Borgnine won the Oscar and awards from the Cannes Film Festival, New York Critics and National Board of Review.

Mann and Chayefsky also won Oscars, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hailed the $360,000 “Marty” as best picture over big-budget contenders “The Rose Tattoo,” “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Picnic” and “Mister Roberts.”

“The Oscar made me a star, and I'm grateful,” Borgnine told an interviewer in 1966. “But I feel had I not won the Oscar I wouldn't have gotten into the messes I did in my personal life.”

Those messes included four failed marriages, including one in 1964 to singer Ethel Merman that lasted less than six weeks.

But Borgnine's fifth marriage, in 1973 to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes, endured and brought with it an interesting business partnership. She manufactured and sold her own beauty products under the name of Tova and used her husband's rejuvenated face in her ads.

During a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, Borgnine expressed delight that their union had reached 34 years. “That's longer than the total of my four other marriages,” he commented, laughing heartily.

Although still not a marquee star until after “Marty,” the roles of heavies started coming regularly after “From Here to Eternity.” Among the films: “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “Johnny Guitar,” “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” “Vera Cruz.”

Director Nick Ray advised the actor: “Get out of Hollywood in two years or you'll be typed forever.” Then came the Oscar, and Borgnine's career was assured.

He played a sensitive role opposite Bette Davis in another film based on a Chayefsky TV drama, “The Catered Affair,” a film that was a personal favorite. It concerned a New York taxi driver and his wife who argued over the expense of their daughter's wedding.

But producers also continued casting Borgnine in action films such as “Three Bad Men,” “The Vikings,” “Torpedo Run,” “Barabbas,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Wild Bunch.”

Then he successfully made the transition to TV comedy.

From 1962 to 1966, Borgnine — a Navy vet himself — starred in “McHale's Navy” as the commander of a World War II PT boat with a crew of misfits and malcontents. Obviously patterned after Phil Silvers' popular Sgt. Bilko, McHale was a con artist forever tricking his superior, Capt. Binghamton, played by the late Joe Flynn.

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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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