Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ernest Borgnine 1917-2012

For 60 years, Ernest Borgnine graced both our small and big screens in a variety of memorable roles as both villains and heroes and was loved and appreciated by young and old. Sadly Borgnine died on Sunday aged 95.

Born Ermes Effron Borgnino in 1917 in Connecticut to Italian parents. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1935 after graduation from high school. He served during WWII reaching Gunners Mate 1st Class and earned the Navy Good Conduct Medal and numerous WWII campaign awards.

In 1951, Borgnine moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and received his big break in 1953 playing the sadistic Sergeant "Fatso" Judson alongside Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. Borgnine built a reputation as a character actor and appeared in early film roles as villains, before starring as a warm-hearted butcher in Marty, a role which gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor over nominees Sinatra, Dean, Tracy and Cagney.

Borgnine's film career flourished after this achievement and it continued successfully through the years and included roles in The Flight of the Phoenix [‘65], The Dirty Dozen [‘67], The Poseidon Adventure [‘72], Convoy [‘78], The Black Hole [‘79], Escape from New York [‘81], Gattaca [‘97] and Red [2010]. One of his most famous roles became that of Dutch, a member of The Wild Bunch in the 1969 Western classic from director Sam Peckinpah.

Borgnine was no stranger to the small screen with part in many TV shows of the ‘50s and 60’s. His Naval service served him well in providing a fertile atmosphere to portray Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale in the ‘62–‘66 series McHale's Navy, a World War II sitcom. He later appeared in episodes of The Love Boat, Highway to Heaven, Murder, She Wrote, Walker: Texas Ranger, JAG and many more. Based on one appearance on Magnum P.I., producer Donald Bellasario made him a co-star in Airwolf where he played helicopter pilot Dominic Santini from ’84-‘86.

In 2007, 90-year-old Borgnine starred in the Hallmark original film A Grandpa for Christmas. For this he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television. At 90, he was the oldest Golden Globe nominee ever. Two years later, he earned an Emmy nomination for his performances in the final two episodes of the long-running NBC medical series ER.

Borgnine lent his voice to Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers in 1998 and to his own characterture once on The Simpsons but he was more known for his role as Mermaid Man in SpongeBob SquarePants and even voiced the character in a video game. He expressed much affection for the role as it was popular with children.

In addition to his Academy Award for Marty in 1955 he was also awarded a BAFTA, Gloden Globe NBR and NYFCC for same. He was nominated for three Emmys, won his second Gloden Globe in 2007 and in 2009 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhode Island International Film Festival. He was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the 17th annual SAG Awards, 2011. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ernest Borgnine has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6324 Hollywood Blvd.

Outside of acting, Borgnine served one year as the Chairman of the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, visiting patients in many Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers. He had volunteered to be Stories of Service National spokesman, urging his fellow World War II vets to come forward and share their stories. He still corresponded with some of his old Navy pals, and as an honorary flight leader of the Blue Angels, he often took the team to dinner when they flew into NAS Point Mugu, California. He received the honorary rating of chief petty officer in October 2004 from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott for Borgnine's support of the Navy and naval families worldwide.

Borgnine married five times. To Rhoda Kemins (1949–1958), Katy Jurado (1959–1963), Ethel Merman (1964), Donna Rancourt (1965–1972) and finally to Tova Traesnaes (1973-his death) and he had four children along the way. Borgnine died of renal failure on July 8, 2012, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. His wife and children were at his side.

Borgnine had a couple of secrets to staying young, in 2007 he said: "I just want to do more work. 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." In 2008, during an interviewed on Fox News he was asked about the secret to his longevity. Laughingly, he responded "I don't dare tell you", then leaned over to whisper into the ear of Steve Doocy, the whisper being caught by the microphone, "I masturbate a lot."
RIP Ernie. Fair winds and following seas to the hereafter.

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