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Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)
It was a really fantastic experience meeting the legendary Hollywood actor Ernest Borgnine at Autographica in Birmingham in April 2009. Everybody who met him was bowled over by his warm, friendly personality - and it is impossible to believe that he really is 92 years old!!
I was fortunate enough to sit at his table at the Gala Dinner - what an experience to be able to chat to this star who has worked with most of the Hollywood 'greats'!
He signed my copy of his autobiography, a photograph from Marty, and my Menu!
Ermes Effron Borgnine was born in 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His mother Anna, was an Italian countess who immigrated to the USA with his father, Charles Borgnino. His parents separated when
he was two years old, and he went with his mother to live in Italy. By 1923, his parents had got back together, changed their name to Borgnine and settled in Connecticut. Ernest enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he left high school in 1935 but was discharged in 1941. He re-enlisted when the US entered WW2 and served until 1945.
Ernest Borgnine & Helen Hayes in the 1952
Broadway play Mrs McThing
Ernest Borgnine in the Navy
After finding that factory jobs didn't suit him, Ernest enrolled at the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, Connecticut, with his mother's full support. He later joined the Barter Theater in Abington, Vancouver, where he polished his acting skills. A big break came in 1949 when Ernest landed a supporting role in a Broadway production of Harvey.
Spencer Tracey, Ernest Borgnine & Robert
Ryan in Bad Day at Black Rock
For four years, Ernest Borgnine was committed to the TV comedy series McHale's Navy which ran to 136 episodes between 1962 and 1966. In the series he played Lt. Cm
Ernest moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and there came supporting roles in films. With the build and looks of a heavyweight boxer
Ernest Borgnine as Sgt 'Fatso' Judson in
From Here to Eternity
It was at this time that director Delbert Mann decided that Borgnine was the perfect actor for the title role in Marty (1955), a modest, black & white film made in an era of wide-screen, colour epics. It tells the story of Marty, a lonely butcher, who love
falls in love with a shy schoolteacher (played by Betsy Blair). Its box-office success was amazing - the film only cost $340,000 to
boxer, he first made an impression on cinema audiences as 'Fatso' Judson who killed Frank Sinatra's character 'Maggio' in From Here to Eternity (1953). This led to similar roles in Johnny Guitar (1954) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) where he threatens Spencer Tracey's character and gets beaten up in return!
make yet brought in over $5 million in
proceeds. Much to his surprise, it won Borgnine
an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Ernest Borgnine signed this photo from Marty for me
Ernest Borgnine & Betsy Blair in Marty
He also won a Golden Globe for his performance as Marty Piletti and not only did this enhance his reputation considerably, but it also led to a wide variety of roles over the next decade including a cabdriver in The Catered Affair (1956) with Bette Davis, and a Norse chieftain Ragnar in The
Vikings (1958) with Kirk Douglas,
Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
Ernest Borgnine in The Vikings
Cmdr. Quinton McHale in charge of the misfit crew of a US Navy PT ('Patrol Torpedo') boat during WWII.
Ernest Borgnine in1956 with his
Oscar for Marty
Ernest Borgnine in McHale's Navy
Following the run of McHale's Navy, Borgnine returned to a busy schedule of films that included the memorable, original version of The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and The Dirty Dozen (1967) both directed by Robert Aldrich. Ice Station Zebra (1968) saw Borgnine cast as the scientist Boris Vaslov, a Russian defector. In complete contrast, he played Dutch Engstrom, second in command to
During the 1970s Borgnine was busier than ever! He playe
Ernest Borgnine & Robert Webber in
The Dirty Dozen
Ernest Borgnine & Hardy Kruger in
The Flight of the Phoenix
Ernest Borgnine & Richard Attenborough
in The Flight of the Phoenix
Ernest Borgnine in Ice Station Zebra
William Holden, Ernest Borgnine & Warren
Oates in The Wild Bunch
Ernest Borgnine as Dutch Engstrom
in The Wild Bunch
William Holden's character Pike Bishop, in Sam Pekinpah's brutally blo
bloodthirsty Western The Wild Bunch (1969).
Bruce Davison & Ernest Borgnine in Willard
Eric Shea, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman & Red
Buttons in The Poseidon Adventure
played abusive boss Al Martin, eaten by trained rats, in Willard (1971); a bent New York cop Rogo, one of a handful to survive in the submarine disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1973); a sadistic railroad conductor Shack, out to ensure that no hobo rode on his train, in Emperor of the North (1973) and Sheriff Lyle Wallace, the target of a truckers' vendetta, in another Sam Pekinpah-directed film Convoy (1978). Ernest Borgnine finished the decade with a TV
Stella Stevens & Ernest Borgnine in
The Poseidon Adventure
remake of the classic WW1 story All Quiet on the Western Front (1979). Borgnine played veteran Private Katczinsky in the film, which won a Golden Globe for 'Best Motion Picture Made for TV' in 1980.
Ernest Borgnine & Lee Marvin in
Emperor of the North
Emperor of the North
Ernest Borgnine as Shack in
Borgnine as Sheriff Wallace in Convoy
The 80s brought Ernest Borgnine more TV work like the popular, action series Airwolf (1984-86) but his film work did include some
interesting, smaller roles like the Cabbie in Escape From New Yor
York (1981); the evil Amish family patriarch Isaiah Schmidt in the little known horror thriller Deadly Blessing (1981) and Colonel Smith, a role reminiscent of his 'McHale's Navy' days, in Skeleton Coast (1987).
Ernest Borgnine is unrecognisable in
The Devil's Rain
Following the success of The Dirty Dozen in 1967, Borgnine appeared again as General Worden in three more - The Next Mission (1985); The Deadly Mission (1986) and The Fatal Mission (1987). These were made for TV but, unlike the original film, had a mixed reception from the viewing public.
Ernest Borgnine in Deadly Blessing
Ernest Borgnine & Kurt Russell in
Escape From New York
Escape From New York
Adrienne Barbeau & Ernest Borgnine in
Robert Ryan & Ernest Borgnine in
The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission
Telly Savalas & Ernest Borgnine in
Borgnine as General Worden in....
...The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission
....The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission
In the 1990s, Ernest Borgnine's career slowed down, allowing him time to drive around America in his 'motor home', the subject of a short documentary Ernest Borgnine on the Bus (1997). In his 90th year, Borgnine starred in the family comedy A Grandpa for
Christmas (2007). He plays Be
Ernest Borgnine & Juliette Goglia in
A Grandpa for Christmas
In recent years, Borgnine has done voice-over work including 'Carface' in the cartoon series All Dogs Go to Heaven (1996-97) and 'Mermaid Man' in SpongeBob Square Pants which has spanned the decade from 1999 to 2009.
Bert, an old-style entertainer who discovers that he has a granddaughter. Sentimental it may be, but it brought Ernest a Golden Globe nomination for 'Best Actor in a TV Series' in 2008.
Ernest Borgnine has been married five times. He had a daughter Gina, by his first marriage to Rhoda Kemins who he met whilst he was in the Navy. He was married to actresss Katy Jurado for four years, and to the singer Ethel Merman for just a month! He had three more children with fourth wife Donna Rancourt.
Since 1973 he has been married to a Norwegian, Tova Traesnaes, founder of a cosmetics company.
In 2008, Borgnine published his brilliant autobiography Ernie, in which he
Ernest Borgnine in 2008
With Ernest at Autographica's Gala Dinner
he writes about his early life and his years in the navy. He has lots of tales to tell about the films that he made and the many iconic actors and directors with whom he has worked.
Ernest Borgnine posed for this photograph
after he had signed my book
In January 2011, he was presented with a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' by the Screen Actors Guild, at their annual awards ceremony.
Ernest Borgnine died on 8th July 2012.