Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine, like George C. Scott, seemed to have a desire to be the world's greatest character actor who was never recognized on the street. Follow us in this loving tribute to a legend...

From the wackiness of McHale's Navy

To the quiet desperation  of Marty...

Borgnine really could do it all

Just The Facts

  1. McHale's Navy was not a fluke. Ernest Borgnine really was in the Navy during the 1930s.
  2. As lovable as Borgnine became, some don't even remember a famous scene in From Here to Eternity where he beat Frank Sinatra to death.
  3. Ernest Borgnine was married to Ethel Merman for less than a month. He summarized the marriage in his auto biography with a single blank page as a 'chapter.'
  4. For the Disney film The Black Hole, Ernest Bognine's character Harry Booth was actually turned into an action figure.

Like a Fish To Water


Ernesy Borgnine's parents were seperated when he was very young. Its hard to imagine someone born on January 24th, 1917 as being very young. Borgnine grew up in New Haven, Connecticut around ships and naval yards. Borgnine had a true and lifelong love of the United States Navy. His service would actually encompass most of what would be referred to as the Great Depression and Borgnine left the Navy shortly before the breakout of World War 2. Borgnine's performance in McHale's Navy was actually more of loving homage than scathing critique.

Hey, The Brother Was Itallian

Ernest Borgnine's lone Academy Award winning role as Best Actor was for the movie Marty. Marty was a low budget film about an unattractive man in his thirties scared that he will never find love. Marty was a game changing role for Borgnine who was almost type cast playing heavies and thugs up to that point. The searing and beautiful portray of an 'ugly people love story' showed that great love did not discriminate on the basis of aesthetics.

In real life, Ernest Borgnine had no trouble finding love. Keeping it proved to be a bit of a difficulty. Borgnine was famously married five times. The last one was simply "That girl that held on."

Ernest Borgnine was first married to Rhoda Kemins. Borgnine and Kemins were married for nine years and met while Borgnine was still in the Navy.

Borgnine's second wife was actress Katy Jurado.

Borgnine woudl later call Jurado 'beautiful but a tiger.' This would mean that a still relatively young Mermaid Man....

Was married to a Thundercat....

Then, talk about a marital Gypsy, the following year afer his divorce from Jurado - Borgnine was married to Ethel Merman... for one month. We're guessing that the first two weeks were magic.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would define success as being able to move from failure to failure with no discernable loss of enthusiasm. Borgnine would follow up his marriage to Merman with a seven year union with Donna Rancourt...

that would ... again end in divorce.... The important thing is that all of Borgnine's weddings would have different themes. Proving the old adage that the fifth time is truly the charm, Bornine would marry Tova Traesnaes who would prove to be the gril who done hung on...

The Iconic Roles And There Are Many

Red West once told a story about Ernest Borgnine. There was a young director that asked Borgnine to come in and audition for a screen test. Reportedly, Borgnine faxed the young director a picture of his Best Actor Oscar for Marty. On the back of the picture was written "Here's my screen test, what have you done?" Borgnine acted for so many decades that it is hard for any generation to not have a good memory of Ernest Borgnine.

From Here To Eternity gave us "let me beat a Racj Packer to DEATH!!!' Sgt. 'Fatso Judson...

He was also the lovable schemer Commander Quinton McHale in McHale's Navy.

Borgnine was the absolutely unforgettable General Worden from The Dirty Dozen.

Borgnine's ... yes Borgnine's badassery would continue as Dutch Engstrom in The Wild Bunch. The Wild Bunch was at one point Rated X... for violence....

Borgnine would give us the morally flawed Rogo in The Poseidon Adventure...

Disney's The Black Hole would not only give us the role of journalist Harry Booth...

But also give us one of the most questionable choices for an action figure of all time.

Chilren of the 1980s will forever love Airwolf's Dominic Santini.

I just can't not mention Carface from All Dogs Go To Heaven...

I may well be the only one, but I will always love Borgnine's spirited and quirky portrayal of the Doorman in the 1990's Must See TV comedy The Single Guy..

Not satisfied that there might be grade schoolers whose hearts might not be rent by his memory, Borgnine also played the lovably absent minded retired hero Mermaid Man in Spongebob Squarepants...

Loss of A Legend

The passing of Ernest Borgnine is sad, but it seems like a different kind of sad. Its the kind of sad that leads to smile. Its hard not to find a happy memory associated with Ernest Borgnine. This is a man who called his agent in his nineties and asked why his agent wasn't getting him work. The agent would respond 'Ernest, they are surprised you are still alive.' All casting directors can now swiftly kick themselves for taking this name off of their rolodexes. Loss is something that you feel once it is there. Only now, people are starting to realize the void left by Ernest Borgnine. He played villains to the point of typecasting and then played kindly old men to the point of typecasting. Borgnine's career was marked by a patriotism and enthusiastic love of military and miltary roles. Borgnine was an old fashioned throwback to men. Borgnine had too many wives. Borgnine was known to drink. Borgnine was known for his smile. In the end, Ernest Bornine gave the rest of us a love story for the unattractive. Borgnine was the bully punching you in the face, Borgnine was your neighbor whose life went bad. Borgnine was your grandpa with too many stories. Borgnine was every man and now every man and woman feel the loss.