Ernest Borgnine Dies at 95

Ernest Borgnine 1917-2012

Ernest Borgnine has died in Los Angeles at the age of 95 due to renal failure. He was born as Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His wife of 39 years Tovah survived him. Borgnine served in the U.S. Navy from 1935-1945. His mom talked him into pursuing an acting career and he appeared as a male nurse in Harvey on Broadway in 1951.

Ernest Borgnine as seen in a scene in From Here To Eternity.

Two years later Borgnine appeared in the movie From Here To Eternity in 1953 as Sgt. Fatso Judson. Borgnine had appeared in three movies in 1951, including China Corsair, The Whistle At Eaton Falls and The Mob.

He also made his television debut in 1951 in Captain Video and His Video Rangers. He appeared in many television programs including two episodes of Waterfront  in 1954.

Burt Lancaster introduces this trailer for the movie Marty that won Ernest Borgnine an
Academy Award.

Borgnine’s twelfth movie Marty would win him a Best Actor Oscar defeating much better known actors in James Cagney, James Dean, Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy.  Marty was only one of six movies that Borgnine would make in 1955.

1956-1961 would be busy years for Borgnine as the free-lanced in television, while making movies on the side. Then he won the starring role in the television series McHale’s Navy. The show would run from 1962-1966 and the show’s popularity caused his marriage to Broadway star Ethel Merman to last only 32 days, since she couldn’t handle seeing him receive the adulation of the fans. She devoted a chapter of her life story, to her marriage to Borgnine which consisted of one blank page.

After McHale’s Navy ended he appeared in an episode of three different television shows, then acted in 12 consecutive movies before appearing in a TV movie The Trackers.

Ernest Borgnine describes his experiences filming Poseidon Adventure.

Borgnine appeared in the blockbuster Poseidon Adventure in 1972. Airwolf would be his next television series that lasted more than a few episodes, with Borgnine appearing in 55 episodes from 1984-1986.

He mostly acted in movies till he appeared in Single Guy which ran from 1995-1997.

One constant of Borgnine’s career was that he made a lot of movies from his first one in 1951 to his last one The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, which was completed this year and is in post-production. His movie career spanned 61 years from his first movie to his last one.

This list of his movie and television appearances shows just how a prolific an actor, that Ernest Borgnine was:

One thing about Ernest Borgnine that most fans don’t know is that he was the first center square in the history of the  Hollywood Squares television program.

Other interesting facts about Ernest Borgnine:

He is only actor to appear in all four Dirty Dozen movies.

Lives in same home that he bought in 1965, living there till his death 47 years later.

Earned only $5,000 for his role in Marty, which won him the Academy Award.

His wife Tovah who survived him was 25 years younger than Borgnine.

Just a few quotes from Ernest Borgnine at

[on his marriage to Ethel Merman]: Biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney.

[on why he wanted to star in “McHale’s Navy” (1962)]: Theater business was disappearing and so were night clubs, which I don’t like to play anyway because they keep me up too late. There were TV guest shots, but how many times can you play Ed Sullivan? My biggest pay was from industrial shows, but they don’t come along too often.

Where can we find the great actors we had yesteryear, guys like Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper and Edward G. Robinson? You know, I was talking to Lee Marvin the other day and we agreed that we were the last of a breed. We’re the last who had the opportunity of working with these fine actors. I feel very humble. It makes me feel that I’ve got to try that bit harder.

Ernest Borgnine may have only won one Academy Award, but that doesn’t mean none of his other movies haven’t entertained theater goers, who saw his movies for the last 61 years and enjoyed watching McHale’s Navy on television.

His New York Times obituary tells more about the life of Ernest Borgnine:


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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