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, July 8, 2012. He was 95.
Ermes Efron Borgnino was born in Hamden, Conn., on Jan. 24, 1917, the son of Italian immigrant parents. He joined the Navy in 1935 and served on a destroyer during World War II. After the war his mother persuaded him to enroll at the Randall School of Dramatic Arts in Hartford. He stayed four months, the only formal training he received.
Borgnine 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."
Left: Borgnine, Burt Lancaster and Sinatra in "From Here to Eternity."
In "Marty" (1955), a low-budget film based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play that starred Rod Steiger, Ernest 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 (Betsy Blair) with the same fear.
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, and the film won the Best Picture Academy Award.
Ernest Borgnine on the set of "Marty."
The Academy Award winners Jack Lemmon (Best Supporting Actor for "Mister Roberts"), Jo Van Fleet (Best Supporting Actress for "East of Eden"), and Ernest Borgnine (Best Actor for "Marty") are pictured with their Oscars on March 21, 1956 in Hollywood.
"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.
Award presenter Grace Kelly poses with Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine at the 28th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., on March 21, 1956, where Borgnine won best actor for his role in "Marty."
When Spencer Tracy pays a visit in "Bad Day at Black Rock" (1955), Ernest Borgnine is just one of the locals who extends a lukewarm welcome.
Ernest Borgnine was one of the cast of heavies in Nicholas Ray's western "Johnny Guitar," starring Joan Crawford.
Ernest Borgnine in "The Badlanders," a 1958 western costarring Alan Ladd.
Glenn Ford and Ernest Borgnine in the World War II submarine drama "Torpedo Run" (1958).
Ernest Borgnine starred in Andre De Toth's 1960 Cold War thriller "Man on a String," about very shady dealings in Berlin.
In "Pay or Die" (1960), Ernest Borgnine played a New York City Police Lieutenant fighting organized crime out to shake down shopkeepers in Little Italy for protection money. Featuring Renata Vanni and Zohra Lampert.
A publicity photo for Ernest Borgnine's TV comedy "McHale's Navy," which debuted on ABC in 1962.
Ernest Borgnine acts in a scene for ABC-TV's "McHale's Navy" on April 4, 1963.
Actor Ernest Borgnine gestures during an interview at his London Hotel on Jan. 26, 1966. He was in London for the world premiere of "The Flight of the Phoenix."
Dan Duryea, Hardy Krueger, James Stewart and Ernest Borgnine, stroll at Piccadilly, January 18, 1966, London, England, after giving a press interview for their movie "The Flight of the Phoenix."
A poster for the brazen World War II actioner "The Dirty Dozen" (1967).
Ernest Borgnine starred with his "Flight of the Phoenix" costar Peter Finch and Kim Novak in the Hollywood tale, "The Legend of Lylah Clare" (1968)
In the Alistair MacLean Cold War thriller "Ice Station Zebra" (1968) Ernest Borgnine was on board a U.S. submarine racing to the frozen north to retrieve a fallen satellite before the Soviets get it first. Also starring Patrick MacGoohan, Rock Hudson and Jim Brown.
Actor Ernest Borgnine poses in front of his home in the mountains above Hollywood, Calif. on July 1, 1969.
One of Borgnine's greatest roles was in Sam Peckinpah's ultra-violent western, "The Wild Bunch," about an early 20th century outlaw gang on the U.S.-Mexico border who are bringers of death. Costarring were Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden, Robert Ryan and Edmond O'Brien.
One of Ernest Borgnine's most popular films was the 1972 Irwin Allen disaster film "The Poseidon Adventure," in which he was a passenger trying to escape a capsized ocean liner. Among the other cast members were Jack Albertson, Carol Lynley, Red Buttons, Stella Stevens, Eric Shea and Pamela Sue Martin.
Ernest Borgnine played one of a group of prisoners enlisted by William Holden to ride out after the Indians who slaughtered Holden's family in the 1972 western "The Revengers."
A June 1, 1973 photo of Ernest Borgnine in New York.
Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin in Robert Aldrich's ultra-violent "Emperor of the North" (1973), in which Borgnine played a railroad conductor who really didn't take kindly to stowaways riding his train.
Ernest Borgnine as Angelo Dundee and Muhammad Ali as Muhammad Ali in the (auto)biopic "The Greatest" (1977).
Ernest Borgnine as a sheriff in Sam Peckinpah's action film "Convoy" (1978), riding on the CB radio craze.
Ernest Borgnine and Oliver Reed in "Crossed Swords" (1977), a retelling of "The Prince and the Pauper."
Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine in the 1979 TV movie, "All Quiet on the Western Front."
Ernest Borgnine also appeared with robots, in "The Black Hole" (1979).
Ernest Borgnine arrives with his wife, Tova, at the American Film Institute's salute to actor Jimmy Stewart in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 29, 1980.
Ernest Borgnine starred in the Wes Craven horror film "Deadly Blessing" (1981), about evil doings in a Hittite community.
Actor Ernest Borgnine and wife Tova pose on May 11, 1983 in their Beverly Hills, Calif. home.
Borgnine's fifth marriage, in 1973 to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes, 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.
Some of Mrs. Borgnine's customers included Ali MacGraw and former First Lady Betty Ford.
Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine co-starred with a high-tech helicopter in the TV action series "Airwolf," which aired from 1984-1987.
Ernest Borgnine holds a giant cupcake dressed as a clown in Los Angeles, for the revival of the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee on June 18, 1985.
Ernest Borgnine appeared with Ethan Hawke in the futuristic thriller "Gattaca" (1997).
Actor Ernest Borgnine and his wife, Tova, attend the 74th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater, March 24, 2002 in Hollywood, Calif.
During a 2007 interview with the AP, 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.
Ernest Borgnine in a segment from the international anthology film "11/09/11," examining the fallout of the September 11 terror attacks. His story, directed by Sean Penn, told of a widower whose life in the shadows of the World Trade Center is altered following their destruction.
Actor and Humanitarian of the Year award winner Ernest Borgnine and Sean Penn pose backstage at the "So the World May Hear Awards Gala" fundraising event at the Century Plaza Hotel, November 6, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. Proceeds benefited the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which has helped provide over 80,000 hearing aids to underprivileged children around the world.
In this Jan. 13, 2008 photo, Ernest Borgnine displays the Academy Award and Golden Globe he received in 1956 for the movie "Marty," in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Ernest Borgnine played the CIA's record keeper opposite Bruce Willis in the action-drama "Red" (2010).
Ernest Borgnine poses for a portrait at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., Oct. 26, 2010.
Ernest Borgnine poses after receiving the life achievement award at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2011.
Actor Ernest Borgnine reads the children's book "The Rainbow Fish" for Storyline Online, presented by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation at the SAG Foundation Actors Center on January 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
In a 2007 interview, Borgnine complained that he wanted to continue acting but most studio executives kept asking, "Is he still alive?"
"I just want to do more work," he said. "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."