Ernest Borgnine, an Academy-Award winning actor, long-time Freemason, and one-time husband to iconic actress Ethel Merman, died today at the age of 95 in Los Angeles. Borgnine, born in Connecticut in 1917, acted in 203 TV shows and films, and is best-remembered for his roles in McHale’s Navy (1962) and SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-2011), along with roles in “Marty,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “The Posieden Adventure,” “ER,” and “From Here to Eternity.”
Borgnine, who joined the Navy at the age of 18 and stayed for a decade, was born Ermes Effron Borgnino, and married five times, including for one month to Ethel Merman. He married Tova Traesnaes, his fifth wife, in 1973. IMDb notes that Borgnine’s “big break came in 1949, when he made his acting debut on Broadway playing a male nurse in ‘Harvey’.”
In 1951 Borgnine moved to Los Angeles to pursue a movie career, and made his film debut as Bill Street in The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951). His career took off in 1953 when he was cast in the role of Sgt. “Fatso” Judson in From Here to Eternity (1953). This memorable performance led to numerous supporting roles as “heavies” in a steady string of dramas and westerns. He played against type in 1955 by securing the lead role of Marty Piletti, a shy and sensitive butcher, in Marty (1955). He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, despite strong competition from Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra, James Dean and James Cagney. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Borgnine performed memorably in such films as The Catered Affair (1956), Ice Station Zebra (1968), and Emperor of the North (1973). Between 1962 and 1966 he played LCDR Quinton McHale in the popular TV series “McHale’s Navy” (1962).
In early 1984 he returned to television as Dominic Santini in the action series “Airwolf” (1984), and in 1995 he was cast in the comedy “The Single Guy” (1995) as doorman Manny Cordoba. He also appeared in several made-for-TV movies. Ernest Borgnine has often stated that acting is his greatest passion, and he’s still working today. His amazing 61-year career (1951 – 2012 and continuing) includes appearances in well over 100 feature films and as a regular in three television series, as well as voiceovers in animated films such as All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996), Small Soldiers (1998), and a continuing role in the Spongbob Squarepants series.
Forever affable, Borgnine had strong opinions and occasionally shared them (via Wikipedia):
“Ever since they opened the floodgates with Clark Gable saying, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,’ somebody’s ears pricked up and said, ‘Oh boy, here we go!’. Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can’t say three words without cursing. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Wikipedia also notes:
Borgnine was a Freemason in Hollywood Lodge No. 355, and a 33rd° Scottish Rite Mason in the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction. He was also a member of the Loyal Order of Moose at that organization’s Lodge in Junction City, OR.
In 2000, he received his 50-year pin as a Freemason in Abingdon Lodge No. 48, Abingdon, Virginia. He joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Los Angeles in 1964, received the KCCH in 1979, was coroneted a 33° Inspector General Honorary in 1983, and received the Grand Cross of the Court of Honour in 1991.
Image: Borgnine receiving his first Oscar, handed to him by Grace Kelly. Via Wikipedia.
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