Actor Ernest Borgnine dies at 95
Oscar-winning film star Ernest Borgnine has died at the age of 95.
The beefy actor was known for blustery, often villainous roles, yet won the best actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in Marty in 1955.
His long-time spokesman Harry Flynn said Borgnine died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles yesterday with his family by his side.
Television fans loved Borgnine as the scheming officer in the TV comedy McHale’s Navy.
He was also known as the heavy who beats up Frank Sinatra in From Here To Eternity and one of the thugs who menaces Spencer Tracy in Bad Day At Black Rock.
Then came Marty, a low-budget film based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play that starred Rod Steiger. Borgnine played a 34-year-old butcher who fears he is so unattractive he will never find romance. Then, at a dance, he meets a girl 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.
Mann and Chayefsky also won Oscars and the Academy of M otion Picture Arts andSciences hailed the 360,000-dollar Marty as best picture over big-budget contenders The Rose Tattoo, Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, Picnic and Mister Roberts.
The Oscar made me a star and I’m grateful,“ Borgnine said 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.
But Borgnine’s fifth marriage, in 1973 to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes, endured and 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.
Although still not a marquee star until after Marty, the roles of heavies started coming regularly after From Here To Eternity. The films included Johnny Guitar, Demetrius And The Gladiators and Vera Cruz.
Director Nick Ray advised the actor: “Get out of Hollywood in two years or you’ll be typed forever.” Then came the Oscar, and Borgnine’s career was assured.
He played a sensitive role opposite Bette Davis in another film based on a Chayefsky TV drama, The Catered Affair, a film that was a personal favourite. It concerned a New York taxi driver and his wife who argued over the expense of their daughter’s wedding.
But producers also continued casting Borgnine in action films such as Three Bad Men, The Vikings, Torpedo Run, Barabbas, The Dirty Dozen and The Wild Bunch.