Bio

Early life

Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino in Hamden, Connecticut, the son of Anna, an Italian countess (née Boselli), who immigrated to the US from Carpi, Italy, and Charles B. Borgnino, who immigrated to the US from Ottiglio, Italy.

His parents separated when he was two years old, and he and his mother went to live in Italy. By 1923, his parents had reconciled, and the family name was changed from Borgnino to Borgnine. The family had settled in North Haven, Connecticut, where he attended public schools. His mother also had the passion to develop her own dance. Anna gave her son a lot of moral support and he stood closely by her at all times. Second only to his father, Ernest had a hot temper, but his wit and charm helped him win over his staunchest detractors.

Naval career

Borgnine joined the United States Navy in 1935 after high school. He was discharged in 1941, but he re-enlisted when the United States entered World War II and served until 1945 (a total of ten years), reaching the rank of Gunner’s Mate 1st Class. His military decorations included the American Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, and the World War II Victory Medal.

In 2004, Borgnine received the honorary rank of Chief Petty Officer from the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott—the US Navy’s highest ranking enlisted sailor at the time—for Borgnine’s support of the Navy and Navy families worldwide.

Film career

After the war was over he returned to his parents’ doorsteps, with no job and no direction. When he wasn’t willing to settle for a dead end job at one of the factories, his mother would encourage him to pursue a more glamorous profession, and suggested that his personality would be suited for the stage. He surprised his mother by taking the suggestion to heart, although his father was far from being enthusiastic. Following graduation, he auditioned and was accepted to the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, where audiences usually barter their vegetables. In 1947, he landed his first stage role in State of the Union. Although it was a short role, he won over the stage. His next role was as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. In 1949, he debuted on Broadway in the role of a nurse in the play Harvey. More roles on stage led him to being a decades-long character actor.

In 1951, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he received his big break in From Here to Eternity (1953), playing the cruel Sergeant “Fatso” Judson, in charge of the stockade, who taunts fellow soldier Angelo Maggio (played by Frank Sinatra).

Borgnine built a reputation as a dependable character actor and appeared in early film roles as villains, including Johnny Guitar, Vera Cruz and Bad Day at Black Rock. But in 1955, the actor starred as a warmhearted butcher in the film version of the television play Marty, which gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor (over From Here to Eternity co-star Frank Sinatra and former Best Actors Spencer Tracy and James Cagney).

Because of Borgnine’s longevity, Marty currently stands as the oldest film with a Best Actor performance from someone still alive. With the passing of Charlton Heston on April 5, 2008, Borgnine is the only living actor who has won Best Actor for performances given prior to 1960 (by comparison, there are five living pre-1960 Best Actress recipients).

Borgnine’s film career continued successfully through the 1960s and 1970s, with later film roles including The Vikings, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Poseidon Adventure and The Black Hole.

Character actor

As a young adult, Borgnine made his TV debut as a character actor in Captain Video and His Rangers, beginning in 1951. These 2 episodes, led to other roles that Borgnine would guest-star for the next half of a decade are: Goodyear Television Playhouse, Short Short Dramas, The Ford Television Theatre, Waterfront, The Lone Wolf, Fireside Theatre, The O. Henry Playhouse, Frontier Justice, Laramie, The Blue Angels, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Run for Your Life, Little House on the Prairie’s Pt. 2 episode – “The Lord is My Shepherd”, The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., Highway To Heaven with old friend Michael Landon, Murder, She Wrote, Walker, Texas Ranger, Touched By An Angel, the final episodes of ER, among many others.

Television roles

McHale’s Navy

In 1962, Borgnine joined the ranks of other sitcom stars such as John Forsythe, Andy Griffith, Danny Thomas, Alan Young, Fred MacMurray, and newcomer Buddy Ebsen. The same year, he signed a contract with Universal Studios for the lead role as the gruff but lovable skipper Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale in what began as a serious one-hour 1962 episode called Seven Against the Sea for Alcoa Premiere. Just like the McHale character, Borgnine was a longtime naval officer in real-life. This World War II sitcom also starred two hitherto-unfamiliar comedians/actors, the late Joe Flynn as Capt. Wallace B. Binghamton and Tim Conway as Ensign Charles Parker. Both of them got along very well with Borgnine, especially Conway, who “got hugged by Ernie” off the set. The insubordinate crew of PT-73 helped the show became an overnight success during its first season, although it did not land in the Top 30 until 1963, when it tied with Hazel in the ratings. Borgnine thrived on the adulation from fans for their favorite Navy man. He received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1963. At the end of the fourth season in 1966 low ratings and repetitive story lines brought McHale’s Navy to an end. Borgnine was very displeased about the show’s cancelation and was concerned about what television role he would then play. He starred in the 1964 film version of the series and appeared in a cameo performance in the 1997 remake.

Airwolf

Borgnine returned to re-sign a contract with Universal Studios in 1983, for a co-starring role opposite Jan-Michael Vincent, in Airwolf. After he was approached by producer Donald P. Bellisario, who had been impressed by Borgnine’s guest role as a wrestler in a 1982 episode of Magnum, p.i., he immediately agreed. He played Dominic Santini, a helicopter pilot, in the program which became an immediate hit. Borgnine’s strong performances belied his exhaustion due to the grueling production schedule, and the challenges of working with his younger, troubled series’ lead. The show was cancelled by CBS in 1986.

The Single Guy

He then auditioned, for the third time, for a co-starring role opposite Jonathan Silverman in The Single Guy, as doorman, Manny Cordoba, which lasted 2 seasons. According to Silverman, Borgnine would come to work with more energy and passion than every other star combined. He was the first person to work each and every day on the set, and the last one to leave.

Awards and honors

He was the first center square in the original version of the television game show Hollywood Squares, with host Peter Marshall.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ernest Borgnine has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6324 Hollywood Blvd. In 1996, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Other activities

Also in 1996, Borgnine and his son Cris toured the US in a bus to meet his fans and see the country. The trip was the subject of a 1997 documentary, Ernest Borgnine on the Bus. He also served one year as the Chairman of the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, visiting patients in Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Ernest Borgnine is a Freemason and a 33rd Scottish Rite Mason in the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction.

Hobbies

Borgnine’s hobbies include  shark cage diving, golfing, singing, driving my smart car, traveling, dancing, partying,

His most recent work

Since 1999, Borgnine has provided his voice talent to the comedy cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants as the elderly superhero Mermaid Man (where he is once again paired up with his McHale’s Navy co-star, Tim Conway, who voices Mermaid Man’s sidekick Barnacle Boy). He has expressed affection for this role, in no small part for its popularity among children. Borgnine also appeared on The Simpsons episode Boy-Scoutz N the Hood as himself in addition to a number of television commercials. In 2000, he was the executive producer of Hoover, in which he is the only credited actor. He Also did the VO  for the award winning documentary “The Puppeteers” about the world famous Farrari family high lighting Gimmi Farrari a true master at his craft , Directed by Maurizio Rigamonti & Lura Calder This documentary is an MALU ART production, in association with Borgnine Entertainment, Solares Cultural Foundation and Officinema, executive producer is Armando Gallo (ARGA Images).

In 2007, 90-year-old Borgnine starred in the Hallmark Original Movie A Grandpa for Christmas. He starred as a man who discovers, when his estranged daughter is in a car accident, that he has a granddaughter he never knew about. She is taken into his care, and they soon become great friends. For his performance in A Grandpa For Christmas, Borgnine received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television. At 90, he was the oldest Golden Globe nominee ever.

On April 2, 2009, Borgnine starred in the last episode of TV’s ER. His role was that of a husband whose long marriage ended with his wife’s death in the hospital. In his final scene, Borgnine’s character is lying in the hospital bed next to his just-deceased wife.

Autobiography

Borgnine’s autobiography Ernie was published by Citadel Press in July 2008. Ernie is a loose, conversational recollection of highlights from his acting career and notable events from his personal life.

In the wake of the book’s publication, he began a small promotional tour, visiting independent bookstores in the Los Angeles area to promote the book’s release and meet some of his fans.

Personal life

Borgnine has married five times and has three children. Nancee, Sharon, Cris

  1. Rhoda Kemins (1949–1958), whom he met while serving in the Navy; They had one daughter, Nancee Allison Borgnine (born May 29, 1952).
  2. The actress Katy Jurado (1959–1963)
  3. The singer Ethel Merman (1964), which lasted barely over a month. (divorce final May 25, 1965)
  4. Donna “Rancourt” Granucci (1965–1972), with whom he had a son, Cristofer E (born August 9, 1969) and two daughters, Sharon Lynn (born August 5, 1965)
  5. Tova Traesnaes (February 24, 1973 to date) Step son David Johnson (Born Dec 3rd 1959
  6. Grand Chidren, Shelby Halverson, Shaylynn Halverson, Hunter Halverson, Jeffery Borgnine, Anthony Borgnine

He has one sister, Evelyn Velardi (b. 1926).

His mother, Anna Borgnine, died in 1949, after a long battle against tuberculosis, just days before his first wedding.

His ex-wife, Katy Jurado, died 1 day after Independence Day 2002, of a heart attack. Borgnine had once referred to his second ex-wife, “Beautiful, but a tiger.”

On 24 January 2007, Borgnine had celebrated his 90th Birthday, at a local bistro in West Hollywood, California. Among the guests of honor were: his decades-long friend Tim Conway, his wife Tova Borgnine, Dennis Farina, Army Archerd, Andy Granatelli, Bo Hopkins, Burt Young, Steven Bauer, his son Cris Borgnine, grandson Anthony Borgnine, Connie Stevens, David Gerber, Debbie Reynolds, Joe Mantegna, Norm Crosby, among many others.

On 24 February 2008, Borgnine celebrated the 35th Anniversary of his marriage to cosmetics maker, Tova Traenaes.

He holds the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite of Masonry and has long been active in the Craft and is also a member of the Shriners. Borgnine is also a recipient of the Grand Cross, which is the highest honor for service to the Scottish Rite. Borgnine is also a member of the Lambda chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

A street was named in Borgnine’s honor in his hometown of Hamden, Connecticut, where he still enjoys a large and vocal following. There is also a Mexican-themed restaurant in New York City with a shrine dedicated to Borgnine.

For 30 years (1972–2002), Borgnine marched in Milwaukee’s annual Great Circus Parade as the “Grand Clown”, and has reportedly agreed to do so again on July 12, 2009, as the parade is revived.

On August 14, 2008, Borgnine claimed on Fox News Channel that one of his secrets of long life was to “masturbate a lot”.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1955 Academy Award Best Actor Marty Won
BAFTA Award Best Foreign Actor Marty Won
Golden Globe Award Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Marty Won
NBR Award Best Actor Marty Won
NYFCC Award Best Actor Marty Won
1962 Emmy Award Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) McHale’s Navy Nominated
1979 Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special All Quiet on the Western Front Nominated
1999 Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series Nominated
2007 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television A Grandpa for Christmas Nominated

Filmography

Film

  • China Corsair (1951)
  • The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951)
  • The Mob (1951)
  • From Here to Eternity (1953)
  • The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)
  • Johnny Guitar (1954)
  • Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
  • The Bounty Hunter (1954)
  • Vera Cruz (1954)
  • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
  • Marty (1955)
  • Run for Cover (1955)
  • Violent Saturday (1955)
  • The Last Command (1955)
  • The Square Jungle (1955)
  • Jubal (1956)
  • The Catered Affair (1956)
  • The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)
  • Three Brave Men (1956)
  • The Vikings (1958)
  • The Badlanders (1958)
  • Torpedo Run (1958)
  • Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1959)
  • The Rabbit Trap (1959)
  • Man on a String (1960)
  • Pay or Die (1960)
  • Black City (1961)
  • The Italian Brigands (1961)
  • Go Naked in the World (1961)
  • The Last Judgement (1961)
  • Barabbas (1961)
  • McHale’s Navy (1964)
  • The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)
  • The Oscar (1966)
  • McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force
  • The Dirty Dozen (1967)
  • Chuka (1967)
  • The Man Who Makes the Difference (1968) (short subject)
  • The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968)
  • Ice Station Zebra (1968)
  • The Split (1968)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • A Bullet for Sandoval (1969)
  • The Adventurers (1970)
  • Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970)
  • Murder in the Ring (1971)
  • Rain for a Dusty Summer (1971)
  • Willard (1971)
  • Bunny O’Hare (1971)
  • Hannie Caulder (1971)
  • The World of Sport Fishing (1972) (documentary)
  • Film Portrait (1972) (documentary)
  • The Revengers (1972)
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  • Emperor of the North Pole (1973)
  • The Neptune Factor (1973)
  • Law and Disorder (1974)
  • Vegeance Is Mine (1974)
  • The Devil’s Rain (1975)
  • Hustle (1975 film) (1975)
  • Shoot (1976)
  • The Greatest (1977)
  • Crossed Swords (1978)
  • Convoy (1978)
  • Ravagers (1979)
  • The Double McGuffin (1979)
  • The Black Hole (1979)
  • When Time Ran Out (1980)
  • Super Fuzz (1980)
  • Escape from New York (1981)
  • Deadly Blessing (1981)
  • Young Warriors (1983)
  • Code Name: Wild Geese (1984)
  • The Manhunt (1985)
  • Skeleton Coast (1987)
  • Isola del tesoro (1987) (treasure island) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0179577/)
  • The Opponent (1987)
  • The Big Turnaround (1988)
  • Moving Target (1988)
  • Any Man’s Death (1988)
  • Spike of Bensonhurst (1988)
  • Dirty Dozen: Fatal Mission (1988)
  • Real Men Don’t Eat Gummi Bears (1989)
  • The Last Match (1990)
  • Tides of War (1990)
  • Laser Mission (1990)
  • Mistress (1992) (Cameo)
  • The Outlaws: Legend of O.B. Taggart (1994)
  • Captiva Island (1995)
  • The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage (1996) (documentary)
  • Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (1996)
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996) (voice)
  • Ernest Borgnine On the Bus (1997)
  • McHale’s Navy (1997) (He did not play the lead role for Quinton McHale)
  • Gattaca (1997)
  • 12 Bucks (1998)
  • Small Soldiers (1998) (voice)
  • BASEketball (1998)
  • Mel (1998)
  • The Last Great Ride (1999)
  • Abilene (1999)
  • The Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island (1999)
  • The Kiss of Debt (2000)
  • Castlerock (2000)
  • Hoover (2000) (also executive producer)
  • Whiplash (2002)
  • 11′9″September 1xx11 (2002)
  • Rail Kings (2002)
  • Barn Red (2003)
  • The American Hobo (2003) (documentary) (narrator)
  • The Long Ride Home (2003)
  • Blueberry (2004)
  • 3 Below (2005)
  • Rail Kings (2005)
  • Chinaman’s Chance (2006)
  • Cura del gorilla, La (2006)
  • Frozen Stupid (2006)
  • Strange Wilderness (2008)
  • Another Harvest Moon (2008)

Television

  • The Blue Angels in episode “The Blue Leaders” (1961)
  • McHale’s Navy (1962–1966)
  • Sam Hill: Who Killed Mr. Foster? (1971)
  • The Trackers (1971)
  • Legend in Granite (1973)
  • Twice in a Lifetime (1974)
  • Holiday Hookers (1976)
  • Future Cop (1976) (pilot for series)
  • Jesus of Nazareth (1977) (miniseries)
  • Fire! (1977)
  • Future Cop (1977) (canceled after 7 episodes)
  • Little House on the Prairie (”The Lord is my Shepherd” episode)
  • The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978)
  • Cops and Robin (1978)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1979)
  • High Risk (1981)
  • Magnum, P.I. in “Mr. White Death” (Season 3-Episode 49) (1982)
  • Blood Feud (1983)
  • Carpool (1983)
  • Masquerade (1983) (pilot for series)
  • Love Leads the Way: A True Story (1984)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (1984) (miniseries)
  • Airwolf (1984–1986)
  • The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1985)
  • Space Island (1987) (miniseries)
  • The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987)
  • The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988)
  • Ocean (1989) (miniseries)
  • Jake Spanner, Private Eye (1989)
  • Appearances (1990)
  • Home Improvement (1991)
  • Mountain of Diamonds (1991)
  • Tierarztin Christine (1993)
  • Hunt for the Blue Diamond (1993)
  • The Simpsons – Boy-Scoutz n the Hood (voice) (1993)
  • Tierarztin Christine II: The Temptation (1995)
  • The Single Guy (1995-1997)
  • JAG in “Yesterday’s Heroes” of Season 3 (1998)
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series (1996–1999) (voice, Carface)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (voice, Mermaid Man) (1999–present)
  • 7th Heaven (2002)
  • The Blue Light (2004)
  • The Trail to Hope Rose (2004)
  • A Grandpa for Christmas (2007)
  • Aces ‘n Eights (2008)
  • ER (2009)