Ernest Borgnine Overview:

Legendary character actor, Ernest Borgnine, was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on Jan 24, 1917 in Hamden, CT. Borgnine died at the age of 95 on Jul 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA .

Early Life

Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. Both of his parents hailed from Northern Italy and separated when he was just two years old. Borgnine then relocated to Italy with his mother, where they lived for for four years. The pair returned to the United States when Borgnine was five, and soon after his mother reconciled with his father. During this time the family officially changed their name from Borgnino to Borgnine. They eventually settled in New Haven, Connecticut where Borgnine attended public school. After graduating in 1935, Borgnine took a job selling vegetables from the back of a truck. While on the job, the recent graduate saw a Navy Recruitment poster and traded in working on a truck for working a boat.

Naval Service

Borgnine enlisted in 1935 and was stationed on the USS Lamberton. The ship operated out of San Diego and was initially used to tow targets for surface combat. The ship also participated in experimental minesweeping exercises and by 1940 had been reclassified as minesweeper/destroyer ship. In 1941 Borgnine was honorably discharged from the Navy. However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States official entry into World War 2, Borgnine re-enlisted.

Borgnine was immediately stationed to the USS Sylph, where he would remain for the entirety of the war. The Sylph was a converted Yacht that was used as for antisubmarine-warfare and patrolled for German U-boats up and down the east coast. During his time in the Navy, Borgnine proved to be the model sailor and rose in rank from seaman to gunner's mate first class. After a decade in service, Borgnine was honorably discharge in 1945. His military accolades include the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Early Career

After the war Borgnine returned to civilian in New Haven, where he found work at a local factory. However, he found very little fulfillment in the blue-collar job, and his mother soon suggested perhaps his strong presence and boisterous personality maybe suited for acting.  He then used the newly created G.I Bill to attend the Randall School of Dramatic Art in Hartford. He then ventured south to Abingdon, Virginia where he became a member of the Barter Theater. He began his four-year stint with the group doing various stagehand jobs like scenery painting and driving. Eventually he made his professional acting debut in 1947 with a small role in State of the Union. He slowly but steadily continued honing his craft, gaining more prestigious roles along the way.

In 1949 he moved to New York and made his Broadway debut as a nurse in Harvey. He remained in New York for two years, continuing to build a successful career on the stage. He soon parlayed his stage success onto the small screen, acting in TV series such as Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Goodyear Playhouse. By 1951 Borgnine headed west to Hollywood to begin working on his film career.


When Borgnine first arrived in Hollywood, his stocky build and gruff face made him a natural fit to play "heavies." His big screen debut was in the 1951 Action-Adventure film China Corsair, quickly followed by the drama The Whistle at Eaton Falls. In 1953 he got his big break in the industry in the big screen adaptation of From Here to Eternity. In the film Borgnine played Sergeant "Fatso" Judson, a cruel and vicious enlisted solider who beats a fellow solider, played by Frank Sinatra, to death.  His performed in the film lead to series of roles in which the gap-toothed actor played the villain, including the films Johnny Guitar opposite Joan Crawford and Bad Day at Black Rock opposite Spencer Tracy.

In 1955 would prove to be a big year for the actor. He was approached to star in the big screen adaption of the TV drama as the titular character of Marty. Far from the villainous roles he had been approached to play before, Marty offered Borgnine to stretch his acting muscles, playing a lonely, down-to-earth butcher who falls in love with a shy but kind-hearted teacher. Borgnine's subdued and heartfelt performance was a hit with audiences and critics everywhere. For his work in the film, Borgnine was award the Best Actor Academy Award in 1955.

No longer seen as just the heavy-set villain, Borgnine went on to play a variety of roles over throughout the 1950s. In 1956 he starred opposite Glenn Ford in The Rancher, playing the overly trusting rancher whose wife desire the very man he saved. That same year he played the poor but proud Tom Hurley, opposite Bette Davis, in the family dramedy The Catered Affair. The rest of decade saw him appear in films like The Vikings, Torpedo Run, The Badlanders and Season of Passion. During this time, Borgnine also continued to work on TV, appearing in the series The O. Henry Playhouse, Navy Log and Zane Grey Theater.

Prime time TV

Borgnine continued his busy schedule into the 1960s.  Although he began the decade with films like Pay or Die, The Last Judgment and Barabbas, Borgnine would spend much of this decade making his mark on the small screen. In 1962 he play the role of Quentin MacHale on the anthology series, Alcoa Premiere. Although the episode was a series one-hour drama, the role would lead him to playing the same character in the WWII half-hour sitcom McHale's Navy. Considering his time spent in the Navy during WIII, the role was perfect for the former seaman and he enjoyed the fan mail he would get from active members in the Navy. The show ran from 1962 - 1966 and earned Borgnine a 1963 Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. During the series' run, he also made sporadic appearances on the big screen in film s such as The Flight of the Phoenix and The Oscar.

After his stint on the McHale's Navy, Borgnine returned to the big screen. Once again, the actor starred in a WWII era film, this time the action-adventure war film The Dozen Starring opposite Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. In 1969 he starred in one of his most memorable films, the Sam Peckinpah revisionist western The Wild Bunch. The follows a group of ageing outlaws as the traditional "American West" dies around them. The film is noted for its graphic violence and its crude portrayal of the "traditional" American cowboy.

Continued Work

Although the quality of his varied with each film or television appearnace, Borgnine remained busy into the coming decades. In 1971 he retuned to playing a sadistic villain, this time as the Boss in the 1971 film Willard. The role is particularly memorable due to the way his character died: devoured by the trained rats of the films titular character. The next year he appeared in Disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure opposite Gene Hackman. Other big screen titles of the decade include Emperor of the North, The Devil's Run, Shoot and the Peckinpah directed Convoy. His best work, however, came from the small screen. He was one of the favored guests on The Dean Martin Show and appeared in the acclaimed Legend in Granite: The Vince Lombardi Story. He also had a memorable performance as a Roman centurion in the made-for-TV film Jesus of Nazareth. In 1979 he earn an Emmy nomination for his role in the small screen adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front.

By the 1980s and 90s, Borgnine continued to work both on the big screen and small. His more popular work came from TV with his highest profile role as the supporting character, Dominic Santini, on the show Airwolf.   He had couple more high profile roles films like Escape From New York and Blood Fued. By the late 1980s and into 90s the Borgnine mostly worked on low-budget, obscure independent or foreign films. He didn't mind though, as he simply like to work no matter what the work was. Every once in a quality films would come his way, such as the role as the janitor, Caesar in the sci-fi film Gattaca and Toy Soldiers.

Later Career and Life

Borgnine was introduced to an entirely new generation of fans voicing the character of Mermaid Man in the popular children's cartoon Spongebob Squarepants. His career continued into the new Millennium with guest starring roles on TV series like Touch by An Angel, The District, 7th Heaven, and ER. He earned Golden Globe nomination for his work in the Hallmark film A Grandpa for Christmas. Always remember as Seaman as well as an actor, Borgnine received the honorary title of chief petty officer from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott.

In 2010 he shred with the screen with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman in the action-comedy RED. The next year the Borgnine received the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award. His final role came in 2012 with The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez.

Ernest Borgnine of kidney failure on July 8, 2012. He was 95 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Ernest Borgnine was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Actor for Marty (as Marty Pilletti) in 1955.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1955Best ActorMarty (1955)Marty PillettiWon

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Borgnine was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum .

BlogHub Articles:

is “Marty”

By Stephen Reginald on Jun 21, 2023 From Classic Movie Man

is “Marty” Marty (1955) is an American drama directed by Delbert Mann and starring and Betsy Blair. Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli, Karen Steele, Jerry Paris, and Joe Mantell round out the cast. Marty (Borgnine) is an Italian-American butcher who l... Read full article

5 Things You May Not Know about

By minooallen on Jan 24, 2018 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

5 Things You May Not Know about ? Like today is his birthday. Happy 101st Birthday to the legend ! ?.. In the Navy Borgnine donning his Cheif Petty Officer hat Borgnine enlisted in the Navy right after high school in 1935. He served the contracted four years before be... Read full article

Classic Movie Coincidence: Ethel Merman, Katy Jurado and

By Annmarie Gatti on Jan 16, 2017 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

If we have enough good times together, I’m gonna get down on my knees. I’m gonna beg that girl to marry me. - as Marty Well, here’s something a little different than our usual Classic Movie Coincidences… Both Ethel Merman and Katy Jurado share a birthday today,... Read full article

“I wasn’t trying to set the world on fire”: Remembering

By Jnpickens on Jan 6, 2013 From Comet Over Hollywood

The heavens gained several stars this year as classic film stars passed away in 2012. Since Comet Over Hollywood did not give several of them the full attention they deserved, the first few days of 2013 will be dedicated to some of the notable celebrities who left us. in 1956 with hi... Read full article

Remembering .

on Jul 13, 2012 From True Classics

The final scene of?Marty?(1955) opens with the title character () leaning against the wall of a seafood restaurant, one arm raised, loosely grasping a pole that juts out from the side of the building. He stands silently as his friends mill about in front of him, debating what they sho... Read full article

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Ernest Borgnine Quotes:

Ragnar: [introducing Lord Egbert to his son] This is Einar, my only son in wedlock. He's so vain of his beauty, he won't let a man's beard hide it. He scrapes his face like an Englishman.

Barney Sheean: "Films"? "Films"? What the hell ever happened to movies? What do you think you're in, the art business?

Pike Bishop: He gave his word.
Dutch Engstrom: He gave his word to a railroad.
Pike Bishop: It's his word.
Dutch Engstrom: That ain't what counts! It's who you give it *to*!

read more quotes from Ernest Borgnine...

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Best Actor Oscar 1955

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Ernest Borgnine on the
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Ernest Borgnine Facts
Referenced in 'Weird Al' Yankovic's song "Your Horoscope for Today."

Made a special Academy Awards appearance in 1998, at the The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998) (TV), and in 2005 at the The 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003) (TV) and participated in the Oscar Winners Tribute sequence along with other Academy Award winners.

Remained good friends with Tim Conway during and after "McHale's Navy" (1962).

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Cowboy Museum Hall of Fame

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