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RIP: Ernest Borgnine, Oscar-Winning Big-Hearted Everyman With A Face For Radio, Dead At 95


 

NEW YORK TIMES: Ernest Borgnine, the rough-hewn actor who seemed destined for tough-guy characters but won an Academy Award for embodying the gentlest of souls, a lonely Bronx butcher, in the 1955 film “Marty,“ died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 95. Mr. Borgnine, who later starred on “McHale’s Navy” on television, made his first memorable impression in films at age 37, appearing in “From Here to Eternity” (1953) as Fatso Judson, the sadistic stockade sergeant who beats Frank Sinatra’s character, Private Maggio, to death. But Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote “Marty” as a television play, and Delbert Mann, who directed it (it starred Rod Steiger), saw something beyond brutality in Mr. Borgnine and offered him the title role when it was made into a feature film. The 1950s had emerged as the decade of the common man, with Willy Loman of “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway and the likes of the bus driver Ralph Kramden (“The Honeymooners”) and the factory worker Chester Riley (“The Life of Riley”) on television. Mr. Borgnine’s Marty Pilletti, a 34-year-old blue-collar bachelor who still lives with his mother, fit right in, showing the tender side of the average, unglamorous guy next door. Marty’s awakening, as he unexpectedly falls in love, was described by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times as “a beautiful blend of the crude and the strangely gentle and sensitive in a monosyllabic man.” Mr. Borgnine received the Oscar for best actor for “Marty.” For the same performance he also received a Golden Globe and awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. MORE

RELATED: He had five wives. In 1949 he married Rhoda Kemins, whom he had met when they were both in the Navy. They had a daughter but divorced in 1958. On New Year’s Eve 1959, he and the Mexican-born actress Katy Jurado were married; they divorced in 1962. His third marriage was his most notorious because of its brevity. He and the Broadway musical star Ethel Merman married in late June 1964 but split up in early August. Mr. Borgnine later contended that Merman left because she was upset that on an international honeymoon trip he was recognized and she wasn’t. MORE

RELATED: Asked about his acting methods in 1973, Mr. Borgnine told the New York Times: “No Stanislavski. I don’t chart out the life histories of the people I play. If I did, I’d be in trouble. I work with my heart and my head, and naturally emotions follow.” Sometimes he prayed, he said, or just reflected on character-appropriate thoughts. “If none of that works,” he added, “I think to myself of the money I’m making.” MORE

RELATED: One of his final roles was a bit part as a CIA records-keeper in 2011’s action comedy “Red” — fittingly for his age, a story of retired spies who show that it’s never too late to remain in the game when they’re pulled back into action. “I keep telling myself, ‘Damn it, you gotta go to work,’ ” Mr. Borgnine said in 2007. “But there aren’t many people who want to put Borgnine to work these days. They keep asking, ‘Is he still alive?’” And yet people put him to work — and kept him working — from his late-blooming start as an actor after a 10-year Navy career through modern times, when he had a recurring voice role on “SpongeBob SquarePants” [Mermaid Man, pictured above] and became the oldest actor ever nominated for a Golden Globe. MORE
 

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