Another star in the Hollywood galaxy has fallen today: Ernest Borgnine, the beloved character actor who graced the screen in hundreds of times in his over 60-year career, has passed away on Sunday, July 18, 2012, from renal failure. He was 95 years old.
Borgnine has been a seemingly ubiquitous presence in both films and television since the 1950s. His breakthrough role came in 1953, only two years after his big screen debut, in the Oscar-winning drama From Here to Eternity as Sgt. "Fatso" Judson. Two years later he would win his only Academy Award, for Best Actor, in another Best Picture winner, Marty, taking over the lead role from the teleplay from another acclaimed actor, Rod Steiger. Although the lovelorn Marty Piletti was a sympathetic character, his roles in films like From Here to Eternity and John Sturges' classic film noir western Bad Day at Black Rock often typecast him in "bad guy" roles, which Borgnine always played beautifully, even in legendarily unpopular movies like The Oscar.
In the decades that followed Borgnine found his way into string of classic motion pictures, including The Wild Bunch, The Dirty Dozen and Escape from New York. As a dedicated character actor, however, he found himself in hundreds of smaller motion pictures that were destined to become footnotes in his storied career. Willard, Convoy, The Black Hole, Gattaca and Small Soldiers may be among his best known smaller films, and yes, he was great in all of them.
Although leading man status evaded Ernest Borgnine on the big screen, he starred in one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s, "McHale's Navy." Although the series began as a one-shot drama on the series "Alcoa Presents," under the title "Seven Against the Sea," the series that followed took had more in common with "Sgt. Bilko" and "Hogan's Heroes," in which a lovable World War II officer spent every week duping his superior officers into one scheme or another. Borgnine would regularly appear on television series over the decades, incluing "Air Wolf," "The Single Guy," and his recurring role as Mermaid Man on "Spongebob Squarepants."
Although Ernest Borgnine will be sorely missed, you have to admit that 95 is an impressive run for any human being. When asked about the secret to his long life, four years ago, Borgnine told Fox News, in a whisper, "I masturbate a lot."
Rest in peace, Ernest Borgnine. You'll be remembered from here to eternity.