1917 - 2012
Born Ermes Effron Borgnino in Hamden, Connecticut to Italian immigrants, Ernest Borgnine spent five years of his early childhood in Milan before returning the States for his education. Following a long stint in the Navy that ended after WW II, Borgnine enrolled in the Randall School of Dramatic Art in Hartford. Between 1946 and 1950, he worked with a theater troupe in Virginia and afterward appeared a few times on television before his 1951 film debut in "China Corsair". With receding hairline, broad, jowly face, caterpillar eyebrows, bulgy eyes, and a incongruent but charming gap-toothed grin, versatile veteran actor Ernest Borgnine's resemblance to a pug dog pretty much relegated him to character roles, but occasionally he was given the opportunity to play leads and when he did, proved himself a powerful performer . In 1953, he won considerable acclaim for his memorable portrayal of a ruthless, cruel sergeant in From Here to Eternity. He was also praised for his performance in the western "Bad Day at Black Rock".
Borgnine could easily have been forever typecast as the heavy, but in 1955, he proved his versatility and showed a sensitive side in the film version of Paddy Chayefsky's acclaimed television play "Marty". Borgnine's moving portrayal of a weak-willed, lonely middle-aged momma's boy attempting to find love in the face of a crushingly dull life earned him an Oscar, a British Academy Award, a Cannes Festival Award and an award from both the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review. After that, he seldom played bad guys and instead was primarily cast in "regular Joe" roles, with the notable exception of "The Vikings" in which he played the defiant son of a Viking leader.
In 1962, he was cast in the role that most baby boomers best remember him for: the anarchic, entrepreneurial Quentin McHale in the sitcom "McHale's Navy". During the '60s and '70s, Borgnine's popularity was at its peak and he appeared in many films, including a version of his show in 1964, "The Dirty Dozen" (1966) --and in television sequels inspired by the film — "Ice Station Zebra" (1968) and "The Wild Bunch" (1969). Follwing the demise of "McHale's Navy" in 1965, Borgnine did not regularly appear in series television for several years. However, he did continue his busy film career and also performed in television mini-series and movies. Notable features include "The Poseiden Adventure" (1972) and "Law and Disorder" (1974). Some of his best television performances can be seen in "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977), "Ghost on Flight 401" (1978) and a remake of "Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front" (1979). In 1984, Borgnine returned to series television starring opposite Jan Michael Vincent in the action-adventure series "Airwolf". The series ended in 1986 ; his career has continued to steam along though he generally plays much smaller roles. Between 1995 and 1997, he was a regular on the television sitcom "The Single Guy". In 1997, he also made a cameo appearance in Tom Arnold's remake of Borgnine's hit series "McHale's Navy".
Ernest Borgnine has always said that his greatest love is acting and his amazing prolific career includes appearances in over 100 feature films, three television series and he has lent his voice to such animated films as "All Dogs Go To Heaven 2" (1996) and more recently "Small Soldiers" (1998).
Borgnine is married to Tova (Traesnaes) Borgnine who heads her own cosmetics company. They make their home in Beverly Hills, California where Borgnine helps his wife between film projects. Borgnine was previously married to Rhoda Kemins (1949-58), actress Katy Jurado (1958-1963), Ethel Merman (1964) and Donna Rancourt(1965-1972). He has one daughter with Kemins and two children with Rancourt.
When not in front of the camera, Borgnine is active in numerous charities and tirelessly speaks at benefits throughout the country. He has earned several honorary doctorates from colleges across the United States as well as numerous Lifetime Achievement Awards. In 1996, he bought a bus and traveled across the United States to see the country and meet his many fans.
Borgnine has long been active in Freemasonry, holding the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. He is also a member of the Shriners. Borgnine is a recipient of the Grand Cross, which is the highest honor for service to the Scottish Rite. He is a member of the Lambda chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.