Ernest Borgnine Navy 2

Actor Ernest Borgnine (b. 1917)

Ernest Borgnine (born January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012) was an Academy Award-winning American actor. He was born Ernesto Charles Borgnine in Hamden, Connecticut to Carlo Borgnine and Anna Boselli, immigrants from Modena, Italy. He is a World War II veteran, who joined the United States Navy after high school and served for ten years.

Acting career Edit

After a few years of drifting, he attended the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, Connecticut. Following graduation, he went to the famous Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. In 1949, he debuted on Broadway in Harvey.

In 1951 he moved to Los Angeles, California, receiving his big break in 1953's From Here to Eternity, playing the cruel "Fatso" who taunted and killed "Maggio", played by Frank Sinatra. Off-screen, the men were good friends.

In 1955, Borgnine starred in the drama Marty, which gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor. He subsequently appeared in many films sometimes in lead roles but more often supporting major stars. He is the earliest (chronological) recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor still alive.

From 1962 through 1966 he starred in the popular situation comedy television series McHale's Navy, and starred in the 1964 film version. Borgnine's later television work included a co-starring role (with Jan-Michael Vincent) as veteran helicopter pilot Dominic Santini in the action/espionage series Airwolf from 1984 to 1986.

Among his five wives were the late Ethel Merman (to whom he was wed for fewer than two months) and the late Mexican-born actress, Katy Jurado. He married Tova Traesnaes in 1972. Tova continues to run a successful cosmetics company (TOVA) from Beverly Hills which Ernest helps her with in his spare time.

Ernest Borgnine at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C on October 15, 2004

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.

In 1996, Borgnine toured the U.S. 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.

Since 1999, Borgnine has provided his voice talent to the 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), and has appeared on an episode of The Simpsons as himself. He has also recently appeared in television commercials.

He holds the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite of Masonry and has long been active in the Craft. He is also a recipient of the Grand Cross, which is the highest honor for service to the Scottish Rite.


  • He was given the middle name Charles, after Charles Gerson, the doctor who delivered him.
  • Supports the United States Democratic Party.
  • Has been married five times to:
  • 1. Rhoda Kemins (from 1948 - 1959)
  • 5. Tova Traesnaes (from 1972 - present)
  • Has one son, Christopher Borgnine born August 9, 1969 (with Donna Rancourt).
  • Has two daughters: Gina Kemins-Borgnine born August 18, 1952 (with Rhoda Kemins) and Diana Rancourt-Borgnine born December 29, 1970 (with Donna Rancourt).
  • Borgnine spent 10 years in the Navy prior to acting.
  • There is an instrumental techno track called "Theme From Ernest Borgnine" by the artist Squarepusher on the album 'Feed Me Weird Things' (1996, Rephlex Records UK)
  • Involved in an air crash in 1996.
  • Had both knees replaced in 1999.
  • Was the very first "center square" on "The Hollywood Squares" (1966) (during its premiere week in October 1966).
  • He auditioned for the lead role in Marty (1955) while shooting Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) in Lone Pine, California.
  • Has periodically performed as the "Grand Clown" for The Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since the 1970s.
  • Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1996.
  • His parents were Carlo Borgnine and Anna Boselli (old family countess), who had emigrated from Carpi (near Modena) Italy.
  • Is an active Freemason and is presently the Honorary Chairman of a program to support the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Center in Richmond.
  • Is a 33rd degree Master Mason
  • Has the distinction of appearing in more of the 100 Most Enjoyably Awful Movies of All Time as listed in Razzie Award-founder John Wilson's book "The Official Razzie Movie Guide" than any other actor - a total of four: The Adventurers (1970), The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), The Oscar (1966), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
  • He was made an honorary U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Terry Scott on October 15, 2004. He served in the U.S. Navy for ten years from 1935-1945 and left the service as a Gunner's Mate 1st Class.
  • While on location in Mexico filming Vera Cruz (1954), he and fellow cast member Charles Bronson found themselves with some extra time on their hands and decided to go to the nearest town to get some cigarettes. Still in full costume - including bandoliers and pistols - they mounted their horses and headed out. Along the way they were spotted by a truckful of Mexican "federales" - federal police - who mistook them for bandits and held them at gunpoint until their identities could be verified.
  • Speaks fluent Italian.
  • Referenced in 'Weird Al' Yankovic's song "Your Horoscope for Today."
  • His car licence plate is BORG9.
  • Former member of the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC).
  • Twice-wed Borgnine married thrice-wed Broadway diva Ethel Merman in 1964. Their marriage was dissolved after 32 days. They had announced their impending nuptials at the legendary New York night spot P.J. Clarke's, but Borgnine, who was riding high as the star of "McHale's Navy" (1962) at the time, said the marriage began unraveling on their honeymoon, when he received more fan attention than she did. The competitive Merman was left seething. "By the time we got home, it was hell on earth," Borgnine recalled in a 2001 interview. "And after 32 days I said to her, 'Madam, bye.'" Borgnine went on to marry a third time, but Merman remained single after her divorce. In her 1978 biography, she devoted a chapter of her autobiography to the marriage: It consisted of one blank page.
  • Walter Matthau's character in Grumpier Old Men claims a neighboring female "looks like Ernest Borgnine."
  • Borgnine, along with Tony Curtis, voiced opposition to the subject matter of the film Brokeback Mountain and vowed to not even watch it before voting for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of 2005.
  • Bruce Campbell wrote about his experiences working on the film version of McHale's Navy in his book If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, whom he described Borgnine as a real professional with the attitude of "Let's get this sucker in the can". Campbell recalled Borgnine resting alongside the film's cast outside on a very hot day, and waved off any of the concerned production assistants who offered him water.


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Preceded by
Marlon Brando
for On the Waterfront
Academy Award for Best Actor
for Marty
Succeeded by
Yul Brynner
for The King and I
Preceded by
'5th Oldest Living Actor'
as of January 1, 2006
Succeeded by


"Spencer Tracy was the first actor I've seen who could just look down into the dirt and command a scene. He played a set-up with Robert Ryan that way. He's looking down at the road and then he looks at Ryan at just the precise, right minute. I tell you, Rob could've stood on his head and zipped open his fly and the scene would've still been Mr Tracy's."

"The trick is not to become somebody else. You become somebody else when you're in front of a camera or when you're on stage. There are some people who carry it all the time. That, to me, is not acting. What you've gotta do is find out what the writer wrote about and put it into your mind. This is acting. Not going out and researching what the writer has already written. This is crazy!"

"Everything I do has a moral to it. Yes, I've been in films that have had shootings. I made The Wild Bunch (1969), which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it. Yeah."

"Ever since they opened the floodgates with Clark Gable saying, 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' somebody's ears pricked up and said, 'Oh boy, here we go!'. Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can't say three words without cursing. And I don't think that's right."

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