Ernest Borgnine turns the big 9-5 today! One of the most prolific, well-respected character actors of all time, Borgnine has appeared in over 200 films. He’s starred in/been an ensemble player in several television series, and thanks to a voiceover role on SpongeBob SquarePants, he’s recently acquired a whole new generation of fans. At 95, Ernest Borgnine is still going strong.
Born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, Borgnine never thought he’d be an actor. It was at the urging of his mother (“Have you ever thought of becoming an actor? You always like to make a darn fool of yourself in front of people. Why don’t you give it a try?”) that he entered the field. We’re so grateful that he did!
After graduating high school, Borgnine joined the Navy in 1935, ended his service in 1941, and went right back in again when World War II broke out. Once he set his sights upon acting, he first attended Yale University, but then moved on to the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, CT to concentrate solely on the dramatic arts. After significant stage work at the Barter Theater in Virginia and time on Broadway in “Harvey”, Borgnine appeared as the evil “Nargola” on the popular 1951 children’s television show, Captain Video and his Video Rangers. In 1953 he played “Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson” in From Here to Eternity, but the role with which Borgnine would forever be associated came in 1955. Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s television play of the same name, Borgnine auditioned for, and won the part – and the Best Actor Oscar that year – for playing the title role in Marty:
A big screen star, Borgnine soon conquered the small screen as well. In 1963 he made his first of many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and was asked to play the lead in a dramatic show called Seven Men Against the Sea, which as Borgnine explains in the following clip, eventually became the 1964 comedy McHale’s Navy:
Borgnine began his run occupying center square on the popular game show Hollywood Squares in 1966, starred in the film The Poseidon Adventure in 1972, and appeared in the short-lived series Future Cop in 1976-77. In ‘77 he played “The Centurion” in Franco Zeffirelli’s TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, and from 1984-86 he was back starring in a TV series again, this time as “Dominic Santini” in the action-adventure show Airwolf:
After playing “Manny the Doorman” on the mid-’90s show The Single Guy and voicing “Carface” on the animated TV series All Dogs Go To Heaven, in 1999 Borgnine began lending his voice to SpongeBob SquarePants‘ “Mermaid Man”, thrilling girl scouts and adults alike with his maniacal catch phrase, “EVIIIIIIL”:
Continuing to stay active in both film and television, Ernest Borgnine shows no signs of slowing down. You can next see him as “Rex Page” in the film The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, due out later this year.
Happy birthday, Ernest!! Here’s to many, many more!
- by Adrienne Faillace