R.I.P. Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)

Academy Award-winning American film and television actor Ernest Borgnine has passed away from renal failure in Los Angeles, California, aged 89. The son of Italian immigrants, Borgnine was born in Hamden, Connecticut in 1917 and served in the United States Navy during World War II, after which he decided to pursue a career on the stage. Joining Virginia’s Barter Theatre, Borgnine earned rave reviews for his role as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which opened the doors to Broadway where he was able to develop his skills as a character actor.

After moving to Los Angeles, Borgnine made his film debut in 1951’s China Corsair but his big breakthrough came two years later with an acclaimed supporting turn as Staff Sergeant “Fatso” Judson in the Oscar darling From Here to Eternity; he would subsequently find himself the recipient of an Academy Award, taking home the Best Actor gong for his work in Marty (1955). Despite a steady stream of film roles, Borgnine made the leap to the small screen for the lead in the classic American sit-com McHale’s Navy, which was based upon an episode of the dramatic anthology series Alcoa Presents entitled ‘Seven Against the Sea’. McHale’s Navy ran for 138 episodes between 1962 and 1968, with Borgnine also appearing in the 1964 feature film spin-off of the same name, along with a cameo in the 1997 remake starring Tom Arnold.

Borgnine continued to work extensively both in film and television for the remainder of his career, appearing in features such as The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Black Hole (1979) and Escape from New York (1981), as well as TV productions such as All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) and The Last Days of Pompeii (1984). He enjoyed another lead role alongside Jan-Michael Vincent in the TV series Airwolf (1984-1987) and also reprised the part of Major General Worden in three made-for TV Dirty Dozen sequels – The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985), The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987) and The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988).

In later years, Borgnine remained ever active, with credits in the likes of Home Improvement (1991), The Simpsons (1993), Gattaca (1997), SponeBob SquarePants (1999-2012), Walker, Texas Ranger (2000), A Grandpa for Christmas (2007) and Red (2010), as well as an Emmy-nominated turn in the two-part finale of ER in 2009.

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