Legendary film and television actor Ernest Borgnine has died this afternoon from kidney failure, he was 95. His wife, Tova, and children were at his side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reports CNN.
After serving in the U.S. Navy in the Second World War, the gap-toothed Borgnine made the move into television and then film, forging out a six decade long career as a widely liked and respected character actor.
His first big break was the role of the cruel Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity” along with a few villain roles in films like “Vera Cruz” and “Bad Day at Black Rock”. In 1955 though came “Marty” in which he played a lovelorn butcher, a performance that won him the Best Actor Oscar over the likes of James Cagney, James Dean, Frank Sinatra and Spencer Tracy.
He worked with filmmaker Sam Peckinpah on both the infamous western “The Wild Bunch” and the trucker fugitive movie “Convoy”. Other memorable turns include a bullying train conductor in “Emperor of the North Pole”, Russian defector Boris Vaslov in the Alistair MacLean adaptation “Ice Station Zebra”, a loveable cab driver in a city of criminals in John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York”, a journalist along for the voyage in Disney’s “The Black Hole”, and an invalid cleaner in Andrew Niccol’s “Gattaca”.
He was also one of the less fortunate passengers on “The Poseidon Adventure”, a mentally disturbed oil worker in the original “The Flight of the Phoenix”, a gladiator school slave in “Barabbas”, an Army Major General in “The Dirty Dozen”, and the feared Viking warrior Ragnar in “The Vikings”.
Borgnine also forged out a highly successful small screen career, most notably playing Quinton McHale in legendary 60’s sitcom “McHale’s Navy” for four seasons. He also played helicopter pilot Dominic Santini in the mid-80’s series “Airwolf”, and was the voice of Mermaid Man in the animated “SpongeBob SquarePants”. He also did dozens of guest starring roles over the years, including an Emmy-nominated turn in the Finale of “ER”.
Known for being a hard worker with a cheery disposition, an infectious smile and a naughty sense of humour, Borgnine was a true old school star. Four years ago he appeared on a talk show on the Fox News channel where he was asked the secret to his longevity. His answer? “I masturbate a lot”.
Asked once whether he did drugs, he said “No, I’ve never done anything. At least, not to my knowledge. I once took a bunch of goofballs by accident. They looked like candy. They were in a little bowl at a party. I grabbed a hand full and went to town. That was some New Years Eve. I didn’t have a coherent thought till February.”