Ernest Borgnine reported dead
Ernest Borgnine was bursting at the seams with life.
Even though he was 95, I can’t think of a time I’d seen him recently when he didn’t seem to leap out of the screen with enthusiasm.
In fact, I remember him being interviewed on a news program in the past few years. The host asked him what his secret was for looking so much younger than he was. At first, Borgnine deferred, but then leaned in and whispered it. The mike picked it up clearly, and we all heard it. Let’s just say that, even into his nineties, Ernest Borgnine was the master of his domain.
Ernest Borgnine could play a big lovable lunk, or a cruel sadist. There was always something about him that said blue collar. He won a Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for playing Marty, a butcher. In the popular McHale’s Navy series, he was the leader of a PT crew, mischievously doing the right thing…without regard to upper class protocol.
His geek-friendly roles were many:
- He appeared twice on Captain Video
- He was a stand out as the lecherous boss in Willard
- He joined Ben Gazzara and Walter Pidgeon in The Neptune Factor
- He was the leader of a group of Satanists in The Devil’s Rain (which also featured William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino…and John Travolta)
- In the Future Cop TV series, he had Michael Shannon as a robot partner
- He starred in a TV movie version of John G. Fuller’s (Incident at Exeter, The Interrupted Journey) book, The Ghost of Flight 401
- He was in Disney’s big budget movie The Black Hole
- He was in Super Fuzz
- For geeks, his role as Cabbie in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York is one of his best
- Others will think of him first as the mechanic Dominic in the Airwolf series
- He was a lion in an all-star version of Alice in Wonderland on TV (including Martha Raye, Donald O’Connor, and Sammy Davis, Jr.)
- He was on the Highway to Heaven (and later, Touched by an Angel)
- Brandon Lee was sent on a Laser Mission to rescue Ernest Borgnine as a professor
- He was Grandfather in Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders
- He started a successful voice work phase with All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (as Carface…a role he would repeat in the series)
- He did a voice on Pinky and the Brain
- In Gattaca, there were genetically engineered superpeople…Ernest Borgnine costarred with Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Jude Law
- He had a cameo in the Tom Arnold/Tim Curry version of McHale’s Navy in 1997
- Hearkening back his work in The Dirty Dozen, he was a rogue action figure in Joe Dante’s Small Soldiers
- He appeared in the Bigfoot comedy, Strange Wilderness (with Steve Zahn and Justin Long)
- He was Big Jim in The Wishing Well
- In 2010, he was in the straight-up science fiction movie, Enemy Mind
- Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren starred in RED…and Ernest Borgnine kept the records
- Millions of kids know him as superhero Mermaid Man (reuniting him with his McHale’s Navy co-star, Tim Conway, as Barnacle Boy) on SpongeBob SquarePants
Despite his undeniable mainstream success (From Here to Eternity, Bad Day at Black Rock), his geek contributions are truly significant.
Good-bye, Ernest Borgnine…the world is a little more pompous without you.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.