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(CBS/AP) Ernest Borgnine, the beefy screen star known for blustery, often villainous roles, but who won the Best Actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955, died Sunday. He was 95.
His longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, told The Associated Press that Borgnine died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his family by his side.
He did not have the face, or the smile, of a classic movie star. But Borgnine certainly had the heart of one, whether in a drama, such as “Marty,” or a comedy, like the 1960s sitcom “McHale’s Navy.”
Ermes Effron Borgnino was born in 1917, the son of Italian immigrants. He lived in Italy for a while as a child, then came back to the United States, where he joined the U.S. Navy, serving throughout World War II.
When the war ended, Borgnine tried his hand at a few things, until his mother suggested he try acting.
He caught on fairly quickly, appearing on Broadway and some early television roles.
Then, Borgnine’s first big role, as the bully Fatso Judson in the movie “From Here to Eternity.”
A character actor, a “heavy,” was born . . .
. . . Until an unexpectedly gentle role came up in 1955, with a winning performance. The role of “Marty,” a sweet-natured Everyman, living with his mother, trying to find love, won Borgnine the Academy Award:
“I just want to thank my mother for giving me the idea to get into this wonderful profession,” he said, accepting the Oscar.
His next big triumph came when art imitated life, joining the Navy again as Lieutenant Commander Quentin McHale in the TV show “McHale’s Navy.”
After that, a string of action movies, from “The Dirty Dozen” to “The Poseidon Adventure.”
Younger viewers might know him more as the voice of Mermaid Man in “Spongebob Squarepants.”
Borgnine’s biggest kick, however, was going out and meeting people – even making a documentary about himself driving around the country in a big bus: “See, this is what it’s all about – living!”
Ernest Borgnine knew what it was all about.
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