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« Box Office Special. A Sticky Cartoon Strip-a-Thon ! | Main | Cast This! "Hocus Pocus" Sequel »
Sunday
Jul082012

Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)

The Oscar winning character actor, star of 1955's Best Picture Marty, died today at 95. His career was so healthy that his IMDb page requires much scrolling through 200+ titles. The prolific filmography obscures the fact that he didn't even get started until this thirties.  Starting late isn't always a drawback when you've got the goods... particular for character actors; you can't have matinee idol looks and sell an everyman schlub like "Marty". Borgnine's career was so enduring that his latest completed role was a starring one: The Man Who Shook The Hand of Vicente Fernandez (2012) just recently debuted on the festival circuit

A career that long is bound to have its rough patches, its controversies and divisiveness. Borgnine generated some deserved internet ire seven years back for publicly refusing to see Brokeback Mountain (2005) despite voting on the Oscars. [The Film Experience's position on this has always been that AMPAS members should be required to see all nominees in order to vote on a win in any particular category. Currently you have to for foreign film but most categories do not require that you actually watch the movies.]

Ernest Borgnine bullying Monty Clift in "From Here To Eternity"Borgnine had been very active for a 90something actor. In addition to Vicente Fernandez, he'd done a lot of television, voicework on Spongebob Squarepants and popped up in a memorable cameo in the action comedy Red (2010). But it's his work in the 1950s and 1960s that will be his legacy: McHale's Navy, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch and two best picture winners From Here to Eternity (1953) and Marty (1955) among them.

Have you ever seen Marty? What role first pops to mind when you think of Borgnine?

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Reader Comments (26)

I really can't think of any other role more defining than Marty. What a lovely great-written movie! Betsy Blair was such an interesting actress.

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Despite his problematic politics, one shouldn't say mean things about the deceased, only good.

Ernest Borgnine is dead. Good.

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

You stay classy, Mike.

Personally, my favorite Borgnine performance is in Emperor of the North. Pure deranged awesomeness.

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I usually think of Rocky. But he was not even on that (it was Burgess Meredith). Go figure

July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

The Poseidon Adventure and Marty. And Ethel Merman.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Besides the obvious choices 'Marty' and 'From Here to Eternity', the first performance I have on my mind is his lonely widower in the Sean-Penn-segment of '11'09"01 - September 11', which made this part of the film one of its highlights.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrW

Borgnine generated some deserved internet ire seven years back for publicly refusing to see Brokeback Mountain (2005) despite voting on the Oscars. [The Film Experience's position on this has always been that AMPAS members should be required to see all nominees in order to vote on a win in any particular category. Currently you have to for foreign film but most categories do not require that you actually watch the movies.]

----

I'm of the opinion people not currently active in the movie business shouldn't be granted the privilege of voting for movies.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I think the oscars voters should be like the Emmys, in which they are all required to watch all the nominees before they can vote.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Infamous

4Rtful-That wouldn't have stopped Borgnine from voting. He has been consistently working forever. The watch everything rule would be a better requirement.

For Borgnine, I always think first of The Dirty Dozen-such a fun movie.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Andy Griffith was a lot cooler.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

4rtful--

Did you even read what Nathaniel wrote? Borgnine was working right up until the very end.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

Earth loses an Oscar Winner. Heaven/Hell gains a homophobe.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Also, 4rtful, you do realize that such a rule like you proposed would hurt older actresses the most? Because it gets so hard for them to find roles as they age, the odds are considerably greater that they'll just say, "Screw it, I'm going back to the theater/going to television/retiring early." The Academy would become even more dominated by older men than it currently is.

Add to that the difficulty of determining what "active" means. A year since they had their last role? Five years? Ten years? Anything short of a press release saying "I'm done"?

I don't see the advantages of such a rule.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

interesting he was such a homophobe....i have read that Ethel Merman was actually a dude. he married a dude for a month.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy.

@Liz

Older actresses still vote for younger actresses all the time in Best Actress, maybe the solution is the branches vote for the nominees and the winners of their respective categories. You might say that it would repeat the season but the reality is your Oscar history would matter more — lets give it to Annette Bening, Glenn Close etc.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

It's hard to speak ill of the dead, but despite his long legacy, I didn't think that highly of Borgnine's work I've seen. "Marty" was nothing special, and certainly not best picture/actor worthy. I've been more impressed with his television work in later years. I should revisit his earlier films. All I've seen so far is "Marty" and "From Here to Eternity." It would be easy to dismiss his homophobia as "old guard" or simply a product of his times, but I'd have to think that in all the years of his life and career choices, he had to at least met some gays along the way to have some kind of understanding and empathy for their experiences, even if he didn't understand them. Maybe that's too much to ask from a man approaching 100, but it's not like he chose to be a construction worker for his life's work. That's VERY hard for me to overlook. It doesn't help that "Brokeback Mountain" just premiered on Showtime this weekend, so all of that drama came flooding back to me again. Anyway, a legend all the same though, so RIP.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

The Poseidon Adventure is always the first film that comes to mind when his name is mentioned and the funny vibe that he and Stella Stevens had throughout most of the movie. Then From Here to Eternity although his role was small, he made a strong impact.

I've seen Marty, it was a nice quiet picture but I never understood the Best Picture win.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

For God's sake, people - Borgnine was never some raging homophobe. For him to be thought of or depicted as such - in obituaries, no less - does the man a grave disservice. The worst you can say about him is that he made a mildly distasteful comment six years ago about a controversial movie that failed to win the Oscar for best picture. And for this the man's name gets dragged through the mud on the occasion of his death. Good job, internet!

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

4rtful--

Older actresses still vote for younger actresses all the time in Best Actress,

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take from this statement. Okay, let's say that they do. The point is that, under your system, there's an excellent chance that the older actresses wouldn't be voting at all because they would no longer be Academy members.

Regardless of who they vote for*, it's better to have a more diverse Academy in both age and gender, and under your system, it would be less diverse.

*Of course, voting rights shouldn't be revoked because of who the voters are planning on voting for. You're not actually making that argument, are you?

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

There's something that needs fixing and in the end I know that the problem is generational. Which is why my initial solution was to revoke the voting privilege of older members no longer active in the movie business. Their conservatism shows in male acting categories, in the lack of color in Best Actress, and even age: Streep, Hepburn, Tandy are exceptions to the rule, but there's still a rule.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

My brother and I saw Marty on TV when we were kids and it immediately became our shorthand for anything unbearably dull. When we were bored to tears, we would ask each other, What do you want to do, Marty?

But when I think of Ernest Borgnine, character actor, I think first of The Wild Bunch, then McHale's Navy. McHale was such a perfect role for Borgnine, a funny crafty conniving character that made use of Borgnine's 10 years service in the Navy. The last time I saw him was when he popped up in Red.

But when people work for decades and are OLD, you see holdovers of ideas from another era, many of which you hope had been dead for years. And I wonder what makes ideas curdle in a personality, where outspokenness becomes retaining a calcified prejudice? My own personal preference for ancient actors is those who hold tight to the artistic spirit, like John Gielgud murmuring entire Shakespeare text to himself during a long taxi ride to keep his memory flexible and fresh.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Radical artistry is not a function of age. Members of the academy who lived through the blacklist, refused to name names, struggled to make movies that dared to raise social issues, fought for fairness in their profession, are among the members most committed to artistic freedom. Younger members who haven't been through those fires may be more conservative, more prey to money, their own image, and falling in line with current fashion.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

adri -- that's a really good point. but i think "radical artistry" needs to change to be "conservatism" or "liberalism" since one can be young and close minded or young and open minded and older people also have the same choices of character, whether or not they've lived through any particular experience.

July 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Totally agree with you, Nathaniel.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Ted Denslow in BASEketball. "Now your kids with your loud music, and your Dan Fogleberg, your Zima, hula hoops and pac-man video games, don't you see? People today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds! "

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLwoodPDowd

Are you the internet police, Roark? Borgnine's publicist perhaps? Get outta here with that shit.

July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKJD
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