Born Ermes Effron Borgnino in Hamden, Connecticut
to Italian immigrants, Ernest Borgnine spent five years of
his early childhood in Milan before returning the States for
his education. Following a long stint in the Navy that ended
after WW II, Borgnine enrolled in the Randall School of Dramatic
Art in Hartford. Between 1946 and 1950, he worked with a theater
troupe in Virginia and afterward appeared a few times on television
before his 1951 film debut in "China
Corsair". With receding hairline, broad, jowly
face, caterpillar eyebrows, bulgy eyes, and a incongruent but
gap-toothed grin, versatile veteran actor Ernest Borgnine's
resemblance to a pug dog pretty much relegated him to character
roles, but occasionally he was given the opportunity to play
leads and when he did, proved himself a powerful performer
. In 1953, he won considerable acclaim for his memorable portrayal
of a ruthless, cruel sergeant in From Here to Eternity. He
was also praised for his performance in the western "Bad
Day at Black Rock".
Borgnine could easily have been forever typecast as the heavy, but in 1955, he
proved his versatility and showed a sensitive side in the film version of Paddy
Chayefsky's acclaimed television play "Marty".
Borgnine's moving portrayal of a weak-willed, lonely middle-aged momma's boy
attempting to find love in the face of a crushingly dull life earned him an Oscar,
a British Academy Award, a Cannes Festival Award and an award from both the New
York Film Critics and the National Board of Review. After that, he seldom played
bad guys and instead was primarily cast in "regular Joe" roles, with
the notable exception of "The Vikings" in
he played the defiant son of a Viking leader.
In 1962, he was cast in the role that most baby boomers best remember him for:
the anarchic, entrepreneurial Quentin McHale in the sitcom "McHale's
the '60s and '70s, Borgnine's popularity was at its peak and he appeared in many
films, including a version of his show in 1964, "The
Dirty Dozen" (1966) --and in television sequels inspired by the film
Station Zebra" (1968) and "The Wild Bunch"(1969).
Follwing the demise of "McHale's Navy" in
1965, Borgnine did not regularly appear in series television for several years.
he did continue his busy film career and also performed in television mini-series
and movies. Notable features include "The Poseiden Adventure"(1972)
and "Law and Disorder" (1974). Some
television performances can be seen in "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977),
on Flight 401" (1978) and a remake of "Remarque's
All Quiet on the Western Front" (1979). In 1984, Borgnine returned
series television starring opposite Jan Michael Vincent in the action-adventure
The series ended in 1986 ; his career has continued to steam along though he
generally plays much smaller roles. Between 1995 and 1997, he was a regular on
the television sitcom "The Single Guy".
In 1997, he also made a cameo appearance in Tom Arnold's remake of Borgnine's
Ernest Borgnine has always said that his greatest love is acting and his amazing
prolific career includes appearances in over 100 feature films, three television
series and he has lent his voice to such animated films as "All
Dogs Go To Heaven 2" (1996) and more recently "Small
Borgnine is married to Tova (Traesnaes) Borgnine who heads her own cosmetics
company. They make their home in Beverly Hills, California where Borgnine helps
his wife between film projects. Borgnine was previously married to Rhoda
Kemins (1949-58), actress Katy Jurado (1958-1963), Ethel
Merman (1964) and Donna Rancourt(1965-1972). He has one daughter with Kemins and two children with Rancourt.
When not in front of the camera, Borgnine is active in numerous charities and
tirelessly speaks at benefits throughout the country. He has earned several honorary
doctorates from colleges across the United States as well as numerous Lifetime
Achievement Awards. In 1996, he bought a bus and traveled across the United States
to see the country and meet his many fans.
Borgnine has long been active in Freemasonry,
holding the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. He is also a
member of the Shriners. Borgnine is a recipient of the Grand
Cross, which is the highest honor for service to the Scottish
Rite. He is a member of the Lambda chapter of the Delta Kappa