Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine dead at 95 in L.A

Sun Jul 8, 2012 7:19pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Ernest Borgnine, whose bulldog appearance made him a natural for tough-guy roles in films like "The Wild Bunch" but won an Oscar for playing a sensitive loner in "Marty," died on Sunday at the age of 95, his longtime publicist said.

Borgnine, who also starred as a maverick World War Two patrol-boat skipper in the popular 1960s television comedy "McHale's Navy," died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he had gone for a medical checkup on Tuesday, spokesman Harry Flynn said.

With his gruff voice and gap-toothed leer, Borgnine was on the verge of being typecast early in his career. That followed a string of convincing bad-guy roles in "Bad Day at Black Rock" in 1955, "Johnny Guitar" in 1954 and 1953's "From Here to Eternity," in which his sadistic Sergeant Fatso terrorized and eventually killed Frank Sinatra's character.

But Borgnine broke the stereotype with a rare leading-man role in 1955's "Marty," playing a warm-hearted New York butcher who lamented, "One fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it."

Critic Bosley Crowther described Borgnine's Oscar-winning performance as "a beautiful blend of the crude and strangely gentle and sensitive."

Some critics hinted that Borgnine was a "Marty" in real life, but the actor, who was married five times, took exception by saying, "I'm no playboy, but I'm no dumb slob either."

"Ernie is the nicest man I've ever worked with," said Sidney Lanfield, who directed him in "McHale's Navy." "When he says, 'Hello! How are you?' or 'Glad to see you!' you can bet the line has not been rehearsed."

Much of Borgnine's other work was as a character actor in more than 60 movies. They included "The Vikings" (1958)," "The Flight of the Phoenix" (1965), "The Dirty Dozen" (1968), Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" (1969) and "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972).   Continued...

Actor Ernest Borgnine is shown in a scene from his 1971 film "Hannie Caulder" in this undated publicity photograph. REUTERS/Paramount Pictures/Handout