“I think we all have the urge to be a clown, whether we know it or not.” —Ernest Borgnine (1917–2012)
While clowning around in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section, I found this graffiti. Incorporating a very 1950s portrait of Ernest Borgnine, it is vibrant and full of life. It is good fun too.
Ermes Effron Borgnino was born in Hamden, Connecticut to Anna and Charles, who had emigrated from Italy. The world would come to know him as Ernest Borgnine.
After 10 years in the U.S. Navy, followed by an acting course at Randall School of Drama in Hartford, Connecticut, Mr. Borgnine’s lucky break came in 1949, when he made his acting debut in the Broadway production of Harvey; he played a male nurse.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1951, seeking work in the movies. With his performance in 1953’s From Here to Eternity as Sergeant “Fatso” Judson his career got the boost it needed. Many supporting roles, usually as the “heavy” in dramas and westerns, followed.
Borgnine’s greatest big screen role was against type in 1955’s Marty. As the title character in Paddy Chayefsky’s New York drama, Mr. Borgnine won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Marty Piletti, a shy and sensitive butcher. He had strong competition that year from established stars and matinee idols, Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra, James Dean and James Cagney. Mr. Borgnine’s award was well deserved; his performance is superb! I always cry when I watch Marty.
To baby boomers Mr. Borgnine will always be remembered as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale. From 1962 to 1966 he took another title role, this time on the small screen in the popular television series McHale’s Navy.
Mr. Borgnine died on the 8th of July, aged 95, in Los Angeles.