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Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino (his Italian parents would "Americanize" their names when he was a boy) in Hamden Connecticut in 1917, and he did not become an actor until he was in his thirties, and he seemed likely to never rise above secondary roles, and yet he became a major star in both movies AND television! He joined the Navy right after graduating high school, and stayed there for ten years, leaving when WWII ended. He decided he would like to act, but for four years he could not rise above mostly minor roles in regional theater. In 1949 he was noticed when he got a minor part on Broadway in Harvey, and two years later he moved to Hollywood, where at first he could only get minor movie and TV roles. He had his first "big" part as sadistic Sgt. Fatso Judson in Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity in 1953, and two years later he was selected to play the lead role in the movie version of Marty (the lead on TV had been played by Rod Steiger). Written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Delbert Mann, Marty is probably the best "little" movie ever made, and it won the Best Picture Oscar, and Borgnine took home the Best Actor Oscar (over four great other performances: Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock, James Dean in East of Eden. James Cagney in Love Me or Leave Me, and Frank Sinatra in The Man With the Golden Arm, all Oscar worthy!). That role and Oscar gave Borgnine a few chances to sometimes be a leading man, although he would mostly play character roles, In 1962 he got another major break when he got the lead in TV's McHale's Navy, playing the straight man to a great ensemble group of wacky comedians, and the show was very successful. Most people assumed he would retire at some point, after a long and distinguished career, but he just keeps on acting! From 1995 to 1997 he played a continuing supporting role in TV's The Single Guy, and from 1999 to 2009 he has supplied the voice for Spongebob Squarepant's hero, Mermaid Man, and throughout the years he has continued to do many movies and TV, including starring in the very final episode of TV's ER. Borgnine has had a pretty wild private life, and has married five times, including one to Katy Jurado, and a legendary bad marriage to Ethel Merman, where they separated when they returned from a brief honeymoon and divorced 32 days after their marriage. His fifth marriage lasted 37 years, and his wife Tova is much seen on TV, pitching a beauty cream. Ernest passed away in late 2012 at the age of 95.
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