Nationality: American. Born: Ermes Effron Borgnino in Hamden, Connecticut, 24 January 1917 (some sources say 1915 or 1918). Education: Attended New Haven Public Schools; studied acting at Randall School of Dramatic Art, Hartford, Connecticut. Military Service: 1935–45—served in U.S. Navy, mainly as gunner's mate on destroyers. Family: Married 1) Rhoda Kemins, 1948 (divorced 1959), daughter: Nancy; 2) the actress Katy Jurado, 1959 (divorced 1963); 3) the singer Ethel Merman, 1964 (divorced 1964); 4) Donna Rancourt, 1964 (divorced 1972), children: Sharon and Christopher; 5) Tova Traesnaes Newman, 1972. Career: After graduation from high school worked as truck driver for short time; 1946–50—in repertory at Barber Theater, Abingdon, Virginia; 1951—film debut in
China Corsair (Nazzaro) (as Hu Chang); The Whistle at Eaton Falls (Siodmak) (as Bill Street); The Mob (Parrish) (as Joe Castro)
The Stranger Wore a Gun (de Toth) (as Bull Slager); From Here to Eternity (Zinnemann) (as Fatso)
Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray) (as Bart Lonergan); Demetrius and the Gladiators (Daves) (as Strabo); The Bounty Hunter (de Toth) (as Rachin); Vera Cruz (Aldrich) (as Donnegan)
Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges) (as Coley Trimble); Marty (Delbert Mann) (title role); Run for Cover (Nicholas Ray) (as Morgan); Violent Saturday (Fleischer) (as Stadt); The Last Command (Lloyd) (as Mike Radin); The Square Jungle (Jerry Hopper) (as Bernie Browne)
Jubal (Daves) (as Shep Horgan); The Catered Affair (Richard Brooks) (as Tom Hurley); The Best Things in Life Are Free (Curtiz) (as Lew Brown)
Three Brave Men (Dunne) (as Bernie Goldsmith)
The Vikings (Fleischer) (as King Ragnar); The Badlanders (Daves) (as John McBain); Torpedo Run (Pevney) (as Lt. Archer Sloan)
The Rabbit Trap (Leacock) (as Eddie Colt)
Man on a String (de Toth) (as Boris Mitrov); Pay or Die (Wilson) (as Lt. Joseph Petrosino)
Go Naked in the World (MacDougall) (as Pete Stratton); Il re di Poggioreale (Coletti); II giudizio universale ( The Last Judgment ) (De Sica); Barabba ( Barabbas ) (Fleischer) (as Lucius); Season of Passion (Norman) (as Roo); I briganti italiani ( Les Guerilleros ) (Camerini)
McHale's Navy (Montagne) (as Lt. Cdr. Quinton McHale)
Flight of the Phoenix (Aldrich) (as Trucker Cobb); The Oscar (Rouse) (as Barney Yale)
The Dirty Dozen (Aldrich) (as Gen. Worden); Chuka (Douglas) (as Sgt. Otto Hahnsbach)
The Legend of Lylah Clare (Aldrich) (as Barney Sheean); The Split (Flemyng) (as Bert Clinger); Ice Station Zebra (John Sturges) (as Boris Vaslov)
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah) (as Dutch Engstrom); Vengeance Is Mine (Buchs)
Los desperados ( A Bullet for Sandoval ) (Buchs) (as Don Pedro Sandoval); The Adventurers (Gilbert) (as Fat Cat); Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? ( War Games ) (Averback) (as Sheriff Harve)
Willard (Daniel Mann) (as Al Martin); Rain for a Dusty Summer (Lubin) (as dictator); Hannie Caulder (Kennedy) (as Emmett Clemens); Un uomo dalla pelle dura ( Ripped-Off ; The Boxer ) (Prosperi)
The Revengers (Daniel Mann) (as Hoop); The Poseidon Adventure (Neame) (as Mike Rogo); Bunny O'Hare (Oswald) (as Bill Green)
The Neptune Factor ( An Underwater Odyssey ; The Neptune Disaster ) (Petrie) (as Don "Mack" MacKay); Emperor of the North Pole ( Emperor of the North ) (Aldrich) (as Shack)
Law and Disorder (Passer) (as Cy)
Sunday in the Country (Trent) (as Adam Smith); The Devil's Rain (Fuest) (as Corbis); Hustle (Aldrich) (as Santoro)
Natale in Casa di Appuntamento ( Christmas at the Brothel ) (Nannuzzi); Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (Winner); Shoot (Hart) (as Lou)
The Prince and the Pauper ( Crossed Swords ) (Fleischer) (as John Canty); The Greatest (Gries) (as Angelo Dundee)
The Cops and Robin (Reisner—for TV); Convoy (Peckinpah) (as Lyle Wallace)
The Black Hole (Nelson) (as Harry Booth); Ravagers (Compton) (as Rann); The Double McGuffin (Camp) (as Firat)
When Time Ran Out ( Earth's Final Fury ) (Goldstone) (as Tom Conti)
Escape from New York (Carpenter) (as Cabbie); Deadly Blessing (Craven) (as Isaiah); High Risk (Raffill) (as Clint); Super Fuzz ( Supersnooper ) (Corbucci) (as Willy Dunlop)
Young Warriors (Foldes) (as Lt. Bob Carrigan); Blood Feud (Newell—for TV); Carpool (Swackhamer—for TV) (as Mickey Doyle)
The White Stallion (Fournier); Codename Wildgeese (Dawson) (as Fletcher); Love Leads the Way (Delbert Mann)
The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (McLaglen—for TV) (as Gen. Worden); Alice in Wonderland (Harry Harris) (as Lion)
Manhunt (Ludman) (as Ben Robeson); Isola del tesoro (Dawson)
Skeleton Coast ( Coast of Skeletons ) (Cardos) (as Col. Smith); The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (Katzin—for TV) (as Gen. Worden)
The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (Katzin—for TV) (as Gen. Worden); Spike of Bensonhurst (Morrissey) (as Baldo Cacetti); Jake Spanner, Private Eye (Katzin—for TV)
Ociano (Deodato—for TV); Turnaround
Laser Mission ( Soldier of Fortune ) (Davis) (as Prof. Braun); Any Man's Death (Clegg—for TV) (as Gantz); Last Match (Ludman); The Opponent (Martino) (as Victor); Appearances (Phelps—for TV) (as Emil Danzig); Moving Target (Mattei) (as Captain Morrison); Tides of War (Rossati)
Mistress (Primus) (as himself)
Tieraerztin Christine (Retzer—for TV) (as Dr. Gruber); Der Blaue Diamant (Retzer—for TV) (as Hans Kroger)
The Legend of O. B. Taggert ; Tieraerztin Christine II (Retzer—for TV) (as Dr. Gruber); Captiva Island (Biffar)
All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (Sabella, Leker) (voice)
McHale's Navy (Spicer) (as Cobra); Gattaca (Niccol) (as Caesar)
BASEketball (Zucker) (as Ted Denslow)
Current Biography 1956 , New York, 1956.
Ecran (Paris), July 1978.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 14 May 1981 and 14 October 1982.
Films Illustrated (London), June 1981.
Jacobs, A. J., "Borgnine's Lives," in Entertainment Weekly , 6 October 1995.
* * *
Ernest Borgnine, best known as a supporting player, has one of the most familiar faces in movies and television. It is a difficult one to forget; burly, gap-toothed, and pug-ugly, with bushy black eyebrows, and a smile that can suggest warmhearted affability or gleeful sadism. Borgnine has won acclaim playing roles appropriate to both smiles.
Portrayals in two Academy Award-winning films display these sides of his screen persona. In 1953, he co-starred as the brutal sergeant "Fatso" Judson who got his kicks treading on Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity . But two years later Borgnine, usually associated with villainous roles, especially in Westerns, did an about-face and won the Best Actor award as the lonely, gentle butcher in the title role of Marty , a part he got by default when Rod Steiger, the actor who originated the character of Marty in Paddy Chayefsky's award-winning television drama, was unable to do the film version because he was busy making the film version of the hit Broadway musical Oklahoma! Borgnine's familiarity with audiences stems in part from his stint on the long-running television sitcom McHale's Navy (1962–66), in which he starred as the scheming but good-hearted Captain McHale, playing mother hen to a wacky crew of misfits. Borgnine returned to series television in 1995, playing opposite comic Jonathan Silverman in the NBC sitcom The Single Guy .
In films, however, Borgnine's commanding presence has been put to its best use in menacing or villainous roles. One of his most memorable performances was as a weary member of a doomed gang of outlaws in a changing West in the Sam Peckinpah classic The Wild Bunch , which underwent a major restoration and theatrical rerelease in 1995 to mark the film's 25th anniversary. Whether in Westerns, disaster films, or biblical epics, Borgnine is at his most sublime when in a lumbering, blustering rage.
—Donald Liebenson, updated by John McCarty