The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

End Credits #1: Cinema's 2012 Lost Treasures Ernest Borgnine


Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012)


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Star of From Here to Eternity Burt Lancaster was also a film producer and in 1955, along with partner Harold Hecht, released Marty starring Ernest Borgnine who passed away on July 8, 2012. He was 95. Borgnine started out playing some really mean, snarly dudes lending “heavy" support to such films as The Mob starring Broderick Crawford (1951), first paired with "baddie" Lee Marvin in The Stranger Wore a Gun starring Randolph Scott (1953), and especially as the sadistic Sgt. 'Fatso' Judson in From Here to Eternity (1954) starring Burt Lancaster.

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Continuing his string of efficacious self-centred types, he made unforgettable impressions again with Randolph Scott in The Bounty Hunter, Vera Cruz again with Lancaster, and Johnny Guitar (all 1954), plus the second paring with co-villain Lee Marvin both cast as foils to star Spencer Tracy in the classic Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). Then came his big break starring role totally against type as a shy butcher with an inferiority complex who finds love in the Academy Award winning Marty, when producers Lancaster and Hecht felt that the public would not want to pay to see in the theatre what they saw on television for free: namely star Rod Steiger reprising his Emmy winning role. Borgnine won the Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal.

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He continued to star or co-star in many other noteworthy films such as Violent Saturday (only this time playing an Amish adversary to Lee Marvin's villain in 1955), Jubal (1956) starring Glen Ford and co-starring Rod Steiger, and again with Ford in Torpedo Run (1958). He starred in Pay or Die, and Man on a String (both 1960), appeared in Barabbas  (1961) starring Anthony Quinn, and enjoyed the opportunistic starring role in the comedy McHale's Navy (1964). This is the role for which he would really become famous, reprising it from the hit TV series of the same name (1962 - 1965). He lent strong support to a couple of very good films for director Robert Aldrich: The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) starring Jimmy Stewart, and the very popular The Dirty Dozen (1967) this time starring Lee Marvin. He worked with his Bad Day at Black Rock director John Sturges again in the far less artistically successful Ice Station Zebra (1968), and in 1969 most memorably co-starred in the greatest Western ever made: Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (See: Opening Up A Treasure).

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Borgnine would go on to appear (as he had throughout his career) in numerous other films and television programmes most notably re-teamed with his "Wild Bunch" co-star William Holden in the little seen The Revengers (1972) for which he's the best part about it. Borgnine doesn't just chew, he devours, the scenery as a wildly opportunistic, unscrupulous convict. None of these parts, however, would come close to having the emotional impact he made as Dutch Engstrom in Peckinpah's magnum opus.  


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In the twilight (but far from the end) of his career, Borgnine appeared in the futuristic Gattaca (1997), with another actor in a small but effective role Gore Vidal who passed away July 31, 2012 at age 86, whom I will pay tribute to in next week's blog.