Ernest Borgnine (born Ermes Effron Borgnino; January 24, 1917)is an American actor of television and film. His career has spanned more than six decades. He was an unconventional lead in many films of the 1950s, including his Academy Award-winning turn in the 1955 film Marty. On television, he played Quinton McHale in the 1962-66 series McHale's Navy and co-starred in the mid-1980s action series Airwolf, in addition to a wide variety of other roles. Borgnine is also known for his role as Mermaid Man in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants. Borgnine earned an Emmy Award nomination at age 92 for his work on the series ER.
Borgnine joined the United States Navy in 1935, after graduation from James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut. He was discharged in 1941, but re-enlisted when the United States entered World War II and served until 1945 (a total of ten years), reaching the rank of Gunner's Mate 1st Class. He served aboard the destroyer USS Lamberton (DD-119). His military decorations included the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
In a British Film Institute interview about his life and career, Borgnine said of the war:
"After World War II we wanted no more part in war. I didn't even want to be a boy-scout. I went home and said that I was through with the Navy and so now, what do we do? So I went home to mother, and after a few weeks of patting on the back and, 'You did good,' and everything else, one day she said, 'Well?' like mothers do. Which meant, 'Alright, you gonna get a job or what?'"
In 2004, Borgnine received the honorary rank of Chief Petty Officer from the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott—the US Navy's highest ranking enlisted sailor at the time—for Borgnine's support of the Navy and naval families worldwide.
After the war was over he returned to his parents' home with no job and no direction. Since he wasn't willing to settle for a dead-end job at one of the factories, his mother encouraged him to pursue a more glamorous profession and suggested that his personality would be well-suited for the stage. He surprised his mother by taking the suggestion to heart, although his father was far from enthusiastic. After graduation, he auditioned and was accepted to the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, so-called for its audiences bartering their produce for admission during the Great Depression. In 1947, he landed his first stage role in State of the Union. Although it was a short role, he won over the audience. His next role was as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. In 1949, he had his Broadway debut in the role of a nurse in the play Harvey. More roles on stage led him to being a decades-long character actor.
In 1951, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he eventually received his big break in From Here to Eternity (1953), playing the cruel Sergeant "Fatso" Judson in charge of the stockade, who taunts fellow soldier Angelo Maggio (played by Frank Sinatra). Borgnine built a reputation as a dependable character actor and appeared in early film roles as villains, including movies like Johnny Guitar, Vera Cruz and Bad Day at Black Rock. But in 1955, the actor starred as a warm-hearted butcher in Marty, the film version of the television play of the same name, which gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor over Frank Sinatra and former Best Actors Spencer Tracy and James Cagney.
Borgnine's film career continued successfully through the 1960s and 1970s, including The Vikings, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, The Poseidon Adventure and The Black Hole. One of his most famous roles became that of Dutch, a member of The Wild Bunch in the 1969 Western classic from director Sam Peckinpah.
Of his role in 'The Wild Bunch', he later said, 'I did [think it was a moral film]. Because to me, every picture should have some kind of a moral to it. I feel that when we used to watch old pictures, as we still do I'm sure, the bad guys always got it in the end and the good guys always won out. Today it's a little different. Today it seems that the bad guys are getting the good end of it. There was always a moral in our story.
Borgnine's autobiography Ernie was published by Citadel Press in July 2008. Ernie is a loose, conversational recollection of highlights from his acting career and notable events from his personal life.
In the wake of the book's publication, he began a small promotional tour, visiting independent bookstores in the Los Angeles area to promote the book's release and meet some of his fans.