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Ernest Borgnine of 'Marty,' 'McHale's Navy' dead at 95

Ernest Borgnine is seen in the 1955 film 'Marty.' (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

July 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ernest Borgnine, who won a best-actor Oscar for his role as a lovesick butcher in "Marty," died Sunday at the age of 95.

His longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, said Borgnine died of renal failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife and children at his side.

"The priest gave a beautiful prayer, we all said amen and my dad blew out his last breath, and we were just stunned that how he just passed was the most incredibly beautiful thing," said Borgnine's son, Chris, who was by his father's side the final two months of his life. "It's hard when you see a loved one pass, and being there was an extremely difficult time."

Borgnine first attracted notice in the early 1950s in villain roles, notably as the vicious Fatso Judson who beat Frank Sinatra to death in "From Here to Eternity." Baby Boomers will best remember Borgnine in black and white as the scheming skipper of the 1960's TV comedy series "McHale's Navy."with the 1960s TV comedy "McHale's Navy."

In the low-budget film "Marty," which was based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play, Borgnine played a 34-year-old who fears he is so unattractive he will never find romance. Then, at a dance, he meets a girl with the same fear.

"The Oscar made me a star, and I'm grateful," Borgnine told an interviewer in 1966. "But I feel had I not won the Oscar I wouldn't have gotten into the messes I did in my personal life."

He had four marriages end in divorce. One to Broadway diva Ethel Merman lasted only 38 days. But in 1972, he found happiness with his fifth wife, Norwegian-born businesswoman Tova Traesnaes.

Borgnine said it was his mother who encouraged him to try acting after a 10-year stint in the Navy. He went on to appear in over 100 films, including "Ice Station Zebra," "The Adventurers," "Willard," "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Greatest" (as Muhammad Ali's manager), "Convoy," "Ravagers," "Escape from New York," "Moving Target" and "Mistress."

"He was really, up until the end, full of life," Chris Borgnine said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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