(Dave’s note: My Esteemed Colleague® Arto is a huge film fan who introduced me to Ernest Borgnine several years ago. I wanted Arto to write this tribute, but he decided that spending time with his mother – who arrived in San Diego from Finland yesterday and who is meeting his wife for only the second time – was more important. I hope you will all join me in the comments section to evaluate his life priorities … I’m only half joking ;). I’m covering for him today, and he’ll probably be back tomorrow… or else he better watch his back before I sic Kermit on him! I’m fully joking about that one. Kermit has better things to do.)
As someone who believes that funny named individuals make the world a better place, I was saddened to hear of the death of famed Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his lead role in 1957’s Marty.
Born to Italian immigrant parents in Connecticut, with the impressive moniker Ermes Effron Borgnino, the actor served in the United States Navy for 10 years before becoming an actor. Though he failed to win a Navy Cross medal (thus making him ineligible for one of our most popular posts ever), he nonetheless had a distinguished career and received an honorary title of Chief Petty Officer in 1954, nearly a decade after being honorably discharged.
Returning to his parents’ home, and facing few career prospects, Ermes’ mother suggested he go into entertainment. As he later recounted:
She said, `You always like getting in front of people and making a fool of yourself, why don’t you give it a try?’ I was sitting at the kitchen table and I saw this light. No kidding. It sounds crazy. And 10 years later, I had Grace Kelly handing me an Academy Award.
Like Archibald Leach and Benedict Cumberbatch before him, Mr. Borgnino had to decide whether to adopt a stage name or keep his unusual moniker, and settled somewhere between the two camps, swapping a few letters to become Ernest Borgnine.
Whatever the reasoning, it worked out well for the fella described as a “movie star with the face of a workingman.” Aside from his fabled film career, Borgnine also had several starring roles on television, as well as some notable works later in his career. He voiced the elderly superhero Mermaid Man in SpongeBob Squarepants (which we only hope becomes the name of a real person sometime soon so we can feature it on our blog), and also received an Emmy nomination at the age of 92 for his work on ER.
Ninety two years old! I think it’s a neck-and-neck battle between Ernest Borgnine’s Emmy nomination and Oberia Coffin‘s 32+ years of life(!) as the most impressive accomplishment of any funny-named person over the age of 90.
Rest in peace, to one of the all time greats, Ermes Effron Borgnino. It was a good life!