As you undoubtedly have heard by now, Hollywood lost its oldest surviving best actor Oscar winner Sunday with the death, at age 95, of Ernest Borgnine.
Borgnine won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a lonely meat cutter, the title role, in the 1955 film “Marty.” Being a fan both of Borgnine, who has ties to the mid-valley — more on that in a minute — and classic cinema, I rented the movie several years ago but didn’t care for it all that well.
I can’t recall exactly what I didn’t like about it, but I think I found it sort of slow moving and sappy, with an ending I didn’t appreciate. But don’t take my word for it that it’s something of a dud — in addition to Borgnine’s honor, the film also snared the best picture Oscar, so it must have had something going for it.
Shortly after I started at the DH in 1990, our cops reporter at the time, Marilyn Mongtomery, mentioned that Borgnine was spotted periodically at a Harrisburg restaurant known as the Vault. Marilyn had grown up in Harrisburg, and as the story went, Borgnine had bought an RV from one of the manufacturers in that area, and when he returned to the mid-valley to have it serviced, he would dine at the Vault. I have no reason to doubt it’s true, though I never saw Borgnine myself; I don’t make it to Harrisburg all that often.
(The other Hollywood-in-the-mid-valley story that continues t0 circulate is that Sam Elliott has a ranch outside of Brownsville. I don’t doubt that tale’s veracity either, though again, I have never personally spotted Elliott).
Anyway, in honor of Borgnine, one of the busiest and most prolific actors in entertainment history — I told news editor Kim Jackson that, if he and I were to have made a movie, we likely could’ve gotten Borgnine to play in it because it seemed he would do just about anything — here is this week’s list.
It’s my Top 7 Borgnine roles:
1) Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale in the TV show “McHale’s Navy,” which ran from 1962 to 1966. The photo above shows Borgnine as McHale.
2) Rogo, a passenger on a tidal-wave-swamped ocean liner in the 1972 film “The Poseidon Adventure.”
3) Gen. Worden, the soldier atop the chain of command in the 1967 classic, “The Dirty Dozen.”
4) Jonathan, an angel-type character on a 1974 episode of “Little House on the Prairie” titled “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
5) Antonio Birelli, an aging gangster on a 1999 episode of “Early Edition” titled “The Last Untouchable.”
6) Earl Gianelli, a professional wrestler known as Mr. White Death, on a 1982 “Magnum, P.I.” episode of the same name.
7) Dominic Santini, sidekick/mentor of chopper pilot Stringfellow Hawk in the 1984-86 TV show “Airwolf.”