Oscar-winning star Ernest Borgnine dies at 95

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ernest Borgnine, the beefy screen star known for blustery, often villainous roles, but who won the best-actor Oscar for playing against type as a lovesick butcher in “Marty” in 1955, died Sunday. He was 95.

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

Borgnine, who endeared himself to a generation of Baby Boomers with the 1960s TV comedy “McHale’s Navy,” 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.”

Then came “Marty,” a low-budget film based on a Paddy Chayefsky television play that starred Rod Steiger. 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.

“Sooner or later, there comes a point in a man’s life when he’s gotta face some facts,” Marty movingly tells his mother at one point in the film. “And one fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain’t got it. I chased after enough girls in my life. I-I went to enough dances. I got hurt enough. I don’t wanna get hurt no more.”

The realism of Chayefsky’s prose and Delbert Mann’s sensitive direction astonished audiences accustomed to happy Hollywood formulas. Borgnine won the Oscar and awards from the Cannes Film Festival, New York Critics and National Board of Review.

Mann and Chayefsky also won Oscars, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hailed the $360,000 “Marty” as best picture over big-budget contenders “The Rose Tattoo,” “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Picnic” and “Mister Roberts.”

“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.”

Those messes included four failed marriages, including one in 1964 to singer Ethel Merman that lasted less than six weeks.

But Borgnine’s fifth marriage, in 1973 to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes, endured and brought with it an interesting business partnership. She manufactured and sold her own beauty products under the name of Tova and used her husband’s rejuvenated face in her ads.

During a 2007 interview with the AP, Borgnine expressed delight that their union had reached 34 years. “That’s longer than the total of my four other marriages,” he commented, laughing heartily.

Although still not a marquee star until after “Marty,” the roles of heavies started coming regularly after “From Here to Eternity.” Among the films: “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “Johnny Guitar,” “Demetrius and the Gladiators,” “Vera Cruz.”

Director Nick Ray advised the actor: “Get out of Hollywood in two years or you’ll be typed forever.” Then came the Oscar, and Borgnine’s career was assured.

He played a sensitive role opposite Bette Davis in another film based on a Chayefsky TV drama, “The Catered Affair,” a film that was a personal favorite. It concerned a New York taxi driver and his wife who argued over the expense of their daughter’s wedding.

But producers also continued casting Borgnine in action films such as “Three Bad Men,” “The Vikings,” “Torpedo Run,” “Barabbas,” “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Wild Bunch.”

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