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In 1963, he and Merman startled the show business world by announcing, after a month’s acquaintance, that they would marry when his divorce from Jurado became final. The Broadway singing star and the movie tough guy seemed to have nothing in common, and their marriage ended in 38 days after a fierce battle.

“If you blinked, you missed it,” Merman once cracked.

Next came one-time child actress Donna Rancourt, with whom Borgnine had a daughter, and finally his happy union with Tova.

On Jan. 24, 2007, Borgnine celebrated his 90th birthday with a party for friends and family at a West Hollywood bistro. He seemed little changed from his years as a lusty villain or sympathetic hero on the screen. His only concession to age had come at 88 when he gave up driving the bus he would take around the country, stopping to talk with local folks along the way.

During an interview at the time, Borgnine complained that he wanted to continue acting but most studio executives kept asking, “Is he still alive?”

“I just want to do more work,” he said. “Every time I step in front of a camera I feel young again. I really do. It keeps your mind active and it keeps you going.”