Ernest Borgnine died on Sunday in Los Angeles. He was a ripe 95 years old.
Perhaps best known for his role on the mediocre television series “McHale’s Navy,” he really shone in two movie roles. The first was “Marty” (1955), in which he played a mother-dominated Italian butcher who falls in love with a “plain” girl (Betsy Blair; I found her rather attractive, actually), abandons her when her friends make fun of him, and then realizes that what matters is love, not the opinion of his thoughtless peers. It’s a wonderful movie, and gets a rare 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes (see link above). As the NYT notes:
Marty’s awakening, as he unexpectedly falls in love, was described by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times as “a beautiful blend of the crude and the strangely gentle and sensitive in a monosyllabic man.”
Mr. Borgnine received the Oscar for best actor for “Marty.” For the same performance he also received a Golden Globe and awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
I highly recommend “Marty”; it’s a bit of a tear-jerker but with terrific acting. And his performance is very different from the movie role that brought Borgnine to fame: the sadistic sergeant Fatso Judson in the equally watchable movie “From Here to Eternity” (1953).
When you remember Borgnine, think not of Lt. Commander Quinton McHale of the U. S. Navy but of the Everyman he played so well: the gentle butcher Marty Pilletti.
Here he is with Betsy Blair in “Marty”: