Movie, television star Ernest Borgnine dies

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LOS ANGELES -- 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 yesterday. He was 95.

His longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, said 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. 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.

Borgnine won the Oscar and awards from the Cannes Film Festival, New York Critics and National Board of Review.

"The Oscar made me a star, and I'm grateful," Borgnine said in a 1966 interview. "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. Borgnine's fifth marriage, in 1973 to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes, endured.

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."

Producers continued casting Borgnine in action films such as "Three Bad Men," "The Vikings," "Torpedo Run," "Barabbas," "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Wild Bunch." Then he successfully made the transition to TV comedy.

From 1962 to 1966, Borgnine -- a Navy vet himself -- starred in "McHale's Navy" as the commander of a World War II PT boat with a crew of misfits and malcontents.

Borgnine's later films included "Willard," "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Greatest" (as Muhammad Ali's manager) and "Escape from New York." More recently, Borgnine was the voice of Mermaid Man on "SpongeBob SquarePants" and Carface on "All Dogs Go to Heaven 2."

Ermes Efron Borgnino was born in Hamden, Conn., on Jan. 24, 1917, the son of Italian immigrant parents. The family lived in Milan when the boy was 2 to 7, then returned to Connecticut.

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