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Actor Ernest Borgnine’s role in the film Marty transformed him from a stereotyped character actor to a leading man, earning him an Academy Award as Best Actor.
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As a young actor, Ernest Borgnine debuted on Broadway in the 1949 play Harvey, which led to many appearances in early television shows. In 1951, he headed to Hollywood, where he made his feature debut in The Whistle at Eaton Falls. Two years later, he landed a role in From Here to Eternity, but he soon found himself typecast as an onscreen tough guy. In 1955,
he was relieved to land the leading role of a sympathetic everyman in Marty. His prolific career acting in both movies and television spanned over six decades.
Actor Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnine, on January 24, 1917, in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents, Charles and Anna, immigrated to America from Italy at the turn of the century. The family settled in Connecticut, where Borgnine attended public school in New Haven. Upon graduating from high school, in 1935, he joined the Navy as an apprentice seaman.
After 10 years in service, Borgnine returned to Connecticut and continued his education by enrolling at the Randall School of Dramatic Art in Hartford. Beginning in 1946, he spent four years honing his craft at the Barter Theatre in Abington, Virginia. While there, Borgnine encountered his first professional acting experience, initially appearing in bit parts, and eventually graduating to starring roles.
The young character actor soon landed a part on Broadway in the comedy Harvey, which led to appearances on New York television shows like Philco Television Playhouse and Captain Video and His Video Rangers. In 1951, he headed west to Hollywood, where he made his feature debut in the docudrama The Whistle at Eaton Falls.
Two years later, Borgnine landed the role of a lifetime in From Here to Eternity, opposite A-list actors Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr, and Burt Lancaster. His brutish portrayal of Fatso Judson earned him critical acclaim and established him as a bankable actor.With the success of the film, Hecht-Lancaster Productions signed Borgnine to a seven-year contract.
Borgnine soon found himself typecast as a brooding villain in such roles as Strabo in 1954's Roman epic Demetrius and the Gladiators, opposite Susan Hayward and Victor Mature. Later that year, he was placed in similar "tough guy" parts, including Johnny Guitar with Joan Crawford, and the Western Vera Cruz with Gary Cooper.
In 1955, Borgnine was relieved to land an out-of-character role as a sympathetic butcher looking for love in Paddy Chayefsky's heartwarming story, Marty. His sensitive performance transformed him from a stereotyped character actor to a Hollywood leading man, earning him an Academy Award as Best Actor, as well as top honors from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Cannes Film Festival, and the British Film Academy.
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