Emmy-Nominated Ernest Borgnine Ultra-busy at 92

Ernest Borgnine.

Ernest Borgnine.

In the last episode of “ER,” an old man brings his wife in for emergency treatment. The doctors do what they can to make her comfortable, but she’s slipping away. The man holds his wife’s hand as he tries to say good-bye. The camera goes in for a close up of his face, which shows every emotion from love to enormous sadness, as tears well up in his eyes.
 “Oh my lord, an actor dreams of a shot like that,” Ernest Borgnine told me, right after he was nominated for an Emmy as Guest Actor in a Drama, for that showcase performance in “And In the End” episode of “ER.” At 92, Ernie called the Emmy recognition “a very pleasant surprise. I’m as excited as a kid, because it means your peers are looking at you and they’re saying you did a good job. It’s just marvelous.”
He was happy to be on hand during the final days of “ER’s” 15 year run, because he was part of something very special. Ernie said, “There was a certain energy in the air as everyone was proud but sad to be saying good-bye after all those years on the show. It was a wonderful cast, crew and director Rob Holcomb. John Wells, the producer and writer, was so easy to work with and made it memorable.”
Although he has an Oscar to his credit, Ernie has never won an Emmy, although he’s come close. “I got a nomination for ‘McHale’s Navy.’ That was in the ’60s and we worked hard to make it a great comedy. To this day, people come up to me to tell me ‘McHale’s Navy’ was a wonderful show. Good clean humor.” His other TV series included “Airwolf” and “The Single Guy.” And for a new generation of fans he does a recurring role as the voice of Mermaid Man on “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Long ago, right out of high school, he joined the Navy and served for ten years. Then he decided to become an actor and worked at the famous Barter Theatre, then on to Broadway, before getting roles on television with the “Philco Playhouse” and “G.E. Theatre.” Hollywood also embraced Ernie, and he gathered some impressive film credits, such as the classic “Bad Day at Black Rock.” He was brilliant as the brutal stockade sergeant in “From Here To Eternity,” and said he still gets people who come up to him and say “I hated you in that movie.” Ernie always tells them, “Well, if I wasn’t so mean to Frank Sinatra he wouldn’t have gotten his Academy Award.”
Ernie got his Academy Award for his sweet portrayal of the titled character in “Marty.” “That I’d have to say is my greatest professional accomplishment. Actually, I’ve loved every one of my pictures, but occasionally I’ll see something and say to myself, ‘Hey dummy, you could’ve done better.’”
As for his greatest personal accomplishment, Ernie is quick to say it was finding the right woman to share his life. “For a long time I kept looking around for the right woman, and I finally found her in Tova. We’ve been married now for 37 years. And I’ll tell you, we love each other just as much today as we did when we first started seeing each other. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’ve got somebody there.”
These are good times for Ernie. “I’ll be 93 in January,” he said with gusto, looking forward to another birthday and plenty of activity between now and then. He’s still adding to his body of work with new films and TV roles, as well as accepting honors. He’s the guest of honor next week at the Rhode Island Film Festival, which will premiere his latest film “Another Harvest Moon.” Then he heads to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to film “The Genesis Code.” And soon he’ll be shooting a new National Lampoon movie in New Orleans. “It’s a wild thing. The script has a lot of swear words in it, like the pictures for the young audiences have these days. But they told me I don’t have to say any of that. I don’t want to leave a legacy of dirty words.” More to his liking have been the wonderful Hallmark Channel movies he’s done, “Grandpa For Christmas” and “Trail of Hope Rose.” Last year he got back in the saddle for another Western “Aces ‘N Eights.”
Ernie likes the inspiring roles, and hopes there’s more of that in the future.  “I’m ready and willing to go to work. That’s what keeps me young,” he revealed, “And an Emmy would be nice.”

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