A storied career, a lifetime of laughs and serious leading male roles, a teary eyed Ernest Borgnine stood on the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards stage today and accepted the SCreen Actor’s Guild (SAG’s) highest honor in the Lifetime Achievement Award. A well-deserved award, perhaps long overdue. From Here to Eternity, Marty, McHale’s Navy and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 are among the phenomenal 200 films with his credit dating back to 1951.
In Mr. Borgnine’s autobiography Ernie (Citadel Press, 2008), a New York Times bestseller, he begins the book with a phrase so many have said upon nomination for any prestigious award, “Winning is nice, but it is a thrill just to be nominated. And outsiders think Yeah, yeah, sure but you really want to win. Of course we do, but it really is a thrill just to be nominated. Especially when you’re my age (ninety-one). And to be acting, still, after nearly sixty-years—that’s a rare privilege. . .”
At the awards ceremony, Mr. Borgnine was truly a humbled entertainer for such a phenomenal career, not just in length of time but in the fact he worked his way up every step of the way from the Randall School of Drama in Hartford to big achievements like Academy Awards nominations and wins for Best Actor for his portrayal of Marty in the film of the same name. A truly remarkable career achievement alone, but even more so when considering he was up against some of the A-listers of all time: Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracey, Frank Sinatra and James Dean.
Tim Conway introduced the tribute to SAG’s 47th Life Achievement Award to Mr. Borgnine. The group honored Borgnine for his career achievement and humanitarian accomplishments, a man who has visited every Veteran’s hospital in the United States. Mr. Conway is a long standing friend of Mr. Borgnine, having appeared together in the popular 1960’s World War II sitcom, McHale’s Navy.
Mr. Borgnine’s critical praise includes a staggering list. Beginning in 1953 with his portrayal of the brutish Sergeant “Fatso” Judson, the character who beat Frank Sinatra’s character Maggio to a pulpy death. This was the Oscar-winning film From Here to Eternity. He went on with memorable roles Spencer Tracy’s in Bad Day at Black Rock and a complete opposite character change in Marty, a sensitive butcher looking for love, which brought Mr. Borgnine the acclaim of an Academy Award®, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe®, the second Globe nomination coming 52 years later for the title role in the telefilm A Grandpa for Christmas. Add to the mix of praise a 1989 Independent Spirit Award nomination for his Mafia boss portrayal in Spike of Bensonhurst.
Borgnine’s performance in the 1962-66 broad ensemble comedy “McHale’s Navy” brought a 1963 Emmy® nomination, Borgnine’s first, who would again nominate him in 1980 for his portrait of World War I soldier Stanislaus Katczinsky in All Quiet on the Western Front and again in his 2009 guest role as a devoted husband coming to terms with his wife’s imminent death in the final episode of the acclaimed TV series ER.
A Daytime Emmy nomination would arrive in 1999 for his voiceover as Carface in the animated All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series and the same year began his run as the voice of Mermaid Man in the Nickelodeon series SpongeBob SquarePants, bringing him a whole new legion of young fans. Currently, Mr. Borgnine and Mr. Conway have reunited in recurring voice-over roles on the Nickelodeon’s smash hit series where Mr. Conway’s character “Barnacle Boy” serves as sidekick to Mr. Borgnine’s semi-retired aquatic superhero “Mermaid Man.” Mr. Borgnine also played an animated version of himself on The Simpsons.
Mr. Borgnine served on SAG’s Board of Directors from April to November 1962 and again for three years from November 1974 to November 1977. He is truly one of the longstanding screen legends film history will remember for ages to come.