Ernest Borgnine and Tova, his wife of 35 years, are on my desk today. He, in his autobiography, “Ernie,” just arrived from Citadel Press. She, in today’s New York Times, whose Business Day section boasts a three-column picture of Tova. The Times story is about Tova’s sale of her successful Tova Signature Corporation to QVC and her reaction, six years later. She bought a house in Malvern, PA to be near QVC’s HQ and she commutes between there and the Borgnines’ Beverly Hills home.
I spoke to both in Malvern on the phone today. Ernie was there, having been nearby filming the feature “Another Harvest Moon” with Doris Roberts, Piper Laurie, Anne Meara and Cybill Shepherd. Ernie, 91, plays a hospital patient and he laughingly says, “I’ve been in bed for so many scenes, I’m getting bed sores!”
I had called Borgnine to congratulate him on his autobiography — in which he acknowledges Tova is “the love of my life.” His robust personal and professional life could fill many volumes and he tempts the knowing reader — like yours truly — with too-brief recollections of encounters with almost every one in Hollywood. Of marriage, he sadly says, “In the end life and love and career are all hard enough without adding fame into the mix. ” And you might like to hear more about his marriage to Ethel Merman, since in her autobiography the chapter “Ernie Borgnine” was — a blank page. “That was it,” he retells. And his experiences working with Shelley Winters also bring a knowing smile from knowing survivors.
The list of male costars with whom Ernie’s worked reads like a Who’s Who and who’s boozed in movies. His retelling of working with their respective directors is also a walk through the hallowed halls of Hollywood. Some of the echoes are boisterous — like the ones with Sam Peckinpah, whose farewell words to Ernie are four-lettered.
Borgnine laughs, that hearty, hefty laugh when he expanded to me — off the book’s pages. Luckily there will be more to read about, as he is already scheduled to start another film this Fall. And maybe more recollections?