In his Oscar-winning role as the title character in “Marty,” Ernest Borgnine refers to himself as a “fat ugly man,” then later tells his date that he might not be “as much of a dog as I think I am” after all.
As storied careers go, Borgnine’s surely wasn’t a dog in the slightest.
Borgnine, who has died at the age of 95, had an unbelievable varied filmography — switching from comedy to drama, film to television, heroes to bad guys — back when there was still a thriving market for character actors who could appear in dozens of movies but almost never get the girl, as it were.
It’s hard to know where to start in selecting films featuring Borgnine that are worth revisiting — though I suspect someone at Turner Classic Movies is currently doing just that — but beyond “Marty,” I always relished seeing him play heavies, from “Bad Day at Black Rock” (the fight with Spencer Tracy is a classic) to “From Here to Eternity” to the collection of antiheroes in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch.”
Others will likely first think of “The Poseidon Adventure,” or a smaller part in “The Dirty Dozen,” or any number of other roles (though I’d pass on “McHale’s Navy”) in a career that spanned seven decades.
Borgnine was around long enough to receive plenty of applause in his lifetime — including a Screen Actors Guild life-achievement award last year — but the bottom line is when TCM gets around to airing that inevitable tribute, a single day won’t be enough.