Ernest Borgnine: Remembering the legendary actor’s best roles


Ernest Borgnine, the Academy Award-winning film and television actor known for his blue-collar roles and infectious smile, passed away Sunday at the age of 95. With more than 200 credits to his name and a career spanning more than 60 years, Borgnine played it all. Through character parts in classic movies like "From Here to Eternity" and "The Flight of the Phoenix," leading roles in TV shows like "McHale's Navy" and "Airwolf," and memorable guest spots on "ER" and "The Simpsons," Borgnine entertained generations of moviegoers and TV watchers.

Here are just a few of Ernest Borgnine's unforgettable film and TV appearances.

"The Simpsons" For many under 30, the classic "Simpsons" episode "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood" was probably their first introduction to Borgnine. Guest starring as himself, Borgnine accompanied the Junior Campers on their father-son rafting trip as a "special celebrity dad." While Bart, Homer, and the others end up adrift at sea, Borgnine and the rest of the Junior Campers end up no better, finding themselves hunted by hillbillies, attacked by a bear, and stalked by a Jason Vorhees-like figure.

"The Wild Bunch" Sam Peckinpah's dark, ultraviolent film about the death of the West featured Borgnine as Dutch Engstrom, an aging outlaw on the wrong side of history. Dutch and the rest of the Wild Bunch aren't very nice people; killing and robbing is about all they know how to do, and they do it well. Still, thanks to Borgnine's memorable performance, you can't help but feel some sympathy for the gang when things don't go well for them during the infamously bloody final shootout.

"Sponge Bob Squarepants" Borgnine would introduce himself to a whole new generation of fans with a recurring role as Mermaid Man, an over-the-hill superhero who has retired to Bikini Bottom. A parody of the DC Comics superhero Aquaman, Mermaid Man was the former the star of a campy 1960s show called "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy," a favourite of SpongeBob and Patrick. Cranky, hard of hearing, and forgetful, the semiretired Mermaid Man would hilariously go bonkers whenever someone said the word "evil."

"Airwolf" Though mostly remembered for its catchy theme song, "Airwolf" marked a return to weekly television for Borgnine. Think "Knight Rider," only with a helicopter instead of a car. As happy-go-lucky pilot Dominic Santini, Borgnine was mentor to the show's main character, Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent), a hotshot test pilot who comes to possess the titular superhelicopter.

"Bad Day at Black Rock" As Coley Trimble, a small-town tough helping to protect a dark secret, Borgnine helped make life for Spencer Tracy's John J. Macreedy a living hell. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the one-armed Macreedy arrives in the isolated hamlet of Black Rock looking for a Japanese-American man to whom he owes a debt. However, after discovering that the man is dead, Trimble and others attempt to violently stop Macreedy from reporting it to the authorities, first by trying to run him off the road and then by attacking him in the town saloon. Unfortunately for Trimble, the one-armed Macreedy happens to be an expert in judo and karate.

"Marty" The role that put Borgnine on the map also won him an Oscar for Best Actor in 1955. Borgnine played Marty, a socially awkward bachelor in his 30s who still lives with his mother. Marty faces plenty of pressure from friends and family to settle down with a girl and get married. When he finally does find a girl he likes, though, they make fun of her for being too plain and boring. This poor schlub just can't seem to do anything right, but thankfully love wins out in the end.

"McHale's Navy" Borgnine is probably best known for his role as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale on the 1960s sitcom "McHale's Navy." Nothing says situational comedy quite like the Pacific theatre during the Second World War! As skipper of PT-73, a tiny Navy patrol boat, McHale leads his ragtag crew of miscreants from island to island in search of women and fun, much to the chagrin of their flustered commanding officer, Captain Binghamton.

"Red" Borgnine never really retired from acting, and he completed his latest film just a few months before his death. One of Borgnine's more recent roles was 2010's middle-aged actioner "RED," starring Bruce Willis and Karl Urban. At the ripe old age of 92, Borgnine played Henry, a former CIA recordkeeper who worked with Willis's crew of "retired, extremely dangerous" operatives in their heyday.

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