Ernest Borgnine, of 'Marty' and 'Mermaidman' Fame, Dies at 95

Hannah Miet
Ernest Borgnine, of 'Marty' and 'Mermaidman' Fame, Dies at 95

Film and television actor Ernest Borgnine, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a lonely, living-with-mom, butcher-from-the-Bronx in 1955's Marty -- and much later voiced the "Mermaidsman" character in the animated series Spongebob Squarepants -- died on Sunday is Los Angeles. He was 95, and never retired.

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Borgnine's longtime spokesman, Harry Flynn, told the Associated Press that Borgnine died of renal failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his family by his side.

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"It's a very sad day," Lynda Bensky, Borgnine's manager, told CNN. "[T]he world has lost a sage and loving man who taught us all how to 'grow young.'"

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Borgnine, a 10-year U.S. Navy veteran described by the Associated Press as "a tubby tough guy with a pug of a mug," first made his mark in the film world at the age of 37, as Fatso Judson in the 1953 film From Here to EternityThe New York Times' Anita Gates described Fatso as "the sadistic stockade sergeant who beats Frank Sinatra’s character, Private Maggio, to death."

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With several exceptions, Borgnine was typecast as a villain, which is what often happens to actors who look kind of scary. However, his oscar-winning role was that of the title character in Marty, Paddy Chayefsky's 1955 film version of the TV play, who could not be a villain if he tried. In the film, which has become a staple in Intro to Film classes across America, Borgnine played a sweetly pathetic 34-year-old butcher who still lives with his mother, looking for love in the Bronx. 

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In The New York Times, Gates notes:

Marty’s awakening, as he unexpectedly falls in love, was described by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times as “a beautiful blend of the crude and the strangely gentle and sensitive in a monosyllabic man.”

According to The Los Angeles Times:

Borgnine's sensitive portrayal of the self-described "fat ugly man" not only earned him an Oscar for best actor, but the movie also won Academy Awards for Chayefsky and director Delbert Mann, as well as the best picture Oscar. 

Borgnine made his TV debut in the World War II comedy McHale's Navy, which ran from 1962 until 1966. In 1999, he truly broke free of his villain typecast, when he began doing the voice of a recurring character on Spongebob Squarepants, an elderly ex-superhero known as "Mermaidman."

He continued to voice that role until last year.

As many of Borgnine's more famous fans and friends commemorate the passing of a great screen actor on Twitter, the rest of us (the younger sector of the rest of us, presumably) were more focused on Mermaidman, which became a trending topic shortly after Borgnine's death was announced. 

"I just want to do more work," Borgine told the Associated Press at the ripe young age of eighty-eight. "Every time I step in front of a camera I feel young again. I really do. It keeps your mind active and it keeps you going."