Ernest Borgnine, nick-named Mr Ugly, has died, at age 95. Not the most handsome man in the world but he loved women and they seemed to love him, for a while. He was married five times, twice to movie stars, four years to High Noon actress Katy Jurado and 32 days to Broadway queen Ethel Merman.
He had a face that was instantly recognizable and some would say it was a face that only a mother could love. He admitted to having a fierce temper and his emotional outbursts on screen were brilliant and memorable. His performance as the thuggish sergeant who beats Frank Sinatra to death in From Here to Eternity was made for him. His acting was so realistic, a group of young hoods threatened him one night in New York. "Hey, you're that guy who killed Sinatra" they said and he only escaped injury when he spoke to them in Italian and convinced them that it was only a movie.
He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Marty, an ugly, unhappy butcher with no social life who desperately wanted a girlfriend. He tells his mother "There comes a point in a guy's life when he's gotta face some facts and one fact I gotta face is that whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it." The romantic theme of the low-budget film was a surprise hit and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival and four academy awards. He once said "The Oscar made me a star and I'm grateful but I feel had I not won it, I wouldn't have got into the messes I did in my personal life."
Grace Kelly presents the Oscar in 1956
His first marriage ended when Katy Jurado accused him of kicking her when she asked for more money to live on. 'He hit me all the time' but added "I love him very much." Borgnine alleged in the divorce that it was his wife who had been cruel to him. Referring to the physical fights they used to have during their marriage, Jurado said "He's Italian and I'm Mexican, and that's the way we Latins behave."
Ethel Merman, the queen of Broadway, was seven years older than Borgnine when they married. She was known as 'Hitler' by the dancers in her shows because of her bossy and controlling manner. Borgnine said at the time "This will last forever, you can bet your last dime on it." But not long after, Merman said to her friend Lucille Ball "Ernie has the most terrible temper, when he's mad, he smashes everything in sight, I can't live like that." Borgnine said "I was married to her for 32 days, and that was enough."
In 1973, Borgnine married for the fifth time to Norwegian-born Tova Traesnaes who owned a beauty salon in Las Vegas. She was 24 years his junior. He finally found his soul mate and they were married for 38 years. He said recently "It has lasted longer than all my marriages put together - American women have a tendency to become the trouser-wearers of the family but Tova is modest and gentle."
Ermes Efron Borgnino joined the Navy in 1935 and served on a destroyer during WW II. He also played some of the most memorable roles in the history of Hollywood.