Ernest Borgnine, Who Loved, Lived and Worked in Studio City, Dies at 95

A well-known fixture in Studio City, locals remember him fondly.

, an Academy Award-winning actor who played a burly, bawdy Navy PT boat commander on "McHale's Navy" that was filmed at the CBS Radford Studios, died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his publicist said. He was 95.

Borgnine’s longtime North Hollywood-based publicist Harry Flynn revealed that Borgnine was surrounded by family when he died Sunday afternoon of kidney failure after going into the hospital a few days ago.

From 1962 to 1966, Borgnine led the helm of “McHale’s Navy,” but that was only the beginning of a long association to Studio City.

In 1964, he married Broadway actress and singer Ethel Merman and they moved to a house in the Studio City hills. Even though the marriage barely lasted a month, he lived in the area long after, until he moved to Beverly Hills.

Yet, he often frequented the area—shopping at the local and often seen lunching at .

He worked a lot recently with Studio City resident , the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, where he played the voice of Mermaid Man with Tim Conway as the voice of his sidekick Barnacle Boy.

The Warner Bros. and Universal lots, as well as the CBS Radford lot, were all homes to a lot of his movies. (See the set pieces of Borgnine with Suzanne Pleshette in a drug store set for Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? In 1970 on the Warners lot. The film co-starred Brian Keith, Tony Curtis and Tom Ewell.)

In 2010, Borgnine presented Bo Hopkins a Silver Spur Award at the , and last year, he read at a at the .

He also spent time reading to youth and talking to adults at the North Hollywood Library. Two years ago, columnist Dennis McCarthy wrote, “One of my favorite actors, 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine, will be stopping by the North Hollywood Library Saturday afternoon to shoot the breeze with anyone who wants to come by and see him.”

Gerald R. Fecht, president of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley, recalled, “A couple of years ago, I took my sister and brother-in-law to Jerry's Deli in Studio City. They were so excited about seeing the great old performer Earnest Borgnine that they picked up our tab. Ernest Borgnine long time residence has been in Studio City.”

The winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild, Borgnine was in movies and on TV from the early 1950s until recently. He shot to internet fame in 2008 when he answered a morning TV host's question about how he stayed healthy by crediting his vigor to frequent exercise of a most- personal nature.

Born Ermes Borgnine in Connecticut in 1917 to Italian immigrant parents, he turned to acting after a 10-year career in the U.S. Navy he finished at the end of World War II.

Borgnine worked the boards on Broadway before appearing on a 1951 kids TV show, "Captain Video And His Video Rangers." He appeared on dozens of live TV shows in the dawning age of television.

His big Hollywood break was "From Here To Eternity" in 1953, where he memorably beat up Frank Sinatra.

His starring role in "Marty," as a very simple love-struck man, a butcher by trade, was hailed as the first time mainstream America embraced a leading character with mental difficulties.

He starred in a TV adaptation of the novel, then took the role to the big screen. It earned him the Academy Award for best actor in 1955, besting Sinatra, Spencer Tracy and James Cagney.

It was the invention of three-camera film sitcoms that elevated Borgnine to the pantheon of golden era TV stars. "McHale's Navy" starred Borgnine as a conniving, lazy, gambling Navy commander of a PT boat on a nameless tropical isle, his days spent bedeviling his commanding officer, played by Joe Flynn, and fumbling with his bumbling adjutant, played by Tim Conway.

A later generation met him as Dominic Santini on the 1980s series "Airwolf."

Borgnine was married five times. Plans for his funeral have not been announced.

(See the videos above of some hysterical outtakes of McHale's Navy that were shot locally, as well as interviews shot at his home, and other fond memories in the video section above.)

Editor's Note: I've interviewed Mr. Borgnine many times over the past three decades, and he was always an honest, funny and forthright person. He loved talking to people, and was always gracious to a fan. 

Mary McGrath July 10, 2012 at 03:09 PM
My partner has a friend whose mother used to date Ernest back in the day. She said he was a very nice fellow...
Katrynas July 11, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Well Mr. Borgnine I never met you but loved you and all your movies and shows! McHale's Navy was one of my favorites!! I will truly miss you, I only wish that my son could of known you and all that you've done. Rest in Peace and go kick it with God!!
Andrea Brunetti June 10, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Ciao Ernest, dear ITALIAN-AMERICAN brother! I really loved all movies you did, and I remember I was 8 when my father said me who was you, and from that moment I always was so happy when a movie of you started on TV. I really feel so sad because you are still not here with us, to demonstrate that LOVE exist, love in every face, in your long career and life too. Thank you so so so much because you made me always so happy and if I cry for you its because you was a good man, a real kindly person and a real artist! Hollywood have lost the best, a man with a heart, with a soul and a good person at all. Ciao amico mio, a special HELLO for you from MANDURIA-PUGLIA-SOUTH OF ITALY. Forever in our heart. I am sure you are happy now with GOD. Non ti dimenticherò mai. :,,(


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