The sad news has just broken of the death of iconic character actor Ernest Borgnine. Known to anyone in the Baby-Boomer generation who did not live in a cave as the skipper of PT-73, Commander Quinton McHale of McHale’s Navy, Borgnine was in actuality a Navy Veteran who enlisted in 1935 and served throughout World War II.
Borgnine, a native of Connecticut, got his first big break in film as the self-consciously homely Marty in the film by the same name, which earned him an Oscar. He was also the villainous and brutal jailer Sergeant of the Guard Fatso Judson in From Here to Eternity, who beats Frank Sinatra’s character Maggio to death. Borgnine starred in, or appeared in, a great many other movies, including The Wild Bunch, with Bill Holden, The Dirty Dozen, and Bad Day at Black Rock.
He will be best known, however, as the screwball Commander McHale, whose crew of Ensign Parker, and Gruber, and Virg, and Tinker, and Happy, and the unlikely Japanese “prisoner” Fuji, was always trying to get over on Captain Wally “Lead Bottom” Binghamton (the late Joe Flynn) and his toady LT Carpenter.
Somewhere up there, you can hear Lead Bottom standing at the Pearly Gates, asking impatiently; “What, what, what, McHale? What, what, what?”
Ernest Borgnine was 95.