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Ernest Borgnine Stays in Character

Hollywood heavyweight Ernest Borgnine has acted in many classic films, and whether he played a sadist (Sgt. “Fatso” Judson in From “Here to Eternity") or a single guy at loose ends (Marty Piletti in “Marty,”) his performances are always riveting.  As "Marty," he won a 1955 Academy Award, beating out the biggest hitters of the day: Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra, James Dean and James Cagney. A Connecticut native, Borgnine did a stint in the Navy, followed by intermittent factory work before taking his mother's suggestion to act. A 1949 role on the Broadway stage, as the male nurse in "Harvey," set him up to buy a one-way ticket to Hollywood. Film and TV roles flowed for him there, dramatic and comic, and the 1962-66 classic TV show, "McHale's Navy," in which he starred, made him a household name.

Now, though an elder statesman, his acting glory days are far from behind him. Last year, he was nominated for an Emmy for a role on "ER." The new Bruce Willis film he appears in, "Red," has just opened and, apparently always ready for a laugh, he recently played himself in a "Saturday Live" skit. At 93, he attributes his career longevity to the kind of roles he's gotten. "I'm a character actor," he told the British Film Institute in 2007. "Character actors are always working. Absolutely. If you're alive and breathing and a character actor, you're always working. But if you're that good-looking type, you only last about seven to ten years at the most. Maybe a little longer." Hear Ernest Borgnine on October 30 at 3 p.m. at the Edgerton Center. He'll talk about his rich career and the experience of being in character. Tickets are $15-$20. For more information, visit Edgerton Center's website.

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