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Farewell to endearing star Ernest Borgnine

Ernest Borgnine died on July 8. He was 95.

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Never have a book and its cover been more at odds than in the case of Ermes Effron Borgnino. With his gruff voice and imposing longshoreman’s build, the Oscar-winning actor should have had a career playing tough guys. But one look at his infectious gap-toothed smile made it clear that Ernest Borgnine was a pussycat trapped in the body of a pit bull. Borgnine, who died of kidney failure on July 8 in Los Angeles at age 95, kicked off his seven-decade career on screen as a sadistic soldier in 1953’s From Here to Eternity. Then, in the 1955 kitchen-sink drama Marty, he introduced audiences to a softer, more sentimental side as a lonely-heart Bronx butcher — and won a Best Actor Oscar. From 1962 to 1966 he led a cast of military misfits on the hit TV series McHale’s Navy. Memorable supporting parts followed in 1967’s The Dirty Dozen, 1969’s The Wild Bunch, 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, and 1981’s Escape From New York. Borgnine’s life off screen was just as eventful, with five marriages, including one to Broadway star Ethel Merman that lasted 38 days. In recent years, he played benevolent grandfather types and lent his rock-tumbler voice to the character of Mermaidman on the animated kids’ series SpongeBob SquarePants. His cuddly late-career persona fit him like a glove.