Western Movies

Remembering Ernest Borgnine

January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012.


Ernest Borgnine, Oscar-winning actor and perennial favorite of movies and TV for more than six decades, died on July 8, at the age of 95. Borgnine worked in film continually from 1951 up until about June of this year, easily switching back and forth between dramas and comedies.

During his astoundingly long career he also acted in nearly three dozen Westerns. His last film, also a Western, The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez, which hasn’t even been released yet, won him an outstanding acting award at the Newport Beach Film Festival this year.

Best known for his unforgettable parts in the films From Here to Eternity, Bad Day at Black Rock and Marty, as well as the hit ABC series that aired from 1962-66, McHale’s Navy, Borgnine also memorably costarred in Sam Peckinpah’s classic 1969 Western, The Wild Bunch.

Borgnine’s role as Dutch in the film was flatly not written for him, as Garner Simmons shares in Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage: “The script description reads in part: ‘Dutch is big, young, good-natured with a fast gun hand, strong loyalty and, like Pike, a bone-deep distaste for rules and regulations. He can sing [and] has more than his share of charm.’ Ernest Borgnine was [Warner Bros. Production Chief Ken] Hyman’s choice. Peckinpah initially disagreed: ‘In casting Wild Bunch, Ken Hyman was for Ernie Borgnine in the role of Dutch, and I was against it. At that time I had never worked with Ernie and with this picture I wanted to be sure of everybody. Anyway, Ken talked me out of my reluctance, and Ernie turned out to be just one of the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with.’”

Borgnine later commented on The Wild Bunch in his autobiography, Ernie, “At the age of fifty-one, I got to do more action scenes in this film than in any of my previous pictures.”

While talking up the film with critics, Peckinpah said, “It’s a Western about the betrayal of friendship. An all-guy Western with Bill Holden, Bob Ryan, Ernie Borgnine, Eddie O’Brien, Albert Dekker, Ben Johnson, L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates. It’s about a gang of...

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