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Ernest Borgnine: An actor with nearly seven decades on screen (+video)

Ernest  Borgnine worked in more than 200 films and TV shows, including McHale's Navy. Ernest Borgnine, who passed on Sunday, won an Academy Award in the 1995 movie "Marty."

By David GermainAssociated Press / July 8, 2012

Ernest Borgnine poses backstage after receiving the life achievement award at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in 2011.

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

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Los Angeles

He was a tubby tough guy with a pug of a mug, as unlikely a big-screen star or a romantic lead as could be imagined.

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Yet Ernest Borgnine won a woman's love and an Academy Award in one of the great lonelyhearts roles in "Marty," a highlight in a workhorse career that spanned nearly seven decades and more than 200 film and television parts.

Borgnine, who died Sunday at 95, worked to the end. One of his final roles was a bit part as a CIA records-keeper in 2011's action comedy "Red" — fittingly for his age, a story of retired spies who show that it's never too late to remain in the game when they're pulled back into action.

"I keep telling myself, 'Damn it, you gotta go to work,'" Borgnine said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. "But there aren't many people who want to put Borgnine to work these days. They keep asking, 'Is he still alive?'"

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And yet people put him to work — and kept him working — from his late-blooming start as an actor after a 10-year Navy career through modern times, when he had a recurring voice role on "SpongeBob SquarePants," became the oldest actor ever nominated for a Golden Globe and received the lifetime-achievement award last year from the Screen Actors Guild.

Borgnine died of renal failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife and children at his side, said spokesman Harry Flynn.

With his beefy build and a huge orb of a head that looked hard enough to shatter granite, Borgnine naturally was cast as heavies early on, notably as Sgt. Fatso Judson, the brute who beat Frank Sinatra's character to death in 1953's Pearl Harbor saga "From Here to Eternity."

More bad guy roles followed, but Borgnine showed his true pussycat colors as lovesick Marty Piletti, a Bronx butcher who, against all odds and his own expectations, finds romance with a wallflower in "Marty," adapted from Paddy Chayefsky's television play. Borgnine won the best-actor Oscar, and the film picked up three other awards, including best picture.

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