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Ernest Borgnine ( born Ermes Effron Borgnino ; January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012) was an American actor whose career spanned over six decades. He was noted for his gruff but calm voice, Machiavellian eyebrows, and gap-toothed Cheshire cat grin. A popular performer, he had also appeared as a guest on numerous talk shows and as a panelist on several game shows.

Borgnine’s film career began in 1951, and included supporting roles in China Corsair (1951), From Here to Eternity (1953), Vera Cruz (1954) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955). He also played the unconventional lead in many films, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for Marty (1955). He achieved continuing success in the sitcom McHale’s Navy (1962 – 1966), in which he played the title character, and co-starred as Dominic Santini in the action series Airwolf (1984 – 1986), in addition to a wide variety of other roles.

Borgnine earned his third Primetime Emmy Award nomination at age 92 for his work on the 2009 series finale of ER. He was known as the original voice of Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants from 1999 until his death in 2012. He had earlier replaced the late Vic Tayback as the voice of the villainous Carface in both All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996) and All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series (1996 – 1998).

Early Life

Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, the son of Italian immigrants. His mother, Anna (ne Boselli; 1894c. 1949), hailed from Carpi, near Modena, while his father Camillo Borgnino (18911975) was a native of Ottiglio near Alessandria. Borgnine’s parents separated when he was two years old, and he then lived with his mother in Italy for about four and a half years. By 1923, his parents had reconciled, the family name was changed from Borgnino to Borgnine, and his father changed his first name to Charles. Borgnine had a younger sister, Evelyn Borgnine Velardi (19252013). The family settled in New Haven, Connecticut, where Borgnine graduated from James Hillhouse High School. He took to sports while growing up, but showed no interest in acting.

Naval Service

Borgnine wearing a chief petty officer’s cap in October 2004.

Borgnine joined the United States Navy in October 1935, after graduation from high school. He served aboard the destroyer/destroyer minesweeper USS Lamberton (DD-119; AG-21 and DMS-2) and was honorably discharged from the Navy in October 1941. In January 1942, he reenlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he patrolled the Atlantic Coast on an antisubmarine warfare ship, the USS Sylph (PY-12). In September 1945, he was honorably discharged from the Navy. He served a total of almost ten years in the Navy and obtained the grade of gunner’s mate 1st class. His military awards include the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal with ; border-collapse: collapse; border: none; background-color: transparent; width: auto;”> After World War II, we wanted no more part in war. I didn’t even want to be a Boy Scout. I went home and said that I was through with the Navy and so now, what do we do? So I went home to mother, and after a few weeks of patting me on the back and, “You did good,” and everything else, one day she said, “Well?” like mothers do. Which meant, “All right, you gonna get a job or what?” 

He took a local factory job, but was unwilling to settle down to that kind of work. His mother encouraged him to pursue a more glamorous profession and suggested to him that his personality would be well suited for the stage. He surprised his mother by taking the suggestion to heart, although his father was far from enthusiastic. In 2011, Borgnine remembered,


He studied acting at the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, then moved to Virginia, where he became a member of the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. It had been named for the director’s allowing audiences to barter produce for admission during the cash-lean years of the Great Depression. In 1947, Borgnine landed his first stage role in State of the Union. Although it was a short role, he won over the audience. His next role was as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee WilliamsThe Glass Menagerie.

In 1949, Borgnine went to New York, where he had his Broadway debut in the role of a nurse in the play Harvey. More roles on stage led him to being cast for decades as a character actor.


Borgnine and Betsy Blair in Marty trailer in 1955

An appearance as the villain on TV’s Captain Video led to Borgnine’s casting in the motion picture The Whistle at Eaton Falls (1951) for Columbia Pictures. That year, Borgnine moved to Los Angeles, California, where he eventually received his big break in Columbia’s From Here to Eternity (1953), playing the sadistic Sergeant “Fatso” Judson, who beats a stockade prisoner in his charge, Angelo Maggio (played by Frank Sinatra). Borgnine built a reputation as a dependable character actor and played villains in early films, including movies such as Johnny Guitar, Vera Cruz, and Bad Day at Black Rock.

In 1955, the actor starred as a warmhearted butcher in Marty, the film version of the television play of the same name. He gained an Academy Award for Best Actor over Frank Sinatra, James Dean (who had died by the time of the ceremony), and former Best Actor winners Spencer Tracy and James Cagney.

Borgnine’s film career flourished for the next three decades, including roles in The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Ice Station Zebra (1968), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Emperor of the North (1973), Convoy (1978), The Black Hole (1979), and Escape from New York (1981).

One of his most famous roles was that of Dutch, a member of The Wild Bunch in the 1969 Western classic from director Sam Peckinpah. Of his role in The Wild Bunch, Borgnine later said,


Borgnine made his TV debut as a character actor in Captain Video and His Video Rangers, beginning in 1951. These two episodes led to countless other television roles that Borgnine would gain in Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Ford Television Theatre, Fireside Theatre, Frontier Justice, Laramie, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, Run for Your Life, Little House on the Prairie (a two-part episode entitled “The Lord is My Shepherd”), The Love Boat, Magnum, P.I., Highway to Heaven, Murder, She Wrote, Walker, Texas Ranger, Home Improvement, Touched by an Angel, the final episodes of ER, the first episode of Wagon Train, and many others.

In 2009, at the age of 92, Borgnine earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his performance as Paul Manning in the series finale of ER, entitled “And in the End…“. He made his first appearance as the character in the preceding episode “Old Times”.

McHale’s Navy

Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander McHale in McHale’s Navy in 1963

In 1962, Borgnine signed a contract with Universal Studios for the lead role as the gruff but lovable skipper, Quinton McHale, in what began as a serious one-hour 1962 episode called Seven Against the Sea for Alcoa Premiere, and later reworked to a comedy called McHale’s Navy, a World War II sitcom, which also co-starred unfamiliar comedians Joe Flynn as Capt. Wally Binghamton and Tim Conway as Ens. Charles Parker. The insubordinate crew of PT-73 helped the show become an overnight success during its first season, landing in the Top 30 in 1963.

Like the McHale character, Borgnine was a longtime navy man in real life. He thrived on the adulation from fans for their favorite navy man, and in 1963 received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. At the end of the fourth season, in 1966 low ratings and repetitive story lines brought McHale’s Navy to an end.

Tim Conway said about the sitcom: “You know, we were all guys, it was about the war, and about men, so, there weren’t many women working on the show, so we can spit, talk, swear, and everything smoke? Gosh. So, it was male oriented.” Conway once referred to Ernest Borgnine making new friends off of the Universal set, “It was the beginning of the trams, going through Universal. Ernie was probably one of the few people at Universal, who would stop the trams and say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ He would talk to everybody at the tram.” While the show McHale’s Navy was going strong, Tim had also said of Borgnine’s short-lived marriage to Ethel Merman, “Ernie is volatile. I mean, there’s no question about that; and Ethel was a very strong lady. So, you put 2 bombs in a room, something is going to explode, and I guess it probably did.” He also said about the cancellation of McHale’s Navy was, “We had gone from the South Pacific to Italy, and then, once in a while, we got to New York or something. The story lines were beginning to duplicate themselves. So, they actually said, ‘Maybe, they had its run!'”. Conway kept in touch with Borgnine for more than 40 years, while living not too far from one another. In 1999, the duo reunited to guest-voice in several episodes of the popular 2000s animated comedy, SpongeBob SquarePants. Katy Jurado’s death in 2002 drew Borgnine and Conway much closer, as Tim had heard so much of the actress’s death. He said he heard his resisting friend once referred to one of his ex-wives, “Beautiful, but a tiger.” After Conway lost his TV captain, he later said, if Borgnine was more than likely to have died an Italian count, had it not been for Mussolini, “I can’t envision him as a count,” Tim had also said about McHale’s Navy debuted, a half a century ago, boosting both ABC and the Navy fortunes: “But maybe as a king—certainly not a count.” The last thing he said about his acting mentor’s long career: “There were no limits to Ernie,” said Conway, “When you look at his career—Fatso Judson to Marty, that’s about as varied as you get in characters and he handled both of them with equal delicacy and got the most out of those characters.”


Borgnine returned to a new contract with Universal Studios in 1983, for a co-starring role opposite Jan-Michael Vincent, on Airwolf. After he was approached by producer Donald P. Bellisario, who had been impressed by Borgnine’s guest role as a wrestler in a 1982 episode of Magnum, P.I., he immediately agreed. He played Dominic Santini, a helicopter pilot, in the series, which became an immediate hit. Borgnine’s strong performances belied his exhaustion due to the grueling production schedule, and the challenges of working with his younger, troubled series lead. The show was cancelled by CBS in 1986.

The Single Guy

He auditioned a third time for a co-starring role opposite Jonathan Silverman in The Single Guy as doorman Manny Cordoba, which lasted two seasons. According to Silverman, Borgnine came to work with more energy and passion than all other stars combined. He was the first person to arrive on the set every day and the last to leave.

Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders

In 1996, Borgnine starred in the televised fantasy/thriller film Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (partially adapted from the 1984 horror film The Devil’s Gift). As narrator and storyteller, Borgnine recounts a string of related supernatural tales, his modern-day fables notably centering on an enchanted and malicious cymbal-banging monkey toy stolen from the wizard Merlin. The film was later featured in the parodical television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, and has since gained a prominent cult following.

Other activities

Also in 1996, Borgnine toured the United States on a bus to meet his fans and see the country. The trip was the subject of a 1997 documentary, Ernest Borgnine on the Bus. He also served one year as the chairman of the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans, visiting patients in many Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Work after 1999

Starting in 1999, Borgnine provided his voice talent to the animated sitcom SpongeBob SquarePants as the elderly superhero Mermaid Man (where he was paired up with his McHale’s Navy co-star Tim Conway as the voice of Mermaid Man’s sidekick Barnacle Boy). He expressed affection for this role, in no small part for its popularity among children. After his death Nickelodeon re-aired all of the episodes in which Mermaid Man appeared in memoriam. Borgnine also appeared as himself in The Simpsons episode “Boy-Scoutz ‘n the Hood“, in addition to a number of television commercials. In 2000, he was the executive producer of Hoover, in which he was the only credited actor.

In 2007, Borgnine starred in the Hallmark original film A Grandpa for Christmas. He played a man who, after his estranged daughter ends up in the hospital because of a car accident, discovers that he has a granddaughter he never knew about. She is taken into his care, and they soon become great friends. Borgnine received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture made for Television for his performance. At 90, he was the oldest Golden Globe nominee ever.

Borgnine’s autobiography Ernie was published by Citadel Press in July 2008. Ernie is a loose, conversational recollection of highlights from his acting career and notable events from his personal life.

On April 2, 2009, he appeared in the last episode of the long-running medical series ER. His role was that of a husband whose long marriage ended with his wife’s death. In his final scene, his character is in a hospital bed lying beside his just-deceased wife. His performance garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, his third nomination and his first in 29 years (since being nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special in 1980 for All Quiet on the Western Front).

In 2009, at age 92, he starred as Frank, the main character of Another Harvest Moon, directed by Greg Swartz and also starring Piper Laurie and Anne Meara. On October 2, 2010, Borgnine appeared as himself in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. On October 15, 2010, he appeared in Red, which was filmed earlier that year. In late 2011, Borgnine completed what would be his last film, playing Rex Page in The Man Who Shook The Hand of Vicente Fernandez.

Personal Life

Publicity photo of Borgnine as Commander Quinton McHale from McHale’s Navy in 1963

Borgnine married five times. His first marriage, from 1949 to 1958, was to Rhoda Kemins, whom he met while serving in the Navy. They had one daughter, Nancee (born May 28, 1952). He was then married to actress Katy Jurado from 1959 to 1963. Borgnine’s marriage to singer Ethel Merman in 1964 lasted only 32 days. Their time together was mostly spent hurling profane insults at each other, and both would later admit that the marriage was a colossal mistake (Merman’s description of the marriage in her autobiography was a solitary blank page). Their divorce was finalized on May 25, 1965.

From 1965 to 1972, Borgnine was married to Donna Rancourt, with whom he had a son, Cristopher (born August 9, 1969) and two daughters, Sharon (born August 5, 1965) and Diana (born December 29, 1970). His fifth and last marriage was to Tova Traesnaes, which lasted from February 24, 1973 until his death in July 2012.

In 2000, Borgnine received his 50-year pin as a Freemason at Abingdon Lodge No. 48 in Abingdon, Virginia. He joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Los Angeles in 1964, received the KCCH in 1979, was crowned a 33 Inspector General Honorary in 1983, and received the Grand Cross of the Court of Honour in 1991.

Borgnine was a heavy smoker until 1962, after which he became a militant anti-smoker.


Borgnine died of kidney failure on July 8, 2012 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, with his family at his side. He was 95 years old.


Borgnine as “Grand Clown” in June 1973

Borgnine’s hometown of Hamden, Connecticut, where he enjoyed a large and vocal following, named a street in his honor. For 30 years (19722002), Borgnine marched in Milwaukee‘s annual Great Circus Parade as the “Grand Clown”.

In 1994, Borgnine received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.

In 1997, Borgnine was the commencement speaker at Lakeland College, and received an honorary doctorate in humane letters in recognition of his distinguished acting career.

In 1998, the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars dedicated a Golden Palm Star to him.

In 2006 the comune of Ottiglio, Italy, his father’s birthplace, gave him the honorary citizenship.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is dedicated to Borgnine.

Film awards and nominations

Borgnine won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Marty Piletti in the film Marty. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living recipient of the Best Actor Oscar.

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ernest Borgnine received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6324 Hollywood Blvd. In 1996, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

He was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the 17th Screen Actors Guild Awards, held January 30, 2011.

Receiving the Oscar for Best Actor in 1956 for Marty, from Grace Kelly

Year Award Category Title Result
1955 Academy Award Best Actor in a Leading Role Marty Won
BAFTA Award Best Foreign Actor Won
Golden Globe Award Best Actor Motion Picture Drama Won
NBR Award Best Actor Won
NYFCC Award Best Actor Won
1959 Locarno International Film Festival Best Actor The Rabbit Trap Won
1962 Emmy Award Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) McHale’s Navy Nominated
1979 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special All Quiet on the Western Front Nominated
1981 Golden Raspberry Award Worst Supporting Actor Deadly Blessing Nominated
1999 Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series Nominated
2007 Golden Globe Award Best Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television A Grandpa for Christmas Nominated
2009 Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series ER: And in the End… Nominated
2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhode Island International Film Festival Won
2011 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild Won

Awards from fraternal groups

In 2000, Borgnine received his 50-year pin as a Freemason in Abingdon Lodge No. 48, Abingdon, Virginia. He joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Los Angeles (in the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A) in 1964, received the KCCH in 1979, was crowned a 33 Inspector General Honorary in 1983, and received the Grand Cross of the Court of Honour in 1991. He was also a member of the Loyal Order of Moose at that organization’s Lodge in Junction City, Oregon. He volunteered to be Stories of Service National spokesman, urging his fellow World War II vets to come forward and share their stories.



Year Title Role Notes
1951 China Corsair Hu Chang
The Whistle at Eaton Falls Bill Street
The Mob Joe Castro
1953 Treasure of the Golden Condor Bit part
The Stranger Wore a Gun Bull Slager
From Here to Eternity Staff Sergeant James R. “Fatso” Judson
1954 Johnny Guitar Bart Lonergan
Demetrius and the Gladiators Strabo
Bounty Hunter, TheThe Bounty Hunter Bill Rachin
Vera Cruz Donnegan
1955 Bad Day at Black Rock Coley Trimble
Violent Saturday Stadt, Amish Farmer
Marty Marty Piletti Academy Award for Best Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor Motion Picture Drama
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Run for Cover Morgan
Last Command, TheThe Last Command Mike Radin
The Square Jungle Bernie Browne
1956 Jubal Shep Horgan
Catered Affair, TheThe Catered Affair Tom Hurley
Best Things in Life Are Free, TheThe Best Things in Life Are Free Lew Brown
Three Brave Men Bernard F. “Bernie” Goldsmith
1958 Vikings, TheThe Vikings Ragnar
Badlanders, TheThe Badlanders John “Mac” McBain
Torpedo Run Lieutenant / Lieutenant Commander Archer “Archie” Sloan
1959 The Rabbit Trap Eddie Colt Locarno International Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Roo Webber
1960 Man on a String Boris Mitrov
Pay or Die Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino Nominated Golden Laurel
1961 Go Naked in the World Pete Stratton
Black City Peppino Navarra
Last Judgement, TheThe Last Judgement Pickpocket
The Italian Brigands Sante Carbone
Barabbas Lucius
1964 McHale’s Navy Lt. Commander Quinton McHale, Sr Spin-off of the series of the same name
1965 Flight of the Phoenix, TheThe Flight of the Phoenix Trucker Cobb
1966 Oscar, TheThe Oscar Barney Yale
1967 Chuka Sergeant Otto Hansbach
Dirty Dozen, TheThe Dirty Dozen Major General Worden
1968 Man Who Makes the Difference, TheThe Man Who Makes the Difference Himself Documentary short film
Legend of Lylah Clare, TheThe Legend of Lylah Clare Barney Sheean
Split, TheThe Split Bert Clinger
Ice Station Zebra Boris Vaslov
1969 Wild Bunch, TheThe Wild Bunch Dutch Engstrom
Bullet for Sandoval, AA Bullet for Sandoval Don Pedro Sandoval
1970 Adventurers, TheThe Adventurers Fat Cat
Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? Sheriff Harve
1971 Sam Hill: Who Killed Mr. Foster? Deputy Sam Hill
Willard Al Martin
Bunny O’Hare Bill Green / William Gruenwald
Hannie Caulder Emmett Clemens
Trackers, TheThe Trackers Sam Paxton
Rain for a Dusty Summer The General
1972 World of Sport Fishing, TheThe World of Sport Fishing Himself Documentary
Film Portrait
Ripped Off Captain Perkins
Revengers, TheThe Revengers Hoop
Poseidon Adventure, TheThe Poseidon Adventure Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo
1973 Emperor of the North Pole Shack
Neptune Factor, TheThe Neptune Factor Chief Diver Don MacKay
Legend in Granite Vince Lombardi
1974 Twice in a Lifetime Vince Boselli
Law and Disorder Cy
Vengeance Is Mine Adam Smith
1975 Devil’s Rain, TheThe Devil’s Rain Jonathan “John” Corbis
Hustle Santuro
1976 Holiday Hookers Max
Shoot Lou
1977 Fire! Sam Brisbane
Greatest, TheThe Greatest Angelo Dundee
Crossed Swords John Canty
1978 The Ghost of Flight 401 Dom Cimoli
Cops and Robin Joe Cleaver
Convoy Natoosha County Sheriff Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace of Arizona
1979 Ravagers Rann
Double McGuffin, TheThe Double McGuffin Firat
Black Hole, TheThe Black Hole Harry Booth
1980 When Time Ran Out Detective Sergeant Tom Conti
Super Fuzz Sergeant Willy Dunlop
1981 High Risk Clint
Escape from New York Cabbie
Deadly Blessing Isaiah Schmidt Nominated Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1983 Young Warriors Lieutenant Bob Carrigan
Carpool Mickey Doyle
1984 Code Name: Wild Geese Fletcher
Love Leads the Way: A True Story Senator Brighton
Man Hunt Ben Robeson
1985 Alice in Wonderland The Lion
1988 Skeleton Coast Colonel Smith
The Opponent Victor
Spike of Bensonhurst Baldo Cacetti Nominated Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Big Turnaround, TheThe Big Turnaround Father Lopez
Moving Target Captain Morrison
1989 Gummibrchen kt man nicht Bischof
Laser Mission Professor Braun
Jake Spanner, Private Eye Sal Piccolo
1990 Any Man’s Death Herr Gantz
Appearances Emil Danzig
Tides of War Doctor
1991 Last Match, TheThe Last Match Coach
Mountain of Diamonds Ernie
1992 Mistress Himself Cameo
1993 Tierrztin Christine Dr. Gustav Gruber
Hunt for the Blue Diamond Hans Kroger
1994 Outlaws: Legend of O.B. Taggart, TheThe Outlaws: Legend of O.B. Taggart Unknown
1995 Tierrztin Christine II: The Temptation Dr. Gustav Gruber
Captiva Island Arty
1996 The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage Himself Voice; Documentary
All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 Carface Carruthers Voice
Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders Grandfather
1997 Ernest Borgnine on the Bus Himself Documentary
McHale’s Navy Admiral Quinton McHale, Sr. (a.k.a. Cobra) Based on the series of the same name
Gattaca Caesar
1998 Small Soldiers Kip Killigan Voice
BASEketball Ted Denslow
12 Bucks Lucky
Mel Grandpa
An All Dogs Christmas Carol Carface Carruthers Voice
1999 Abilene Hotis Brown
Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island, TheThe Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island Ben Quinn
Last Great Ride, TheThe Last Great Ride Franklin Lyle
2000 Castle Rock Nate
Hoover J. Edgar Hoover Also executive producer
Kiss of Debt, TheThe Kiss of Debt Godfather Mariano
2002 11’09″01 September 11 Pensioner (Segment: “United States of America”)
Whiplash Judge DuPont
2003 American Hobo, TheThe American Hobo Narrator Documentary
Long Ride Home, TheThe Long Ride Home Lucas Moat
2004 Blueberry Rolling Star
Barn Red Michael Bolini
Trail to Hope Rose, TheThe Trail to Hope Rose Eugene
Blue Light, TheThe Blue Light Faerie King
2005 That One Summer Otis Garner
3 Below Grandpa
Rail Kings Steamtrain
2006 The Bodyguard’s Cure Jerry Warden
2007 Oliviero Rising Bill
Grandpa for Christmas, AA Grandpa for Christmas Bert O’Riley Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actor Miniseries or Television Film
2008 Strange Wilderness Milas
I Am Somebody: No Chance in Hell (it) Judge Holliday
Frozen Stupid Frank Norgard
2010 Enemy Mind Command Voice
Genesis Code, TheThe Genesis Code Carl Taylor
Red Henry / Recordskeeper
Another Harvest Moon Frank
2011 Night Club Albert Accolade Competition for Leading Actor
Frank Currier Actor’s Award
SINY Film Festival Award for Best Actor
Lion of Judah, TheThe Lion of Judah Slink Voice
Love’s Christmas Journey Nicolas
Snatched Big Frank Baum
2012 The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez Rex Page


Year Title Role Notes
1951 Captain Video and His Video Rangers Nargola 3 episodes
Goodyear Playhouse Sgt. Lenahan Episode: “The Copper”
1951, 1952 The Philco Television Playhouse Mathew O’Rourke 2 episodes
1954 The Lone Wolf Saks Episode: “The Avalanche Story (a.k.a. The Reno Story)”
The Danny Thomas Show Cop Episode: “Rusty Runs Away”
Ford Theatre Gus White Episode: “Night Visitor”
Waterfront Jack Bannion 2 episodes
1957 Navy Log Host Episode: “Human Bomb”
1957- 61 Wagon Train Willy Moran / Earl Packer / Estaban Zamora 4 episodes
1957, 1960 Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre Willie / Big Jim Morrison 2 episodes
1959, 1960 Laramie Boone Caudie / Major Prescott 2 episodes
1961 Blue Angels, TheThe Blue Angels Unknown Episode: “The Blue Leaders”
1962- 1966 McHale’s Navy Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1963)
1966 Run for Your Life Harry Martin Episode: “Time and a Half on Christmas Eve”
1968 Get Smart TV Viewer Episode: “The Little Black Book: Part 2”
1971 The Trackers Sam Paxton Television film
1973 Legend in Granite Vince Lombardi Television film
1974 Little House on the Prairie Jonathan Episode: “The Lord is my Shepherd”
Twice in a Lifetime Vince Lombardi Television film
1976 – 1977 Future Cop Cleaver 7 episodes
1977 Jesus of Nazareth The Roman Centurion
Fire Sam Brisbane Television film
1978 The Ghost of Flight 401 Dom Cimoli Television film
1979 All Quiet on the Western Front Stanislaus Katczinsky Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1982 Magnum, P.I. Earl “Mr. White Death” Gianelli Episode: “Mr. White Death”
The Love Boat Dominic Rosselli Episode: “The Italian Cruise”
1983 Blood Feud J. Edgar Hoover Television film
Masquerade Jerry Episode: “Pilot”
Carpool Mickey Doyle Television film
1984 Last Days of Pompeii, TheThe Last Days of Pompeii Marcus Miniseries
Love Leads the Way: A True Story Senator Brighton Television film
1984 – 1986 Airwolf Dominic Santini
1985 Dirty Dozen: Next Mission, TheThe Dirty Dozen: Next Mission Major General Worden Television film
1986 Highway to Heaven Guido Liggio Episode: “Another Kind of War, Another Kind of Peace”
1987 Treasure Island in Outer Space Billy Bones
Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission, TheThe Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission Major General Worden Television film
Murder, She Wrote Cosmo Ponzini Episode: “Death Takes a Dive”
1988 The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission Major General Worden Television film
1989 Ocean Pedro El Triste Miniseries
Jake Spanner, Private Eye Sal Piccolo Television film
Jake and the Fatman Col. Tom Cody Episode: “My Shining Hour”
1991 Home Improvement Eddie Phillips Episode: “Birds of a Feather Flock to Taylor”
1993 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode: “Boy-Scoutz n the Hood
1993 – 1994 The Commish Frank Nardino 2 episodes
1995 – 1997 Single Guy, TheThe Single Guy Doorman 43 episodes
1996 – 1999 All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Series Carface Caruthers (voice) 6 epiosdes
1996 JAG Artemus Sullivan Episode: “Yesterday’s Heroes”
1998 Pinky and the Brain Father (voice) Episode: “The Third Mouse/The Visit”
1999 Early Edition Antonio Birelli Episode: “The Last Untouchable”
1999 – 2012 SpongeBob SquarePants Mermaid Man (voice)
2000 Walker, Texas Ranger Eddie Ryan Episode: “The Avenging Angel”
2002 Touched by an Angel Max Blandish Episode: “The Blue Angel”
7th Heaven Joe Episode: “The Known Soldier”
Family Law Frank Collero Episode: “Alienation of Affection”
2003 District, TheThe District Uncle Mike Murphy Episode: “Last Waltz”
2004 The Trail to Hope Rose Eugene Television film
2007 A Grandpa for Christmas Bert O’Riley Television film
2009 ER Paul Manning Episodes: “Old Times” and “And in the End…
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Aces ‘N’ Eights Thurmond Prescott Television film
The Wishing Well Big Jim Television film
2010 Saturday Night Live Himself Cameo in “What Up With That” sketch
2011 Love’s Christmas Journey Nicholas Television film

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2001 SpongeBob SquarePants: SuperSponge Mermaid Man Voice only
2009 SpongeBob’s Truth or Square
2010 SpongeBob’s Boating Bash


  • Ernest: “Spencer Tracy was the first actor I’ve seen who could just look down into the dirt and command a scene. He played a set-up with Robert Ryan that way. He’s looking down at the road and then he looks at Ryan at just the precise, right minute. I tell you, Rob could’ve stood on his head and zipped open his fly and the scene would’ve still been Mr. Tracy’s.”
  • Ernest: “The trick is not to become somebody else. You become somebody else when you’re in front of a camera or when you’re on stage. There are some people who carry it all the time. That, to me, is not acting. What you’ve gotta do is find out what the writer wrote about and put it into your mind. This is acting. Not going out and researching what the writer has already written. This is crazy!”
  • Ernest: “Everything I do has a moral to it. Yes, I’ve been in films that have had shootings. I made The Wild Bunch (1969), which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it. Yeah.”
  • Ernest: “Ever since they opened the floodgates with Clark Gable saying, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,’ somebody’s ears pricked up and said, ‘Oh boy, here we go!’. Writers used to make such wonderful pictures without all that swearing, all that cursing. And now it seems that you can’t say three words without cursing. And I don’t think that’s right.”
  • Ernest on drugs: “No, I’ve never done anything. At least, not to my knowledge. I once took a bunch of goofballs by accident. They looked like candy. They were in a little bowl at a party. I grabbed a handful and went to town. That was some New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have a coherent thought till February.”
  • Ernest on his marriage to Ethel Merman: “Biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney.”
  • Ernest on his $5,000 salary for playing the eponymous lead in Marty (1955), which won him a Best Actor Oscar: “…I would have done it for nothing.”
  • Ernest on Women’s Rights: “They tried it the wrong way. You can’t expect anyone to take you seriously if you burn your undies and tell me I’m a pig. That’s why it failed. Too many ugly broads telling me that they don’t want to sleep with me. Who wanted you anyway?”
  • Ernest: “I’m 81 years old and I like to speak my mind. As a legacy, on the day I die, I’d like to have a newspaper publish all the things that I find wrong in the United States today. And my first would be to get rid of the politicians.”