As they say, these things come in thirties, and yesterday Ernest Borgnine joined the ranks of the many actors, celebrities and famous figures to leave us this year, passing away at ninety-five less than a week after Nora Ephron and less than two weeks after Andy Griffith. Borgnine was one of those life-time, living legend actors, sort of a male Betty White, a performer whose career spanned more decades than most marriages, a half-century of a work on his resume. By the time we knew who he was, or at least knew his name, he was already into the golden age of his career, a silver-headed silver back. And we came know him best – for better or worse – as Manny the doorman on NBC’s The Single Guy. Certainly, this is not the crowning achievement of his career, that would be his Oscar for 1955’s Marty, and the NBC sitcom is more of a footnote on his illustrious filmography, but it is the role with which we most associate him. We didn’t choose to be twelve-years-old when The Single Guy came on the air, it choose us. And how were we not supposed to watch the show between Friends and Seinfeld? But that’s where The Single Guy was, 8:30pm on Thursday nights, the cushiest spot for any fledgling sitcom in all of television, and there on that show was an adorable, bushy-haired old man. And that’s how we remember Ernest Borgnine.
In lieu of any choice excerpts from The Single Guy (if such a thing exists), here’s Borgnine talking about that show and its rapid demise. His quiet bemusement over the show’s sudden cancellation and the questionable machinations of showbiz indicates that Borgnine the person was not so unlike the Borgnine characters: upbeat, gentle, and genuine.