There are some things that are intrinsically American. Like the old Chevrolet commercials singing patriotically about baseball, apple pie and Chevrolet, they should have made room for Carol Burnett. There may be a few people who could argue about bestowing the title of “American first lady of comedy television”, but it would be a weak argument at best.
The full title of this autobiography by Ernest Borgnine is: Ernest Borgnine: I Don’t Want To Set the World on Fire, I Just Want to Keep My Nuts Warm. The title came from a sign that Mr Borgnine had seen in his younger days that was advertising hot chestnuts, the sign stuck with him and became the title of his autobiography.
This 2009 book helped his fans learn so much about him. It was a brilliant look at a man who seemingly did not have a bad word to say about anyone. I stumbled across this hardcover copy of his book last year. Sadly, I had barely finished reading it when the news of his death was broadcast; a truly sad day for fans over the world and a loss to his friends and family.
Like most folks my age, I grew up watching episodes of McHale’s Navy (which also had the brilliant Tim Conway among the cast) and chuckled along with everyone else at his and his men’s antics. I saw his award-winning performance as the lovelorn and lonely butcher Marty and watched him die a slow motion death in The Wild Bunch.
Borgnine was one of the few actors who worked constantly. He bounced from television to film and back again. He played every type roll imaginable and towards the end of his career he even voiced a popular character on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon enabling him to reach an entire new generation of fans.
If you are looking for a “kiss and tell” type of book that dredges up all the old skeleton’s from the closet, don’t bother picking this book up. If you want to read a book that leaves you with a warm glow and an overall feeling of Bonhomme then this is the book for you.
Borgnine recounts his early years from when he joined the Navy right out of high school, his time as a “mature” student of 28 and his start in the theatre world doing repertory theatre. All of his memories of working in the entertainment business have an aura of excitement and joy in doing something he was good at and loved doing.
He writes about his experience in Marty and From Here to Eternity; He also tells about his experiences with some of the most powerful actors in the business.
He also talks about his marriages and he recounts his horrible lapse in judgement that caused him to marry Ethel Merman only to have the marriage dissolved 32 days later.
Mr Borgnine was among the few actors formally recognised as being the oldest in their profession who had not retired. He was proud of that and he was just as excited doing the voice of Mermaid Man and working with his old pal Tim Conway (who voiced Mermaid Man’s sidekick Barnacle Boy) and being heard by a new young generation of fans.
Ernest Borgnine was an actor who filled his roles. He did the same with his life. Nothing was too hard or too difficult to attempt and he was game for everything. There are not too many left like Mr Borgnine. Luckily for us he told us a lot about himself before he exited from the wings of life.
A great sentimental and feel good book about a great actor in his words; what could be wrong with that.
And just for fun: did you know that Ernest Borgnine was the only actor to be in all the Dirty Dozen films?
If you haven’t read this, do so immediately; it’s worth the time and effort and it is not too long at 245 pages with a bunch of great pictures to divert yourself with.