Before 1955’s Marty, Ernest Borgnine was a former stage actor who was typecast in Hollywood as the heavy, the bad guy, in films such as From Here to Eternity, Johnny Guitar and Bad Day at Black Rock. After his Oscar-winning turn in that film, Borgnine began getting more character roles outside of just being the villain and allowed him to develop a career that spanned seven decades.
Marty, the lovelorn Bronx butcher whose unconventional looks make it hard to connect with the ladies, seems like a role custom made for Borgnine. However, Borgnine was the second actor to play the role (Rod Steiger played the role 1953 television play the film was based on). But Borgnine brought a pride and vulnerability, an ego and a sense of desperation to the role few actors could have echoed. Borgnine would beat out Frank Sinatra (The Man with the Golden Arm), James Dean (East of Eden), Spencer Tracy (Bad Day at Black Rock), and James Cagney (Love Me or Leave Me) to win Best Actor. The film would win Best Picture, director Delbert Mann would win Best Director, and Paddy Chayefsky would win for adapting his teleplay for the big screen.
Borgnine would carve out a successful career in both the cinema, with iconic roles in films such as McHale’s Navy, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, The Posideon Adventure and Escape From New York, and in television, where his work would receive three Emmy nominations and he would star in the television adaption of McHale’s Navy, Airwolf, and in guest appearances in TV shows such as The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and ER, amongst others.