Hollywood heavy is really a teddy bear—a very dull teddy bear.
Born in 1917, Borgnine reflects on his long life and career in this oddly toothless memoir. He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of an introverted, lonely butcher in the 1955 film Marty, but Hollywood preferred him as sneering bully, and he was memorably imposing in such classics of macho cinema as From Here to Eternity, The Wild Bunch and The Dirty Dozen. How Borgnine felt about this typecasting remains a mystery, as he expresses wide-eyed gratitude for virtually every professional opportunity that came his way, repeatedly remarking on how lucky he was just to be in the business. Such modesty, though admirable, makes for dull reading. Largely forgotten movies like Hannie Caulder and Bunny O’Hare receive as much attention as the handful of classics Borgnine graced. The film fan eager for insights into the methods of Sam Peckinpah or Frank Sinatra will be frustrated, but those wondering if The Andy Griffith Show’s George “Goober” Lindsay was as friendly as he seemed on screen will be satisfied. (He was.) The much-married author is maddeningly circumspect when discussing his wives and marital difficulties. Of his short, surprising marriage to Broadway legend Ethel Merman, he divulges only that the relationship suffered when Merman became jealous of his greater fame. Borgnine is more forthcoming about his patriotism, expressing great admiration for John Wayne and Charlton Heston and, in a weirdly funny aside, defending the honor of cross-dressing FBI honcho J. Edgar Hoover. The pages fly by in a pleasant blur of “those were the days” homilies and aphoristic life lessons. He’s no prose stylist, but Borgnine’s enthusiasm for exclamation points is rather endearing—and they’re the appropriate punctuation for his relentlessly upbeat memoir.
Tepid and corny. Whatever happened to Fatso Judson?