The Oscar and The Five & Dime

If you ever want a different perspective for life in general, talk to someone who’s lived a rich one; one who has the experience and brutal scars that serve as definitive proof of a well-lived life. While I will certainly never know the honor of speaking with Ernest Borgnine, I recently caught a 2009 interview with the then-92 year old movie star. When I say “movie star”, you can be sure it has nothing at all in common with what we are blessed with out of Hollywood today (and I use the term “blessed” loosely).

The very first film I saw him in was A Catered Affair. He co-starred with Bette Davis in this 1956 film about parents whose only daughter is getting married. In an effort to “keep up with the Jones'”, Davis annihilates the budget to the point Borgnine is beside himself. He’s nearing retirement and though he wants to give his daughter a wedding, he simply cannot afford the lavish event his wife has in mind. I thought it was one of the best films ever.

The bride-to-be finally tells her mother (much to her father’s pleasure) to back off as she and her fiance are perfectly happy with a small ceremony.

Incredible film, and one my favorites…until I saw Marty.

There are few words to describe what I felt after I saw this film – it resonated with me on many levels. The interview I saw today revealed a very humble and gracious man. There exists no typical Hollywood snobbery and it’s clear he never possessed that on any level. The interview opens with his telling Robert Osborne of the night he won the Oscar for Marty and how he was looking around to find all the other nominees, sure that one of them would win. He said he was watching Burt Lancaster and Jimmy Cagney, both of whom were nominated. He said he was thinking to himself, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice, I’d like to win…’ and the next thing I know, I’m getting poked in my rib and someone said, “They called your name! They called your name!” He’s telling the story, quite animated and clearly reliving the moment. He mentions he kissed his wife and went up to stand next to Princess Grace, who announced the winner for Best Actor.

And then, as he continues his story, we see the photo moments after winning the Oscar and with a smile as big as Texas. Interestingly, he was paid $5,000 for this movie.

Soon, he begins telling of his life before Hollywood and of his time spent serving our country in the military and how he returned home to difficult times. He said he told his mother at one point, “I could go back into service and retire in ten years”. She looked at him and said, “…out of the blue.’Why don’t you go into acting? You always like to make a damn fool out yourself in front of people. Might as well make money doing it.” From there, he tells of how the politics in Hollywood worked back then and how he was often taken for granted and after having turned down a role the studio wanted him to take, he was blackballed. He said he was only interested in making a living. So, he told the studio heads, after not having worked for months, that Christmas was coming and he was going down to the Five & Dime to see if he could take a part time job. The studio, of course, went ballistic. They couldn’t have their Oscar winning star at the Five & Dime! From there things got better for him. And “better” is definitely an understatement. Here’s a clip I found from Marty. I think we can all relate to the “blue suit” moment. This one scene is what I loved so much about this film -it truly is an amazing movie – definitely worth your time.

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