In Memoriam

Over the course of the past week, the world lost two veterans of the screen, both big and small.

Andy Griffith was widely known for his work on television. That means for many The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock; but for me his seminal work as Lonesome Rhodes in the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd, directed by Elia Kazan. If you have not seen this film it is a must! It was Griffith’s feature film debut and vaulted him onto scene as a major star.

Based on the short story, Your Arkansas Traveler by Budd Schulberg (who adapted the story to film), it is about the meteoric rise of a small town drifter to a larger than life radio and television. It is a statement about the twisted, cynical (and corrupting) world of stardom and notoriety.

While it received mixed upon its initial theatrical release, A Face in the Crowd is now considered a classic, so much so that in 2008 it was selected by the National Film Registry’s list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films.


And just yesterday (Sunday) we received word of the passing of Academy-award winner Ernest Borgnine at the age of 95. Over his long career, Borgnine was generally regarded as a supporting and character actor in roles such as From Here to Eternity, Johnny Guitar and Bad Day at Black Rock; his status was elevated when in 1955 he starred in the title character, Marty, the story of a Bronx butcher with a heart of gold. For his performance, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, beating out competition from the likes of Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy and the late James Dean.

But for me, Borgnine was a constant screen presence, that due to his prolific nature, I had grown accustom to. Some of the films I recall seeing him in films such as The Dirty Dozen, The Flight of the Phoenix, The Poseidon Adventure and the controversial Sam Peckinpah feature, The Wild Bunch.

Later in his career he found a steady stream of work on both film and television.

 

What are some of your memories of these performers?

Comments

  1. I was a big fan of Airwolf when I was a kid. That’s where I have the fondest memories of Ernest Borgnine. He had an amazingly long career. Didn’t realise he was 95. Clearly he loved his work.
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  2. Wonderful tribute for a stellar pair of performers.
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  3. Happy to see you mention A FACE IN THE CROWD 🙂 I still can’t get over how prescient that film is. Griffith was so good in it.

    I was looking at Borgnine’s IMDB page yesterday and I had no clue how much the guy worked…he was filming constantly it seems like, which is always a compliment to an actor 🙂
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  4. Jack Deth says:

    Hi, iluv and company:

    Excellent tributes to Mister Griffith and Mr. Borgnine!

    Andy Griffith made a career out of playing the patient and paternal Sheriff Taylor. Though his absolute best work was as Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes in ‘A Face in the Crowd’. Showing great range and the unfettered ability to revel in the ‘Superb Louse’ arena. While introducing Walter Matthau and backing up one of Patricia Neal’s best performance.

    Ernest Borgnine will always be ‘Marty’ to me. Despite a plethora of other characters on film and television. Mr. Borgnine always delivered!

    • Very true Jack, very true. Esp. with Borgnine I was so surprised with how many movies he was in and with both of the fellas they worked right up to the end. How awesome is that!

  5. Borgnine was really unusual in that he could play genuine menace (e.g opposite Lee Marvin in EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE) but also could be really sweet (MARTY) and also funny (MCHALE’S NAVY) – That kind of variety only comes with real talent. I remember him saying that he was up opposite Brando to play the title role in THE GODFATHER, but lost it because he would have played it in a much tougher and less romanticised way. It would have made infinitely less money that way but Borgnine was always believable no matter what the role.
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  6. I regret that I haven’t seen any of Borgnine’s classic movies, ‘From Here to Eternity’ is still on my must-watch list 🙂 I did like his brief appearance in RED last year though. RIP Mr. Borgnine!
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