Remembering Harry Booth

Ernest Borgnine was one of the great character actors, with more than 200 TV and film appearances to his credit. Everyone knows who he is, even if they don’t know his name. Here’s a guy who did everything from Johnny Guitar to Spongebob Squarepants. Not usually as the lead actor, of course, but always indispensable. Like a lot of actors, though, I remember him best from the films that made the biggest impression on me when I was young. I’ve never seen McHale’s Navy (unless you count the Tom Arnold version, which, incidentally, did entertain me), but Borgnine was part of the cast in The Black Hole, for which I wrote an appreciation over at Playtime. I also remember him as the centurion in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, which we had on VHS, and which I watched fairly regularly. The fact that I never realized that the same person was in both films is partly due to my ignorant childhood brain failing to put 2 and 2 together, but I’d like to think that it also had something to do with just how versatile Borgnine was. Later on, as I watched more movies, I appreciated the work he did in films like The Dirty Dozen, Marty, or (especially) The Wild Bunch, not to mention his frequent guest appearances on various contemporary TV shows. But he’s always going to be Harry Booth to me; maybe citing The Black Hole as his signature role doesn’t seem to be terribly gracious, given his many other achievements, but it’s how I remember him, it’s a huge reason why I’ll miss him, and I think it must take a brave and talented man to play a coward so damn well. God speed, Mr. Borgnine. Hope to see you on the other side.


About tardishobbit

Reads. Writes. Watches movies. Occasionally stirs from chair. Holds an advanced degree in heuristic indolence. View all posts by tardishobbit

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