Ah crap. Just as I thought I'd sorted out the next few weeks top fives someone I really liked goes and dies and I feel I need to mark this appropriately. Ernest Borgnine was 95 and had a long and productive live but I still feel sad at his passing. He was a staple component of all the best films I saw growing up and seemed indestructible. Born in Connecticut to Italian parents he joined the Navy at 18 and served for ten years. Leaving the service and the end of World War II and keen to avoid factory employment, he landed his first stage role in 1947 and got his break in films, playing the sadistic Sergeant "Fatso" Judson, in the 1953 version of From Here To Eternity.
In 1955 he won the Best Actor Oscar for Marty. He seemed to pretty much always play himself, he was a likeable regular bloke, even when it turned out he was the bad guy. His film and TV career spanned six decades and researching this topic made me realise how many of his films I've not seen, so apologies for any glaring omissions. Andrew Collins has written a far better tribute than I could ever manage which you can read here.
1. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) Dir: Ronald Neame - Hell upside down! The ultimate 70s disaster movie in which Borgnine plays Detective Lieutenant Mike Rogo who ultimately leads the few survivors to safety.
2. The Dirty Dozen (1967) Dir: Robert Aldrich - Playing commanding officer Major General Worden who eventually gives permission for the "Dirty Dozen" to go into combat. A role he reprised for two less successful sequels.
3. Ice Station Zebra (1968) Dir: John Sturges - A film that led me into an obsession with Alistair MacClean novels and Scottish nuclear submarine bases (on a family holiday to Inverness we made a detour to see Loch Long which is mentioned in the book and attempted to get a tour round the Naval Base at Faslane entirely due to my infatuation with the film). Borgnine plays the seemingly amiable Russian defector Boris Vaslov.
4. Escape from New York (1981) Dir: John Carpenter - A cult classic in which the island of Manhattan has been converted into a maximum security prison. Kurt Russell as "Snake" Plissken is given 24 hours to rescue the President who has been taken hostage after his plane crashes onto the island. Borgnine plays Cabbie one of the inmates who becomes Snake's ally and dies in the final dramatic escape over 69th Street Bridge.
5. The Wild Bunch (1969) Dir: Sam Peckinpah - "If they move, kill 'em!" Borgnine is Dutch Engstrom one of an aging gang of outlaws in the dying embers of the American wild west.
I was determined to try and shoehorn in a mention of Disney's post Star Wars turkey "The Black Hole" (Dir: Gary Nelson - 1979) a film I loved mainly due to the little flying robots who prove to be the heroes. Ernest played journalist Harry Booth who, if memory serves, eventually realises what's going on but dies an unfortunate death. It's a film I'll always love cannot honestly claim it's better than any of the five that made the list.