Ernest Borgnine has died. In this world of Hollywood lightweights Borgnine was Godzilla.
He passed away, aged 95, and was still acting up until 2009 (in ER). You will have seen some of his films: The Vikings, Escape From New York, Poseidon Adventure, Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch, Flight of the Phoenix, Ice Station Zebra and that big Oscar win in 1955 for Marty. Just a small selection from a huge resume.
I discovered him in an entirely different way. I loved Helicopters! Borgnine played ace pilot Dominic Santini in 55 episodes of US TV series Airwolf. Running from 1984 until 1986 it went head to head with my other favourite helicopter drama Blue Thunder. To be honest I always preferred the Blue Thunder machine to Airwolf but my favourite character out of both shows was Dom.
I met Borgnine just a few years ago in Birmingham. He filled the room with laughter and hi-jinx. He was happy to talk about all of his roles and the affection in his face when we spoke about Airwolf lives with me today, especially today.
The measure of a true actor is their entire body of work. Ernest Borgnine moved effortlessly between genre and medium with the grace of Astaire and with unparalleled humility. A true legend, of course, but to me, aged 10, he was the best damn chopper pilot ever.