MILWAUKEE — Ernest Borgnine’s acting career spanned seven decades and about 200 projects. The last of those projects has a Milwaukee connection.
95-year-old Borgnine died of kidney failure Sunday afternoon, July 8th. His wife, Tova, and children were at his side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Borgnine’s break came as a tough guy in 1953’s From Here to Eternity, and his role as a sensitive butcher in the movie “Marty”– earned him an Oscar. That versatility put Borgnine on the top of the list for a Milwaukee-produced animated movie called Miracle Mouse/Cranky’s Miracle.
“We were looking for a voice that could be very mean and yet be very enduring,” Tom Hignite, founder of Miracle Studios said.
Hignite thought Borgnine fit the bill — but he had a tough time getting word to Borgnine about the project. Once he found out it was a Milwaukee project — the barriers came down.
“His love of the Circus Parade and his years of being the clown in the Circus Parade is really what opened the key to that door to allow him to be in this production,” Hignite said.
No one was more pleased with Borgnine’s participation than project animator Philo Barnhart, a huge Borgnine fan.
“He’s been a profound influence on the way the character is being drawn now, just very inspirational, his vocal performance, so I am getting to work with his voice,” Barnhart said.
Borgnine’s voice for the character Cranky Crane was recorded very recently in Los Angeles. Hignite says Borgnine wanted to give the project his best.
“He wanted to find out what he could do to make this better, how could he give us different voice inflections to bring a new thing to this. He could have just phoned it in, but that wasn’t his personality,” Hignite said.