With his coarsely podgy features, bug eyes, gap-toothed grin and stocky build, Ernest Borgnine, who has died aged 95 of renal failure, seemed destined to remain one of nature's supporting actors in a string of sadistic and menacing parts. Instead he won an Oscar for a role which was the antithesis of all his previous characters.
In 1955, the producer Harold Hecht wanted to transfer Paddy Chayefsky's teleplay Marty to the big screen, with Rod Steiger in the title role, which he had created. But Steiger was filming Oklahoma! so was unavailable. Borgnine was offered the role after a female guest at a Hollywood reception quite disinterestedly remarked to Hecht that, ugly as he was, Borgnine possessed an oddly tender quality which made her yearn to mother him. "That," Hecht said later,