Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ernest Borgnine & Ethel Merman- a Saucy Tale

One of the movies Ernest Borgnine starred in was the US production of Australian Ray Lawler's successful play Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll which was filmed in Sydney in 1959.
Despite being a hit in Australia and the UK and re-named Season Of Passion for the US market, the movie didn't exactly wow the US critics despite it's all star cast of Borgnine, Ann Baxter and Angela Lansbury. One thought The tale of 2 cane cutters who travel to Melbourne for a few months of frivolity was actually a recruiting film for migrants with British actor John Mills' odd Anglo Aussie vocals.

Frank Wilson
The supporting cast and crew were Australian and many friendships were forged between the US & UK stars.
One was actor Frank Wilson who remained friends with Borgnine and visited him in LA in 1967 where Borgnine recounted an anecdote about his short lived marriage to the singing star Ethel Merman, a union that raised eyebrows in Hollywood as most assumed Ethel played for the other team and was known for her sharp tongue and quick wit. Wilson would later repeat it for friends.

Borgnine told Wilson that Merman and he fought like cats and dogs and after 3 weeks detested each other with Ernie beginning to criticize Ethel about her age. She was 58 and he 46 at the time.

Ernest said : "One day she came off the set of a film and said- 'the director said today I looked sensational. He said I had the face of a 20 year old, and the body and legs of a 30 year old' !"
I said : "did he say anything about your old cunt ?"."No" replied Ethel, "he didn't mention you at all".