Borgnine began his acting career after a period of listlessness following World War II. Borgnine joined the U.S. Navy in 1935 and served until the end of the war on the destroyer USS Lamberton. After refusing to settle for a dead-end factory job, Borgnine began auditioning for theater roles at his mother's suggestion.
After acting in shows such as The Glass Menagerie and Harvey, Borgnine moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film career. His first major role came in 1955, playing Sergeant Fatso Judson in 1953's From Here to Eternity. Following his big-screen debut, Borgnine became known as a dedicated character actor.
Borgnine won his Academy Award for his portrayal of Marty Piletti in the 1955 film Marty. The movie also won best motion-picture, best director, and best writing honors that year. It stars Borgnine as a well-intentioned Bronx butcher who fears he may never find love in his life. At a party, he meets and falls in love with Clara, a woman who shares the same fears.
Borgnine went on to make a name for himself in the successful television shows McHale's Navy and Airwolf while making regular appearances on film. In 1999, Borgnine took the memorable role of aging superhero Mermaid Man on the wildly successful cartoon Spongebob Squarepants.