"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, May 09, 2009

Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine 33°

The Scotsman has a wonderful interview("Importance of being Ernest") with Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine 33° today. At 92, he is the oldest living Oscar winner, for his starring role in 1955's "Marty". The words were by the incomparable Paddy Chayefsky, and Borgnine gives him great credit ("Let's blame the writer, Paddy Chayefsky," he says, reminding me without spelling it out that the playwright's name is synonymous with "kitchen sink realism". "A lot of people have tried to do it and can't. It's a thing of heart, you've got to have a lot of heart for it and love for it.").

But Borgnine made Marty (like so many other of his characterizations) real. You stand up and cheer in the last scene when he tells his deadbeat buddies, who can't get a date, but ridicule him because his isn't pretty enough: "You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad."

The article is noteworthy for Freemasons, not just because Borgnine is a Mason, but because of a question posed by the reporter. He has just published his autobiography in the UK with the drop-dead great title, "Ernest Borgnine: I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire, I Just Want to Keep My Nuts Warm." (It's been blandly titled in the US simply "Ernie: The Autobiography"). The reporter, Lee Randall, remarks that Borgnine mentions God frequently in the book, and asks if he is a religious man.

"I'm not, and this is how it came about. My mother's family had their own church in Italy. Her father was a count, the financial advisor to King Victor Emmanuel. My mother never told me this, it came from my father. I wanted to be an altar boy and she said, 'No! Period!' I wanted to know why but nobody was saying a word.

"One day my father told me that this priest in the family's church attempted to rape her. She turned against the church like a madwoman. To make a long story short, when we used to go to church with my uncle she'd say, 'You see those trees out there: that's your church. See those beautiful fields and those flowers: that's your church. This is what you worship.' "

His religion now, he says, is Freemasonry. "I am very happy to say that I'm a 33rd degree Grand Cross Master Mason in the Scottish Rite. We believe in one thing, God. We believe in another thing: to help your fellow man. Be as kind as you can be to everybody. We support and take care of our own hospitals; we have a retirement plan, charities. You don't have to go to church. If you can do good like that, what's better?"

Brother Borgnine is a member of Abingdon Lodge No. 48, Abingdon, Virginia, and, I believe, Hollywood Lodge No. 355 in Los Angeles.

(BTW, while Brother Borgnine has had over 200 screen credits to his name, plus untold theatre roles, he has recently done voice over parts in animated programs—Mermaid Man in SpongeBob SquarePants, for example. Masons take note: this year he voiced a part in the animated film "The Lion of Judah.")


  1. As a someone new to the Craft I wonder how Bro. Borgnine's remarks will be recieved by the established parties in the fraternity.
    When asked I have always towed the official party line sos to speak and said that Freemasonry is not a religion.
    Even if Freemasonry isn't a religion it certainly provides teachings that I sincerely believe and try to emulate in life. Which is something that I could not find in organized religion (not without feeling that I was being untrue to other deeply held beliefs so frankly it serves the same purpose for me, although I wouldn't call it such.

  2. Illustrious Brother Ernest Borgnine 33 is also a member if the Rhode Island Chapter #1 of the International Police Square Club. Welcome aboard Ill. Brother!

    Bro. Ron Gilbert 32
    St. David's Lodge #72 AFM
    Darlington, SC


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