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Timeline and Marriages of Ernest Borgnine

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Ernest Borgnine's Third Wife -- Ethel Merman (1964-1964)
Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine

American actor Ernest Borgnine leans in to kiss actress Ethel Merman during their wedding reception in Beverly Hills, California in June 1964.

Photo: Archive Photos / Getty Images
The marriage of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman was one of Hollywood's shortest marriages. The third marriage for Ernie and the fourth marriage for Ethel ended on their honeymoon.

Born:

Ethel Merman aka Ethel Agnes Zimmermann: January 16, 1908 in Astoria, New York.

Died:

Ethel Merman: At the age of 76, Ethel died from brain cancer in New York City, New York on February 15, 1984.

How Ethel and Ernie Met:

Ernie and Ethel met in November 1963 at the home of friends, Temple Texas and Joseph Shribman.
Brian Kellow: "From the start, Borgnine courted Ethel with the fervor of a lovestruck teenager, and she succumbed. She paid no attention to friends' warnings of his marital past or to the nine-year age difference between them."
Source: Brian Kellow. Ethel Merman: A Life. 2007. pg. 201.
Ernie about his proposal: ""You know I'll be a free man on June 23. Nothing would make me happier than if you would become Mrs. Ernest Borgnine on June 24.' Even I was surprised I said it ... I was a two-time loser, and Ethel said she had been married three times and had given up all hope of ever getting married again. So had I."
Source: James Bacon. "Ethel, Ernie Convinced: It's Love at First Sight." The Salt Lake Tribune. 4/18/1964. pg. 18.

Wedding Date and Info:

Ethel and Ernie were married on June 27, 1964 in Ernie's backyard in Beverly Hills, California.
Ernie: "We had a big wedding in my backyard in Beverly Hills. It was quite beautiful and everybody had a great time. Lovebirds were released from cages and flew all over the place. Everyone was enthralled. Biggest mistake of my life. Maybe I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney, who knows?"
Source: Ernest Borgnine. Ernie: The Autobiography. 2009. pg. 143. [Paperback]
Brian Kellow: "On June 26, wearing a flowing chiffon dress in three shades of yellow, Ethel married Ernest Borgnine in the garden of his house. Five hundred friends were in attendance, including Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lucille Ball and Gary Morton, and Vivian Vance."
Source: Brian Kellow. Ethel Merman: A Life. 2007. pg. 202-203.

Divorce:

Ethel and Ernie were divorced on July 28, 1964.

Their planned honeymoon to Japan, Hong Kong, and Honolulu ended after a day or so in Tokyo. She moved out of their house on August 3rd and received an interlocutory divorce decree in Santa Monica Superior Court on November 18, 1965.

Brian Kellow: "When it was published in the spring of 1978, it [Merman: An Autobiography] received its biggest burst of attention from a chapter entitled "My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine" -- which was followed by a blank page. It had been Ethel's idea ..."
Source: Brian Kellow. Ethel Merman: A Life. 2007. pg. 248-249.

Ethel had three previous marriages.

  • William Smith: 1940-1941.
  • Robert Daniels Levitt: 1941-1952
  • Robert Six: 1953-1960

Quotes About the Marriage of Ernie Borgnine and Ethel Merman:

Ethel: "I've never been in love before," she said in 1964. When they split she explained, "I'm a lover, not a fighter." Source: Suzanne Adelson. "With His Fifth Marriage, Ernest Borgnine Finally Has a Face-Saver: Wife Tove." People.com. 8/17/1981.

More About Ethel Merman:

  • Ethel Merman Profile
  • Ernest Borgnine's Marriages

  • Ernie Borgnine and Rhoda Kemins
  • Ernie Borgnine and Katy Jurado
  • Ernie Borgnine and Ethel Merman
  • Ernie Borgnine and Donna Rancourt
  • Ernie Borgnine and Tova Traesnaes
  • Suggested Reading

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