Born Ermes Effron Borgnino in Hamden, Connecticut, he joined the United States Navy after high school and stayed in for ten years. After a few years of drifting, he attended the Randall School of Drama in Hartford. Following graduation, he went to the famous Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. In 1949, he debuted on Broadway in Harvey. In 1951 he moved to Los Angeles, California, receiving his big break in 1953's From Here to Eternity.
In 1955, Borgnine starred in the drama Marty, which gained him an Academy Award for Best Actor. He appeared in several films in the 1950s, including A Catered Affair and Emperor of the North Pole. In 1962 he starred in the television series McHale's Navy.
Borgnine has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6324 Hollywood Blvd.