Merman's Moaning Ended Borgnine Marriage

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Movie veteran ERNEST BORGNINE ended his 32-day marriage to Broadway star ETHEL MERMAN after he overheard his new wife complaining to her parents about her "terrible" husband.
The actor wed the Broadway star in 1964 and the couple headed off to Hawaii and the Far East for their honeymoon, but by the time they returned to mainland America, their romance was in tatters.
And Borgnine insists his wife's insatiable ego and her complaining ways turned the honeymoon into a honey-moan!
He recalls, "We went on our honeymoon from Beverly Hills to Hawaii to Kyoto, Tokyo and Hong Kong. During that time people knew me and they would say hi. I would introduce my wife Ethel Merman, and they'd say, 'Who?' 'You know, the great singer.' And they'd say, 'Oh sure, how do you do?'
"She was getting angrier and angrier. Her ego had been hurt. When we were in Hawaii, she called her mother and dad and I heard on the telephone, 'This man has been terrible,' and this and that.
"When we got back to L.A. I said, 'This is it, I can't take it.' That was the end of it."


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Tags: Ernest Borgnine - Ethel Merman

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Todd S's picture

Todd S

Geoffrey Mark in his biography, Ethel Merman: The Biggest Star on Broadway gives this explaination:Borgnine, star of TV's McHale's Navy, expected Merman's parents to pay for the wedding - meaning she would. He was given a free cruise to Hong Kong by sponsors, which was to be their honeymoon trip. An angry Merman thought he was cheap. On the wedding night, both drank excessively and Borgnine couldn't perform, says Mark. "What are you, a fag?" she asked. He slapped her. She slapped him back, and he belted her. The marriage ended soon after the cruise.This version was told to the author by more than one source. I think it's pretty plausible since Merman's first words when departing the cruise were "I'm a lover, not a fighter." I believe Borgnine's ego is too large to admit that, 1) He couldn't "perform" on his honeymoon and, 2) He hit a woman. Neither would be good for his career. Would Merman end a marriage because of a bruised ego? I doubt it. She wanted this marriage to last. She very much wanted companionship at this stage of her life. She'd already moved her belongings into Borgnine's California home. Ending the marriage so quickly would be a much bigger blow to her ego than the story Borgnine tells.
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fafarloom's picture

fafarloom

Merman was no saint and was truly a nasty piece of work. She was revilled by many in the profession for years and was the inspiration for the character of 'Helen Lawson' played by Susan Hayward in "Valley Of The Dolls". She was pretty much totally egocentric, backstabbing and ready to destroy anyone who was not either totally intimidated by her, those who upstaged her or those who stood up to her. She had a coterie of friends in Hollywood and New York who were always bowing and scraping to her for decades out of fear and were most likely the main sources for all the biographies written about her since her death. Merman herself never shut up about her marriage to Borgnine and probably her standard tirade is the one mentioned in this Merman biography. She would blurt out this story so often, she was like a human jukebox, as my father would say--I know as he was in the business and had her among the clients he had to service until his death in 1980. He heard it many times in the mid 60s and all over again when Borgnine's career took an upswing throughout the 70s, the only time she did show restraint was the blank page she devoted to the marriage in her own autobiography.I think Borgnine is far more generous to Merman than she ever was to him, and his comments in the last couple of years and his recent autobiography shows him pretty much showing a lot of love and sympathy for her, as well finally wanting to move on (with the guy in his 90s, who's he wanting to impress? Talking about his ego in this case is pretty lame)Knowing what a terminally bitter person Merman was makes me think that Borgnine's side of the story is the truth. But no matter who you believe, I fear one day this whole incident will end up being the basis of some kind of wacky musical on Broadway in the years to come.
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