Great Moral Dilemmas of Our Time (An Occasional Series)

on January 26, 2009 by Steve Simels

Interesting and alarming news for those of you with basic cable: Later today, Turner Classic Movies is hosting a tribute to veteran actor Ernest Borgnine. Apparently it's a belated birthday deal -- he was born January 24th, 1917 -- but better late than never, obviously. In any case, the tribute begins at 8pm EST, with Private Screenings, a conversation between Borgnine and TCM eminence grise Robert Osborne, and then continues at 9pm with an airing of Borgnine's best known film, Delbert Mann's 1955 version of Paddy Chayevsky's 1953 TV drama Marty, for which its star got a Best Actor Oscar. Here's one of the most iconic scenes, one which made "Waddya gonna do tonight, Marty?" one of the most recognizable catch phrases of its era.

Three things I did not know about Ernest Borgnine:

1. Since 1999, he has provided the voice for the elderly superhero Mermaid Man (paired up once again with his McHale's Navy co-star, Tim Conway, who voices Mermaid Man's sidekick Barnacle Boy) on SpongeBob SquarePants.

2. Between 1959 and 1963 he was married to babealicious Mexican actress Katy Jurado.




3. In 1964, apparently on the rebound, he got married to Ethel Merman. The union lasted barely a month.

In any case, I bring up Borgnine's obviously reprehensible love life because it always seemed perversely germane to an ethical quandry posed by one of the more reprehensible blockbuster films of the 90s. I refer, of course, to Adrian Lynne's 1992 sleaze wallow Indecent Proposal.

That's the one, you'll recall, in which a cash strapped married couple, played by Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore, is offered a million bucks by an eccentric rich guy played by Robert Redford. The catch being that Demi has to sleep with Bob to get it.

In any case, much gnashing of teeth and hemming and hawing ensue before the never in doubt outcome (Not really a spoiler alert: Demi boinks Bob for the check) but it always seemed to me that the movie stacked the deck outrageously.

Which is to say that the question "Would it be okay to cheat on your spouse with this guy for a million dollars?"...



...would have been a lot more interesting if it had been "Would it be okay to cheat on your spouse with THIS guy for ten grand?"




Discuss amongst yourselves.


Tags: Ernest Borgnine, Private Screenings, Paddy Chayevsky, Marty, SpongeBob SquarePants, Tim Conway, Ethel Merman, Adrian Lynne, Indecent Proposal, Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Robert Redford

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