PITTSBURGH, July 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The Story: Carnegie Mellon University's Kathy M. Newman is one of the country's foremost experts on the life and career of Ernest Borgnine, who died yesterday of renal failure at the age of 95.
Newman, associate professor of English, is writing a book about the ways in which workers were portrayed in the 1950s, and many of the chapters in her book circle back to Borgnine, who played the "working stiff" that he became so famous for in the Oscar-winning "Marty" (1955) as well as "The Whistle at Eaton Falls" (1951), "The Catered Affair" (1956) and "The Rabbit Trap" (1959).
Borgnine also was famous for playing the "heavy" in dozens of films, characters like Fatso Judson in "From Here to Eternity." who beats Frank Sinatra's character to death. But Borgnine is probably most beloved, and best remembered, for playing the shy butcher who craved the same chance at love as good-looking people. As he said to his girlfriend in Marty, "You see, dogs like us, we ain't such dogs as we think we are."
In Newman's book, "Striking Images: Workers on Screen and in the Streets," Newman argues that actors like Borgnine portrayed working class people with depth and dignity during a decade in which workers were rarely represented in popular culture. Ironically, perhaps, if images of workers on screen were somewhat sparse in the postwar era, the 1950s was a very good decade for blue collar workers in real life -- when they enjoyed significantly higher incomes than their poor and working class parents, as well as better access to social services and government assistance, like FHA loans for buying houses and the GI bill for higher education.
"As we reflect on Borgnine's passing in 2012 it is interesting to consider that corporate profits are higher than they have ever been in our nation's history, and that wages as a percentage of the Gross National Product are smaller than they have ever been," Newman said. "Is it possible that the age of the common man is behind us, and that the depth, sensitivity and pathos that Borgnine brought to his portrayal of 'working stiffs' is now only a distant memory of a better time?"
Availability: Professor Newman is available for phone, Skype or on-camera interviews to share more on these topics.
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About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 11,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements.
SOURCE Carnegie Mellon University