Excerpt: 'Ernie: The Autobiography'

Chapter One

In the Beginning . . .

One day in October 1950, while going from audition to audition, trying unsuccessfully to find a job, I was walking along Tenth Avenue grumbling to myself, "Dummy, why did you ever get into this business? You only work once a month, at best, because according to agents, 'People don't want to see your particular mug too much.'"

Well, I did not believe that. Movies were more than just pretty boys and leading men. Jimmy Cagney was not pretty. Neither was Eddie Robinson.

But I had a family and I needed work badly. If I couldn't find it in movies or on the stage, I'd have to find it somewhere else. As the horns of boats on the Hudson River reached my ears, I imagined myself working on a tug or loading cargo or just fishing for our dinner.

Suddenly I smelled hot chestnuts. Some vendor on the corner was selling them. It reminded me of my mother. When I was a youngster, she'd cut chestnuts, put them in a pan on top of the stove, and let them roast. The whole house would become permeated with that smell. It was wonderful. So I walked a little closer, not to buy any, because I didn't have any money, but just to smell.

Well, as fate would have it—and trust me, luck plays a big part in the life of any successful person—I saw a sign on that vendor's cart that became my philosophy. The sign read, "I don't want to set the world on fire, I just want to keep my nuts warm."

In other words, don't plan big. Go from step to step to step—forward. If you've got talent and perseverance, and fate is willing to lend an occasional hand, the rest will take care of itself.

Copyright © 2008 Ernest Borgnine

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