José Ferrer

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José Ferrer
File:Jose Ferrer - 1952.jpg
Ferrer in 1952
Born José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón
(1912-01-08)January 8, 1912
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Died January 26, 1992(1992-01-26) (aged 80)
Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1935–1992
Spouse(s) Uta Hagen (1938–48)
Phyllis Hill (1948–53)
Rosemary Clooney
(1953–61 and 1964–67)
Stella Magee (1977–1992) [1]
Children Leticia (Letty) Ferrer (b. 1940)
Miguel Ferrer (b. 1955)
Maria Ferrer (b. 1956)
Gabriel Ferrer (b. 1957)
Monsita Ferrer (b. 1958)
Rafael Ferrer (b. 1960)
Awards National Medal of Arts (1985)

José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón[2] (January 8, 1912 – January 26, 1992), best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, theatre and film director. He was the first Puerto Rican actor, as well as the first Hispanic actor, to win an Academy Award (in 1950, for Cyrano de Bergerac).

To honor his roots, he donated his Oscar award to the University of Puerto Rico. The prolific and distinguished thespian also won several Tony Awards. In 1947, he won the Tony Award for his theatrical performance of Cyrano de Bergerac, and then in 1952, he won the Distinguished Dramatic Actor Award for The Shrike, and also the Outstanding Director Award for directing all three of The Shrike, The Fourposter, and Stalag 17.

Ferrer's contributions to American theatre were recognized in 1981, when he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[3] In 1985 he received the National Medal of Arts from Ronald Reagan, becoming the first actor to receive that honor. On April 26, 2012, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in Ferrer's honor in its Distinguished Americans series.

Early life

Ferrer was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of María Providencia Cintrón, who was from the small mountain town of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, and Rafael Ferrer, an attorney and writer from San Juan. He was the grandson of Gabriel Ferrer Hernandez, a doctor and advocate of Puerto Rican independence from Spain. He studied at the Swiss boarding school Institut Le Rosey.[4] In 1933, Ferrer completed his bachelor's degree at Princeton University, where he wrote his senior thesis on "French Naturalism and Pardo Bazán". Ferrer was also a member of the Princeton Triangle Club.



Ferrer made his Broadway debut in 1935. In 1940, he played his first starring role on Broadway, the title role in Charley's Aunt, partly in drag. He played Iago in Margaret Webster's Broadway production of Othello (1943), which starred Paul Robeson in the title role, Webster as Emilia, and Ferrer's wife, Uta Hagen, as Desdemona. This became the longest-running production of a Shakespearean play presented in the United States, a record that it still holds. His Broadway directing credits include The Shrike, Stalag 17, The Fourposter, Twentieth Century, Carmelina, My Three Angels, and The Andersonville Trial.

Cyrano de Bergerac

Ferrer may be best-remembered for his performance in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he first played on Broadway in 1946. Ferrer feared that the production would be a failure in rehearsals, due to the open dislike for the play by director Mel Ferrer (no relation), so he called in Joshua Logan (who had directed his star-making performance in Charley's Aunt) to serve as "play doctor" for the production. Logan wrote that he simply had to eliminate pieces of business which director Ferrer had inserted in his staging; they presumably were intended to sabotage the more sentimental elements of the play that the director considered to be corny and in bad taste.[5] The production became one of the hits of the 1946/47 Broadway season, winning Ferrer the first Best Actor Tony Award for his depiction of the long-nosed poet/swordsman (tied with Fredric March for Ruth Gordon's play about her own early years as an actress, Years Ago).

Ferrer in costume in an unnamed play at Maple Leaf Gardens

He reprised the role of Cyrano onstage at the New York City Center under his own direction in 1953, as well as in two films: the 1950 film of Edmond Rostand's play directed by Michael Gordon and the 1964 French film Cyrano et d'Artagnan directed by Abel Gance.

Ferrer would go on to voice a highly truncated cartoon version of the play for an episode of The ABC Afterschool Special in 1974, and made his farewell to the part by performing a short passage from the play for the 1986 Tony Awards telecast.

Early films

Ferrer made his film debut in the Technicolor epic Joan of Arc (1948) as the weak-willed Dauphin opposite Ingrid Bergman as Joan. Leading roles in the films Whirlpool (opposite Gene Tierney) (1949) and Crisis (opposite Cary Grant) (1950) followed, and culminated in the 1950 film Cyrano de Bergerac. He next played the role of Toulouse-Lautrec in John Huston's fictional 1952 biopic, Moulin Rouge.

Later stage career

Beginning circa 1950, Ferrer concentrated on film work, but would return to the stage occasionally. In 1959 Ferrer directed the original stage production of Saul Levitt's The Andersonville Trial, about the trial following the revelation of conditions at the infamous Civil War prison. It was a hit and featured George C. Scott. He took over the direction of the troubled musical Juno from Vincent J. Donehue, who had himself taken over from Tony Richardson. The show folded after 16 performances and mixed-to extremely negative critical reaction. The show's commercial failure (along with his earlier flop, Oh, Captain!), was a considerable setback to Ferrer's directing career. Nor did the short-lived The Girl Who Came to Supper do much for his acting career. A notable performance of his later stage career was as Miguel de Cervantes and his fictional creation Don Quixote in the hit musical Man of La Mancha. Ferrer took over the role from Richard Kiley in 1966 and subsequently went on tour with it in the first national company of the show. Tony Martinez continued in the role of Sancho Panza under Ferrer, as he had with Kiley.

Other film work

Ferrer in The Caine Mutiny (1954)

He portrayed the Rev. Davidson in 1953's Miss Sadie Thompson (a remake of Rain) opposite Rita Hayworth; Barney Greenwald, the embittered defense attorney, in 1954's The Caine Mutiny; and operetta composer Sigmund Romberg in the MGM musical biopic Deep in My Heart. In 1955 Ferrer directed himself in the film version of The Shrike, with June Allyson. The Cockleshell Heroes followed a year later, along with The Great Man, both of which he also directed. In 1958 Ferrer directed and appeared in I Accuse! (as Alfred Dreyfus) and The High Cost of Loving. Ferrer also directed, but did not appear in, Return to Peyton Place in 1961 and also the remake of State Fair in 1962.

Ferrer's other notable film roles include the Turkish Bey in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Herod Antipas in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), a budding Nazi in Ship of Fools, a pompous professor in Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), the treacherous Professor Siletski in the 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be, and Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV in Dune in 1984. In an interview given in the 1980s, he bemoaned the lack of good character parts for aging stars, and admitted that he now took on roles mostly for the money, such as his roles in the horror potboilers The Swarm, in which he played a doctor, and Dracula's Dog, in which he played a police inspector.

In 1980, he had a role as future Justice Abe Fortas in the made-for-television film version of Anthony Lewis' Gideon's Trumpet, opposite Henry Fonda in an Emmy-nominated performance as Clarence Earl Gideon.

Radio and television

Among other radio roles, Ferrer starred as detective Philo Vance in a 1945 series of the same name.[6]

On May 8, 1958, Ferrer guest starred on NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Ferrer, not usually known for regular roles in TV series, had a recurring role as Julia Duffy's WASPy father in the long-running television series Newhart in the 1980s. He also had a recurring role as elegant and flamboyant attorney Reuben Marino in the soap opera Another World in the early 1980s. He narrated the very first episode of the popular 1964 sitcom Bewitched, in mock documentary style. He also provided the voice of the evil Ben Haramed in the 1968 Rankin/Bass Christmas TV special The Little Drummer Boy. Ferrer would don the nose and costume of Cyrano for the last time in a TV commercial in the 1970s. During those years he guest-starred in several television series, such as Quincy, M.E., in which he played a doctor suspected of unethical behavior. In the third season of Columbo, Ferrer starred in the episode Mind over Mayhem as the ruthless head of a high-tech Pentagon think tank. He was also in episode 8 of Magnum, P.I. with his son Miguel in 1981. In 1986 he appeared in the two-part episode The Don in the TV series Matlock.


  • Ferrer was honored for his theatrical and cinematic works with an induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame and a National Medal of Arts, becoming the first actor and Hispanic to be presented with the prestigious award.
  • Ferrer donated his Academy Award to the University Of Puerto Rico. The award was stolen after being misplaced during the remodeling of the university's theater.

Personal life

Ferrer was married five times:

  • Uta Hagen (1938–1948): Ferrer and Hagen had one child, their daughter Leticia (born October 15, 1940). They divorced in 1948, partly due to Hagen's long-concealed affair with Paul Robeson, with whom Hagen and Ferrer had co-starred in the Broadway production of Othello.
  • Phyllis Hill (1948–1953): Ferrer and Hill wed on May 27, 1948, and they moved to Burlington, Vermont in 1950, where they subsequently found it difficult to keep their marriage together. Ferrer returned to Puerto Rico because his mother died. They divorced on January 12, 1953.
  • Rosemary Clooney (1953–1961): Ferrer first married Clooney on June 1, 1953 in Durant, Oklahoma.[7] They moved to Santa Monica, California, in 1954, and then to Los Angeles in 1958. Ferrer and Clooney had five children: Miguel (born February 7, 1955), Maria (born August 9, 1956), Gabriel (born August 1, 1957), Monsita (born October 13, 1958) and Rafael (born March 23, 1960). They divorced for the first time in 1961.
  • Rosemary Clooney (1964–1967): Ferrer and Clooney remarried on November 22, 1964 in Los Angeles; however, the marriage again crumbled while Ferrer was carrying on an affair with the woman who would become his last wife, Stella Magee. Clooney found out about the affair, and she and Ferrer divorced again in 1967.
  • Stella Magee (1977–1992): Ferrer married Magee in 1977, and they remained so until his death.

He is a cousin of professional tennis player Gigi Fernández.

His marriage(s) to Rosemary Clooney made him uncle, and their five children first cousins, to actor George Clooney.

Ferrer was fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Italian.

Following a brief battle with colon cancer, Ferrer died in Coral Gables, Florida in 1992, and was interred in Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan in his native Puerto Rico.


Year Title Role Notes
1948 Joan of Arc The Dauphin, Charles VII Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1949 Whirlpool David Korvo
1950 Cyrano de Bergerac Cyrano de Bergerac
1950 Crisis Raoul Farrago
1950 Secret Fury, TheThe Secret Fury José
1952 Moulin Rouge Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
1952 Anything Can Happen Giorgi Papashvily
1953 Miss Sadie Thompson Alfred Davidson
1953 Producers' Showcase: "Cyrano de Bergerac" Cyrano de Bergerac Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1954 Deep in My Heart Sigmund Romberg
1954 Caine Mutiny, TheThe Caine Mutiny Lt. Barney Greenwald Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
1955 Cockleshell Heroes, TheThe Cockleshell Heroes Major Stringer Also director
1955 Shrike, TheThe Shrike Jim Downs Also director
1956 Great Man, TheThe Great Man Joe Harris Also director
1958 High Cost of Loving, TheThe High Cost of Loving Jim 'Jimbo' Fry Also director
1958 I Accuse! Capt. Alfred Dreyfus Also director
1961 Return to Peyton Place Director
1961 Forbid Them Not Narrator
1962 State Fair Director
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Turkish Bey
1963 Stop Train 349 Cowan the Reporter
1963 Nine Hours to Rama Supt. Gopal Das
1964 Cyrano et d'Artagnan Cyrano de Bergerac
1965 Ship of Fools Siegfried Rieber
1965 Greatest Story Ever Told, TheThe Greatest Story Ever Told Herod Antipas
1967 Cervantes Hassan Bey
1967 Enter Laughing Mr. Marlowe
1968 The Little Drummer Boy Ben Haramad Voice role
1975 clan de los immorales, ElEl clan de los immorales Inspector Reed
1975 Forever Young, Forever Free Father Alberto Aka: e'Lollipop
1976 Big Bus, TheThe Big Bus Ironman
1976 Paco Fermin Flores
1976 Voyage of the Damned Manuel Benitez
1977 Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, TheThe Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover Lionel McCoy
1977 Who Has Seen the Wind Ben, TheThe Ben
1977 Sentinel, TheThe Sentinel Priest of the Brotherhood
1977 Crash! Marc Denne
1977 The Rhinemann Exchange Erich Rhinemann
1978 Swarm, TheThe Swarm Dr. Andrews
1978 Dracula's Dog Inspector Branco
1978 Fedora Doctor Vando
1978 Return of Captain Nemo, TheThe Return of Captain Nemo Captain Nemo
1979 Natural Enemies Harry Rosenthal
1979 Fifth Musketeer, TheThe Fifth Musketeer Athos
1979 Life of Sin, AA Life of Sin Bishop
1979 French Atlantic Affair, TheThe French Atlantic Affair President Aristide Brouchard
1980 Dream Merchants, TheThe Dream Merchants George Pappas
1980 Big Brawl, TheThe Big Brawl Domenici
1981 Bloody Birthday Doctor
1982 Blood Tide Nereus
1982 Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, AA Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy Leopold
1983 To Be or Not to Be Prof. Siletski
1983 Being, TheThe Being Mayor Gordon Lane
1984 Dune Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV
1984 The Evil That Men Do Dr. Hector Lomelin
1984 George Washington Robert Dinwiddie
1985 Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil Ludwig Rosenberg
1987 Sun and the Moon, TheThe Sun and the Moon
1990 Hired to Kill Rallis
1990 Old Explorers Warner Watney

See also


  1. IMDb profile
  2. Jose Ferrer (American actor) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2012-05-12.
  3. "26 Elected to the Theater Hall of Fame". New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Jose Ferrer Was Proud Of Puerto Rican Roots". New York Times. February 18, 1992.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Joshua Logan. Josh, My Up and Down, In and Out Life. Delacorte Press, 1976.
  6. Old Time Radio Researchers Group, Philo Vance — Single Episodes at the Internet Archive
  7. "Just Married to Rosemary Clooney, Jose Ferrer Gives Party for Olivia DeHavilland". The Day, July 14, 1953

External links