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JOSE FERRER 22José Vicente Fer­rer de Otero y Cin­trón (Jan­u­ary 8, 1912 – Jan­u­ary 26, 1992), best known as José Fer­rer, was a Puer­to Rican actor, the­ater, and film direc­tor. He was the first Puer­to Rican, as well as the first white 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.

José Fer­rer’s con­tri­bu­tions to Amer­i­can the­ater were rec­og­nized in 1981, when he was induct­ed into the Amer­i­can The­ater Hall of Fame. 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 José Fer­rer’s hon­or in their Dis­tin­guished Amer­i­cans series.

Early life

Fer­rer was born in San Juan, Puer­to Rico, the son of María Prov­i­den­cia Cin­trón, a woman who came from the small moun­tain town of Yabu­coa, Puer­to Rico, and Rafael Fer­rer, an attor­ney and writer from the cap­i­tal city of the island, San Juan, Puer­to Rico. He stud­ied at the pres­ti­gious Swiss board­ing school Insti­tut Le Rosey. In 1938, 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

jose-ferrer-cyrano-de-bergeracFer­rer 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. The pro­duc­tion became one of the hits of the 194647 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).

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 1948 in the Tech­ni­col­or epic Joan of Arc as the weak-willed Dauphin oppo­site Ingrid Bergman. 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

MV5BMjk3MzA5ODAxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTc1NjUwNw@@._V1._SX640_SY484_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

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 Cor­ri­no IV in Dune in 1984. How­ev­er, in an inter­view giv­en in the 1980s, he bemoaned the lack of good char­ac­ter parts for aging stars, and read­i­ly 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 mem­o­rable role as future Jus­tice Abe For­t­as, to whom he bore a strong resem­blance, 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.

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 on the long-run­ning tele­vi­sion series Newhart in the 1980s. He also had a recur­ring role as ele­gant and flam­boy­ant attor­ney Reuben Mari­no on 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 on the 1968 Rankin/Bass Christ­mas TV spe­cial The Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy. Fer­rer would don the nose and cos­tume of Cyra­no for a last time in a TV com­mer­cial in the 1970s. Dur­ing those years he guest-starred on 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.


JoseFerrer-Forever-single-BGv1José Fer­rer was the first White His­pan­ic actor to win an Acad­e­my Award.

In 2005, the His­pan­ic Orga­ni­za­tion of Latin Actors (HOLA) renamed its Tespis Award to the HOLA José Fer­rer Tespis Award.

José 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.

José Fer­rer’s sons Rafael Fer­rer and Miguel Fer­rer as well as his daugh­ter (Let­ty Fer­rer) are also actors.

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. Jose returned to Puer­to Rico because his moth­er died. He soon returned to Ver­mont smok­ing heav­i­ly. They divorced on Jan­u­ary 12, 1953.

Rose­mary Clooney (1953–1961): Fer­rer first mar­ried Clooney on June 1, 1953 in Durant, Okla­homa. 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 for the last time 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.

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

Fer­rer donat­ed his Acad­e­my Award tro­phy to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Puer­to Rico as a trib­ute to his roots.

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,  Acad­e­my Award for Best Actor, Gold­en Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Pic­ture Dra­ma, New York Film Crit­ics Cir­cle Award for Best Actor (2nd place)

1950 Cri­sis Raoul Farrago

1950 The 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 – Emmy Award Best Actor — Sin­gle Performance

1954 Deep in My Heart Sig­mund Romberg

1954 The Caine Mutiny Lt. Bar­ney Green­wald Nom­i­nat­ed – BAFTA Award for Best For­eign Actor

1955 The Cock­leshell Heroes Major Stringer Fer­rer was also Director

1955 The Shrike Jim Downs

1956 The Great Man Joe Harris

1958 The High Cost of Lov­ing Jim ‘Jim­bo’ Fry

1958 I Accuse! Capt. Alfred Dreyfus

1961 Return to Pey­ton Place as Direc­tor only

1961 For­bid Them Not Narrator

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 The Great­est Sto­ry Ever Told Herod Antipas

1967 Cer­vantes Has­san Bey

1967 Enter Laugh­ing Mr. Marlowe

1975 El Clan de los inmorales Inspec­tor Reed

1976 The Big Bus Ironman

1976 For­ev­er Young, For­ev­er Free Father Alberto

1976 Paco Fer­min Flores

1976 Voy­age of the Damned Manuel Benitez

1977 The Pri­vate Files of J. Edgar Hoover Lionel McCoy

1977 Who Has Seen the Wind The Ben

1977 The Sen­tinel Priest of the Brotherhood

1977 Crash! Marc Denne

1978 The Swarm Dr. Andrews

1978 Drac­u­la’s Dog Inspec­tor Branco

1978 Fedo­ra Doc­tor Vando

1978 The Return of Cap­tain Nemo Cap­tain Nemo

1979 Nat­ur­al Ene­mies Har­ry Rosenthal

1979 The Fifth Mus­ke­teer Athos

1979 A Life of Sin Bishop

1980 The Big Brawl Domenici

1981 Bloody Birth­day Doctor

1982 Blood Tide Nereus

1982 A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Sex Com­e­dy Leopold

1983 To Be or Not to Be Prof. Siletski

1983 The Being May­or Gor­don Lane

1984 Dune Padishah Emper­or Shad­dam Cor­ri­no IV

1984 The Evil That Men Do Dr. Hec­tor Lomelin

1987 The Sun and the Moon

1988 Hitler’s SS Por­trait in Evil

1990 Hired to Kill Rallis

1990 Old Explor­ers Warn­er Watney

1992 Laam Gong juen ji faan fei jo fung wan