The first Puerto Rican born actor, as well as the first Hispanic actor, to win an Academy Award (in 1950 for Cyrano de Bergerac).
The Secret Fury
Anything Can Happen
Producers’ Showcase: “Cyrano de Bergerac”
Miss Sadie Thompson
Deep in My Heart
The Cockleshell Heroes
The Great Man
Four Girls in Town
The High Cost of Loving
Return to Peyton Place
Nine Hours to Rama
Stop Train 349
Cyrano et d’Artagnan
The Greatest Story Ever Told
The Little Drummer Boy
Forever Young, Forever Free
El clan de los immorales
The Big Bus
Voyage of the Damned
The Rhinemann Exchange
Who Has Seen the Wind
The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover
The Return of Captain Nemo
The French Atlantic Affair
The Fifth Musketeer
The Dream Merchants
The Big Brawl
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy
And They Are Off
To Be or Not to Be
The Evil That Men Do
Hitler’s SS: Portrait in Evil
The Sun and the Moon
José Ferrer was nominated for a total of three Academy Awards and won once:
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Joan of Arc (1948)
- Best Actor in a Leading Role – Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) – WON
- Best Actor in a Leading Role – Moulin Rouge (1952)
He was the first Puerto Rican born actor, as well as the first Hispanic actor, to win an Academy Award
The truth is I made a few good movies in the ’50s, then went into freefall. ~ José Ferrer
José Ferrer was born José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón on January 8, 1912 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of María Providencia Cintrón, who was from the small coastal town of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, and Rafael Ferrer, an attorney and writer from San Juan. He was the grandson of Gabriel Ferrer Hernández, a doctor and advocate of Puerto Rican independence from Spain. He had two younger sisters, Elvira and Leticia. He studied at the Swiss boarding school Institut Le Rosey. 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.
He 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.
Ferrer may be best remembered for his performance in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he first played on Broadway in 1946. 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.
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 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.
Beginning circa 1950, Ferrer concentrated on film work, but would return to the stage occasionally.
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.
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. They moved to Santa Monica, California, in 1954, and then to Los Angeles in 1958. Ferrer and Clooney had five children in quick succession: Miguel (February 7, 1955-January 19, 2017), 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 because 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 together until his death.
Ferrer died of colon cancer in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1992, eighteen days after his 80th birthday, and was interred in Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan in his native Puerto Rico.