Ferrer in 1952
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón
January 8, 1912
|Died||January 26, 1992 (aged 80)|
Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.
|Resting place||Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery|
|Children||6, including Miguel|
|Relatives||Tessa Ferrer (granddaughter)|
|Awards||National Medal of Arts (1985)|
José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón (January 8, 1912 - January 26, 1992), known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor and theatre and film director. He was the first Puerto Rican-born actor, as well as the first Hispanic actor, to win an Academy Award (in 1950 for Cyrano de Bergerac).
In 1947, Ferrer won the Tony Award for his theatrical performance of Cyrano de Bergerac, and in 1952, he won the Distinguished Dramatic Actor Award for The Shrike, and also the Outstanding Director Award for directing the plays 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. In 1985, he received the National Medal of Arts from Ronald Reagan, becoming the first actor to receive that honor.
Ferrer was born 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.
In 1933, Ferrer completed his bachelor's degree in architecture 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 and played piano in a band, "José Ferrer and His Pied Pipers". Ferrer then studied Romance languages at Columbia University for 1934-35.
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (January 2018)
Ferrer's first professional appearance as an actor was at a "showboat" theater on Long Island in the summer of 1934.
He could also be seen in Stick-in-the-Mud (1935) and Spring Dance (1936). Ferrer's first big success was in Brother Rat (1936-38) which ran for 577 performances. In Clover only ran for 3 performances. How to Get Tough About It (1938) also had a short run, as did Missouri Legend (1938).
Mamba's Daughters (1938) ran for 163 performances. Ferrer followed it with Key Largo (1938-39) with Paul Muni and directed by Guthrie McClintic, which went for 105 shows and was later turned into a film.
Ferrer made his debut on Broadway as director with Vickie (1942) in which he also starred. It only had a short run.
He played Iago in Margaret Webster's Broadway production of Othello (1943-44), which starred Paul Robeson in the title role, Webster as Emilia, and Ferrer's wife, Uta Hagen, as Desdemona. That production still holds the record for longest-running repeat performance of a Shakespearean play presented in the United States, going for 296 performances (it would be revived in 1945).
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. 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.
Ferrer made his film debut in the Technicolor epic Joan of Arc (1948) as the weak-willed Dauphin opposite Ingrid Bergman as Joan. Ferrer's performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Ferrer had another Broadway hit with The Silver Whistle (1948-49) which ran for 219 performances. He performed two shows for The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse on TV in 1949: Cyrano, playing the title role, and an adaptation of What Makes Sammy Run?, playing Sammy Glick (adapted by Paddy Chayefsky).
Ferrer then played the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), directed by Michael Gordon and produced by Stanley Kramer. Ferrer won the Best Actor Oscar. The film was widely seen although it lost money. Ferrer donated the Oscar to the University of Puerto Rico, and it was subsequently stolen in 2000.
Ferrer returned to Broadway for a revival of Twentieth Century (1950-51) which he directed and starred in, opposite Gloria Swanson; it went for 233 performances. Immediately following, he produced and directed, but did not appear in, Stalag 17 (1951-52), a big hit running for 472 performances. Even more popular was The Fourposter (1951-53) in which he directed Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy; it ran for 632 performances.
Ferrer had another cinema hit with Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) starring Rita Hayworth. Ferrer briefly revived some of his shows at the City Centre in 1953: Cyrano, The Shrike, Richard III, Charley's Aunt.
He returned to films with The Caine Mutiny (1954) for Kramer, co-starring with Humphrey Bogart and Van Johnson, playing defence lawyer Barney Greenwald; the film was a huge hit. Greenwald's Jewish faith, so prominent in the novel that it informed his judgments of the U.S.S. Caine's officers, was downplayed in the film, as Ferrer, being Puerto Rican, was nominally Roman Catholic.
Ferrer co-wrote, directed and starred in the film The Great Man (1956), at Universal. He directed and starred in two films for MGM: I Accuse! (1958), where he played Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and The High Cost of Loving (1958) a comedy with Gena Rowlands. Both flopped at the box office.
Back on Broadway, Ferrer co-wrote and directed the stage musical Oh, Captain! (1958) with Tony Randall, which only had a short run. He directed and starred in Edwin Booth (1958), playing the title role; it was not a success.
Ferrer took over the direction of the troubled musical Juno (1959) from Vincent J. Donehue, who had himself taken over from Tony Richardson. The show, which starred Shirley Booth, folded after 16 performances and mixed-to extremely negative critical reaction.
However, he followed it directing the original stage production of Saul Levitt's The Andersonville Trial (1959-60), about the trial following the revelation of conditions at the infamous Civil War prison. It was a hit and featured George C. Scott, running for 179 performances.
Ferrer had a key support role in the film Lawrence of Arabia (1962) which was a huge success. Although Ferrer's performance was only small he said it was his best on screen.
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.
Ferrer starred in Carl Reiner's Enter Laughing (1967) and did a production of Kismet (1967) on TV. He went to Europe to do Cervantes (1967) and appeared in A Case of Libel (1968) for US TV. He also provided the voice of the evil Ben Haramed in the 1968 Rankin/Bass Christmas TV special The Little Drummer Boy. In 1968 the IRS sent him a tax bill of $122,000 going back to 1962.
Ferrer voiced a highly truncated cartoon version of Cyrano for an episode of The ABC Afterschool Special in 1974.
Ferrer appeared in The Missing Are Deadly (1975), Forever Young, Forever Free (1975), Order to Assassinate (1975), Medical Story (1975), The Art of Crime (1975), Truman at Potsdam (1976) (playing Stalin), The Big Bus (1976), Paco (1976)., Voyage of the Damned (1976), Crash! (1976), The Sentinel (1977), Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1977), Exo-Man (1977), Who Has Seen the Wind (1977), The Rhinemann Exchange, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), Fedora (1978) from Billy Wilder, The Amazing Captain Nemo (1978) (in the title role), and The Swarm. He guest starred on Starsky and Hutch and Tales of the Unexpected.
During the Bicentennial, Ferrer narrated the world premiere of Michael Jeffrey Shapiro's A Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 for narrator and orchestra with Martin Rich leading the Philharmonic Symphony of Westchester.
Ferrer was a replacement cast member in a production of David Mamet's A Life in the Theatre (1977-78). He produced and starred in White Pelicans (1978) and directed Carmelina (1979) on stage but it only ran 17 performances.
He was in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), The Concorde ... Airport '79 (1979), Natural Enemies (1979), The French Atlantic Affair (1979), A Life of Sin, a 1979 film by Puerto Rican director Efraín López Neris which also starred Raul Julia, Míriam Colón and Henry Darrow, and Battles: The Murder That Wouldn't Die (1980). He did The Merchant on stage in Canada.
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.
He was also in Battle Creek Brawl (1980), Pleasure Palace (1980), The Dream Merchants (1980), Magnum, P.I., Evita Peron (1981), Berlin Tunnel 21 (1981), Peter and Paul (1981) with Anthony Hopkins, Bloody Birthday (1981), Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), Blood Tide (1982), Blood Feud (1982), This Girl for Hire (1983), The Being (1983) and Mel Brooks's version of To Be or Not to Be (1983).
From 1982 to 1985 he was artistic director of the Coconut Grove Theatre in Miami.
Ferrer was in The Evil That Men Do (1984), Samson and Delilah (1984), and George Washington (1984). He was the Emperor in Dune (1984) and was in Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil (1985), Seduced (1985), Covenant (1985), Blood & Orchids (1986), Young Harry Houdini, and The Wind in the Willows (1987).
Ferrer made his farewell to Cyrano by performing a short passage from the play for the 1986 Tony Awards telecast.
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.
Ferrer's final performances include The Sun and the Moon (1987), American Playhouse ("Strange Interlude" with Kenneth Branagh), Mother's Day (1989), Matlock, Hired to Kill (1990), Old Explorers (1990) and The Perfect Tribute.
Ferrer was married five times:
Ferrer died of colorectal cancer in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1992, shortly after his 80th birthday, and was interred in Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan in his native Puerto Rico.
|1948||Joan of Arc||The Dauphin, Charles VII||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|1950||The Secret Fury||José||Uncredited|
|1950||Cyrano de Bergerac||Cyrano de Bergerac|
|1952||Anything Can Happen||Giorgi Papashvily|
|1952||Moulin Rouge||Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1953||Producers' Showcase: "Cyrano de Bergerac"||Cyrano de Bergerac||Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie|
|1953||Miss Sadie Thompson||Alfred Davidson|
|1954||The Caine Mutiny||Lt. Barney Greenwald||Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor|
|1954||Deep in My Heart||Sigmund Romberg|
|1955||The Shrike||Jim Downs||Also director|
|1955||The Cockleshell Heroes||Major Stringer||Also director|
|1956||The Great Man||Joe Harris||Also director|
|1957||Four Girls in Town||Director||Uncredited|
|1958||I Accuse!||Capt. Alfred Dreyfus||Also director|
|1958||The High Cost of Loving||Jim 'Jimbo' Fry||Also director|
|1961||Return to Peyton Place||Voice of Mark Steele||Also director, Uncredited|
|1962||Lawrence of Arabia||Turkish Bey|
|1963||Nine Hours to Rama||Supt. Gopal Das|
|1963||Stop Train 349||Cowan the Reporter|
|1964||Cyrano et d'Artagnan||Cyrano de Bergerac|
|1965||The Greatest Story Ever Told||Herod Antipas|
|1965||Ship of Fools||Siegfried Rieber|
|1967||Enter Laughing||Mr. Harrison B. Marlowe|
|1968||The Little Drummer Boy||Ben Haramad||Voice|
|1975||Forever Young, Forever Free||Father Alberto||Aka: e'Lollipop|
|1975||El clan de los immorales||Inspector Reed|
|1976||The Big Bus||Ironman|
|1976||Voyage of the Damned||Manuel Benitez|
|1977||The Rhinemann Exchange||Erich Rhinemann|
|1977||The Sentinel||Priest of the Brotherhood|
|1977||Who Has Seen the Wind||The Ben|
|1977||The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover||Lionel McCoy|
|1978||The Return of Captain Nemo||Captain Nemo|
|1978||Dracula's Dog||Inspector Branco|
|1978||The Swarm||Dr. Andrews|
|1979||The French Atlantic Affair||President Aristide Brouchard|
|1979||The Fifth Musketeer||Athos|
|1979||The Concorde ... Airport '79||Chief Superintendent Morabito||(TV version), Uncredited|
|1979||Natural Enemies||Harry Rosenthal|
|1980||The Dream Merchants||George Pappas|
|1980||The Big Brawl||Domenici|
|1981||Peter and Paul||Gamaliel|
|1982||A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy||Leopold|
|1982||And They Are Off||Martin Craig|
|1983||The Being||Mayor Gordon Lane|
|1983||To Be or Not to Be||Prof. Siletski|
|1984||The Evil That Men Do||Dr. Hector Lomelin|
|1984||George Washington||Robert Dinwiddie|
|1984||Dune||Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV|
|1985||Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil||Ludwig Rosenberg|
|1987||The Wind in the Willows||Badger||Voice, TV Film|
|1987||The Sun and the Moon||Don Fulhencio|
|1990||Old Explorers||Warner Watney|