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  • Jose Ferrer

    1 posts, 1 voices, 363 views, started Dec 27, 2008

    Posted on Saturday, December 27, 2008


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      Ferrer was born in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1933 he graduated from Princeton University, where he wrote a senior thesis titled French Naturalism and Pardo Bazán and was a member of the Princeton Triangle Club.

      Ferrer had a decade-long first marriage to famed actress and acting teacher Uta Hagen (1938–1948), by whom he had a daughter, Leticia (Lettie). His second wife was actress Phyllis Hill (1948–1953). From his third marriage, Ferrer had five children with singer-actress Rosemary Clooney: Miguel was born in 1955, Maria in 1956, Gabriel in 1957, Monsita in 1958, and Rafael in 1960. Ferrer and Clooney were married in 1953, divorced in 1961, and remarried in 1964, only to be divorced again in 1967. His son Gabriel Ferrer married the singer Debby Boone.

      At the time of his death, he was married to Stella Magee, whom he met in the late sixties. Ferrer died following a brief battle with colon cancer in Coral Gables, Florida at the age of 83. He was laid to rest in Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan.

      Ferrer made his Broadway debut in 1935. In 1940, he played his first starring role on Broadway, the title role in Charley’s Aunt — part of it in drag. He played Iago in Margaret Webster’s 1943 Broadway production of Othello, starring Paul Robeson in the title role, Webster as Emilia, and Ferrer’s wife at the time, Uta Hagen, as Desdemona. It became the longest-running production of a Shakespeare play staged in the U.S., a record it still holds. In 1946 came one of his most celebrated stage roles, the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac. He reprised the role of Cyrano in the 1950 film version and in television adaptations. His Broadway directing credits include The Shrike, Stalag 17, The Fourposter, Twentieth Century, Carmelina, My Three Angels, and The Andersonville Trial.

      From around 1950, Ferrer concentrated on film work, but would return to the stage occasionally. 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. 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. Ferrer took over the role from Richard Kiley in 1967, and subsequently went on tour with it in the first national company of the show.

      He portrayed the Reverend Davidson in 1953’s Miss Sadie Thompson (a remake of Rain) opposite Rita Hayworth, Barney Greenwald, the embittered defense attorney, in 1954, 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! 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 a villainous hypnotist in Otto Preminger’s film noir Whirlpool, co-starring Gene Tierney (1949), the Turkish Bey who sexually molests Peter O‘Toole 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 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.

      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.

      Ferrer made his film debut with Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc in 1948, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. Ferrer won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1950 film version of Cyrano de Bergerac, becoming the first Puerto Rican to win the award, only weeks after being subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a suspected Communist, charges that Ferrer vehemently denied. Also in 1952, Ferrer portrayed French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in John Huston’s Moulin Rouge, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for the third and final time.

      In 1946, he played the title role in Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, a performance which won him a Tony Award. In 1952 Ferrer won a Tony Award for directing three plays (The Shrike, Stalag 17, The Fourposter) in the same season and earned another for his performance in The Shrike.


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