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José Ferrer: Profile
July 14, 1999
Copyright © 1999 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
put something on paper that is good even when they're dead 300
years," Jose Ferrer said in an interview in 1986, "When
I'm dead five minutes, I can't act or direct anymore."
Although Jose Ferrer's absence from stage and screen is keenly
felt since his death in 1992, his legacy remains an integral part
of American culture.
Jose Ferrer was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, January 8, 1912,
and became one of the most well-known and well-loved actors on
Broadway and in film. His talents extended beyond acting and included
directing, writing, producing, singing, and composing. His resonate
voice and beautiful articulation of the English language were
He is recognized for his outstanding abilities through many
Academy and Tony Award nominations. At the first Tony Awards in
1947, he shared the Best Actor honors with Fredric March, receiving
the award for his leading role in Cyrano de Bergerac. He won the
Academy Award for this same role in the film version in 1950,
becoming the first actor to win an Oscar for recreating a theatrical
role on film. He donated his coveted Oscar to the University of
Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras where it stands as an inspiration to
budding theatrical aspirants.
In 1952, he won his second Best Actor Tony for The Shrike.
In that same year, he also won a Tony as the season's Best Director
for three separate plays: Stalag 17, The Fourposter and The Shrike.
He recreated his role in The Shrike in his directorial debut in
the 1955 film version.
Ferrer was later nominated for an Oscar for his role as Toulouse-Lautrec
in Moulin Rouge (1952). In 1948, he was nominated for an Academy
Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Dauphin in
Joan of Arc.
"I thought I had no future in films," Ferrer explained.
"With my face, I figured I'd be cast as the funny cab driver,
or drunken son-in-law or friendly neighbor-the role that is referred
to as 'the friend of the guy.' One of the many things about growing
older is that, when I was that age, I thought I was a funny looking
guy. At my age now, I think I was pretty damn good looking."
Whether for his looks or for his outstanding ability, Ferrer
appeared in over 70 films. He directed 13 Broadway productions,
seven movies and he spoke five languages. In his personal life,
he was married four times, and had six children. He graduated
from Princeton University in 1933.
"You do the best you can," he said in 1986, "and
then you take the praise, which is often excessive, or the criticism,
which is also often excessive. In this business, you have to be
thick-skinned about humiliation, about rejection, about failure-all
of which goes on for your entire career. There isn't an actor
alive today-successful or not-who doesn't everyday encounter,
in some way, some form of wounding, some lesion, some trauma.
And it can't be helped."
Ferrer's outstanding reputation and consistent success throughout
the years have blazed a trail for many other actors from Puerto
Rico. His legacy has opened doors for Puerto Rican artists such
as Raul Julia, Rita Moreno, Tito Puente, Chita Rivera and for
his own son, Miguel Ferrer, who is also the son of his third wife,
Ferrer was right when he said there would be a time he would
no longer be able to act or direct, but his contribution to the
fabric of American culture endures.