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José Ferrer: Profile

July 14, 1999
Copyright © 1999 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

"Writers can 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 memorable qualities.

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, Rosemary Clooney.

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.

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