José Ferrer Biography

Jose Ferrer, also known as Jose Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintron, was a Puerto Rican actor, director, and pianist. His remarkable talent earned him three Tony Awards, including two for ‘Best Actor’, and one for ‘Best Director’. He also received three Oscar nominations throughout his illustrious career. Known for his versatility, Ferrer portrayed negative characters in various stage and film productions, captivating audiences with his exceptional performances. Fluent in Spanish, English, French, and Italian, he effortlessly portrayed characters from different nationalities, including French roles like Dauphin in ‘Joan of Arc’ and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in ‘Moulin Rouge’. Prior to his successful film career, Ferrer dedicated eight years to establishing himself as an actor on Broadway. Despite his acting success, he never abandoned his passion for music and continued to showcase his talent as an opera singer at prestigious venues such as the ‘Beverly Hills Opera’ and the ‘Brooklyn Academy of Music’. Today, his legacy lives on through his family members, including his nephew George Clooney, daughter-in-law Debby Boone, and sons Miguel and Rafael, all of whom have made significant contributions to the American entertainment industry.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón
  • Died At Age: 80
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Phyllis Hill, Rosemary Clooney, Stella Daphne Magee, Uta Hagen
    • Father: Rafael Ferrer
    • Mother: Maria Providencia Cintron
    • Children: Callum Ferrer, Gabriel Ferrer, George Ferrer, Leticia Thyra Ferrer, Liza Ferrer, Maria Ferrer, Miguel Ferrer, Monsita Ferrer, Rafael Ferrer, Sarah Ferrer
  • Height: 5’10” (178 cm), 5’10” Males
  • Died on: January 26, 1992
  • Place of death: Coral Gables, Florida, United States
  • Cause of Death: Colorectal Cancer
  • City: San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • More Facts:
    • Education: Princeton University

Childhood & Early Life

Jose Ferrer was born on January 8, 1912 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father, Rafael Ferrer, was a writer and attorney from San Juan while his mother, Maria Providencia Cintron was from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. He attended many private and public schools in New York. He did his main schooling from a Swiss boarding school ‘Institut Le Rosey’ before joining Princeton University. He did his bachelor’s in architecture from the Princeton University in 1933, became a member of the Princeton Triangle Club and also founded the band ‘Pied Pipers’.


Jose Ferrer’s first appearance on the Broadway stage was in the comedy ‘Charley’s Aunt’ in 1935. He played the role of Iago in the Broadway production of ‘Othello’ in 1943 which holds the record of having run for the longest time on Broadway as a Shakespearean play. In 1946, his lead role in the Broadway production ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ made him famous and helped him win his first Tony Award for Best Actor. His first film was ‘Joan of Arc’ in 1948 where played the role of Dauphin for which he received his first of the three Oscar nominations. His next films were ‘Whirlpool’ in 1949 and ‘Crisis’ in 1950. He played the lead role in the film version of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ for which he received the Oscar. It made him the only actor to receive prizes for the same role in both the stage and film versions. During this time he directed plays in Broadway such as ‘The Fourposter’, ‘Stalag 17’ and ‘The Shrike’ for which he received a second Tony Award. He also directed the Broadway plays ‘Carmelina’, ‘My Three Angels’, ‘Twentieth Century’ and ‘The Anderson Ville Trial’. He received his third Tony Award for acting in ‘The Shrike’ in 1952. In 1952 he played the role of Toulouse-Lautrec in the fiction film ‘Moulin Rouge’ and received an Oscar nomination for his performance. He directed and played the lead role of Cyrano again on a New York stage in 1953. He acted in films such as ‘The Caine Mutiny’ in 1954 and ‘The Shrike’ in 1955. In 1958 he got a nomination for co-authoring the musical ‘Oh, Captain’. He directed and acted in ‘The Great Man’ and ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’ in 1956, ‘I Accuse’ and ‘The High Cost of Loving’ in 1958. He also directed the films ‘Return to Peyton Place’ in 1961 and ‘State Fair’ in 1962. Some more films that he acted in were ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in 1962 and ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ in 1965. In 1966 he was originally chosen by the producers to play the part of the Joker in the ‘Batman’ series. During the 1970s and the 1980s he played the role of a villain in many TV shows and films. He played the role of Athos in ‘The Fifth Musketeer’ in 1979. He acted in the films ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy’ in 1982, in a remake of ‘To Be or Not to Be’ in 1983, and ‘Dune’ in 1984. He also acted in horror films such as ‘The Swarm’ and ‘Dracula’s Dog’. After retiring from the stage he directed ‘All My Sons’ and ‘The Best Man’ in 1988. He made his final stage appearance in 1990 in London.

Awards & Achievements

He was the first Hispanic actor to win an Academy Award in 1950 for Cyrano de Bergerac. Jose Ferrer was awarded a Star at the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ on February 8, 1960. He was the first actor to receive the ‘National Medal of Arts’ from President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He appeared on a ‘Distinguished Americans’ series postage stamp issued on April 26, 2012.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Uta Hagen, a German actress, on December 8, 1938 and divorced her on June 14, 1948. He had one daughter named Leticia Thyra from the marriage. He got married the second time to Phyllis Hill on June 19, 1943, and separated from her on July 7, 1953. He had no children from this marriage. His third wife was Rosemary Clooney whom he married on July 13, 1953 and divorced on September 12, 1967. He had five children from this marriage namely Miguel, Maria, Gabriel, Monsita and Rafael. His last marriage was with Stella Daphne Magee in 1977. She remained with him till his death in 1992. Jose Ferrer died of illness on January 26, 1992 in Coral Gables, Florida, USA.


Jose Ferrer was a promising young pianist and was expected to become a concert performer. Though he studied architecture at the University he became an actor instead.

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