Mel Ferrer


Actor
Mel Ferrer

About

Also Known As
Melchior Gaston Ferrer, Melchor Ferrer
Birth Place
Elberon, New Jersey, USA
Born
August 25, 1917
Died
June 02, 2008

Biography

A handsome and often tragic leading man in features during the 1950s, Mel Ferrer rose to fame as the dashing star of "Scaramouche" (1952), "Lili" (1953), "War and Peace" (1956) and "The Sun Also Rises" (1957). But Ferrer's true passion was behind the scenes, and he directed several features, including "Vendetta" (1950) and "Every Day is a Holiday" (1965) while scoring a professional triu...

Family & Companions

Frances Pilchard
Wife
Married on October 23, 1937; divorced; after marriage to Barbara Tripp, remarried; divorced a second time in 1953.
Barbara C Tripp
Wife
Married in 1940; divorced.
Audrey Hepburn
Wife
Actor. Married on September 25, 1954; divorced in 1968.
Elizabeth Soukotine
Wife
Married on February 19, 1971.

Bibliography

"Tito's Hats"
Mel Ferrer (1940)

Biography

A handsome and often tragic leading man in features during the 1950s, Mel Ferrer rose to fame as the dashing star of "Scaramouche" (1952), "Lili" (1953), "War and Peace" (1956) and "The Sun Also Rises" (1957). But Ferrer's true passion was behind the scenes, and he directed several features, including "Vendetta" (1950) and "Every Day is a Holiday" (1965) while scoring a professional triumph with 1967's "Wait Until Dark," which starred his wife, Audrey Hepburn. Ferrer was unable to parlay the film's success into more projects, and after a health setback following his divorce from Hepburn in 1968, settled into a steady diet of television guest appearances and turns in European features, including several crass horror and exploitation titles. One of Hollywood's most reluctant stars, Mel Ferrer's early roles, buoyed by his dignified carriage and soulful looks, kept him a filmgoer favorite long after his own career had come to an end.

Born Melchor Gastón Ferrer on Aug. 25, 1917, he was of Spanish and Irish descent. His father, Dr. José Maria Ferrer, was chief of staff of St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City, while his mother, Mary O'Donohue, was the daughter of coffee magnate and New York City Commissioner of Parks Joseph J. O'Donohue, an outspoken opponent of Prohibition. Contrary to popular belief, Ferrer was not related to actor José Ferrer; his three siblings included Dr. M. Irené Ferrer, a cardiologist who made significant contributions to the development of the electrocardiogram, and Teresa Ferrer, the religion editor of the New York Herald Tribune.

Ferrer was privately educated at the Bovée School in New York City and Canterbury Prep School in Connecticut, and spent summers in regional theater before heading to Princeton University. After winning the university's Theatre Intime Award for his play "Awhile to Work," Ferrer dropped out in his sophomore year to pursue acting as a career. He made his Broadway debut as a chorus dancer in 1938's "You Never Know," and supported himself between shows as a newspaper editor in Vermont while penning a children's novel, Tito's Hats. In 1940, he made his professional stage debut in "Kind Lady," but a bout with polio forced him to put his career on hold for a year. After his recovery, Ferrer worked as a disc jockey and relocated for a time to Mexico to work on a novel.

In 1944, he moved to Hollywood, where he worked as a dialogue coach on several B-pictures before making his debut as a director on "Girl of the Limberlost" (1945), a low-budget adaptation of the popular novel by Gene Stratton-Porter. For the next few years, Ferrer moved between acting assignments, directing for the stage and working behind the camera. In 1946, he directed José Ferrer in his triumphant Broadway run as "Cyrano de Bergerac" before returning to California to serve as John Ford's assistant on "The Fugitive" (1947). He made an unbilled appearance in that film as a priest, but would wait three more years before landing his first substantial screen role in "Lost Boundaries" (1949) as a black doctor who posed as a Caucasian. Acting soon overtook his career ambitions, and by 1951, he was a bona fide movie star in such thrilling adventure-romances as "The Brave Bulls" (1951), as a conflicted Mexican matador, and "Scaramouche" (1952), which featured an eight-minute fencing duel between Ferrer's villainous Marquis and Stewart Granger's dashing hero. In 1953, he warmed many a moviegoer's heart as the physically and emotionally crippled puppeteer whose icy veneer is melted by Leslie Caron in "Lili" (1953). The film even generated a Top 40 hit for Ferrer with "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo," a duet with Caron that reached No. 30 on the pop charts.

However, Ferrer professed in interviews an intense dislike for acting and his preference for behind-the-scenes work, but the success of his movie career kept him in front of the camera for another decade. He continued to direct films during this period, but the work was frequently fraught with trouble. He was brought in to complete Howard Hughes expensive vanity project, "Vendetta" (1950) after the producer had fired both Max Ophuls and Stuart Heisler. His subsequent work in the decade, including the noir classics "The Rack" (1951) and "Macao" (1952), was uncredited.

In 1954, he appeared opposite a young actress named Audrey Hepburn in the Broadway production of "Ondine." The co-stars soon became a couple and were married that same year. In 1956, they co-starred in King Vidor's epic screen version of "War and Peace," with Ferrer as Prince Andrei, who loses Hepburn's Natasha to Count Pierre (Henry Fonda). Offscreen, their marriage was fraught with challenges, including the loss of two children through miscarriage, and accusations in the press that Ferrer was exerting a Svengali-like influence over Hepburn's career, as evidenced by the disastrous "Green Mansions" (1959), Ferrer's adaptation of the 1904 novel about a jungle girl (Hepburn) and her romance with a young traveler (Anthony Perkins). The couple and their friends laughed off the latter allegation, noting that Hepburn's successful career was the primary force behind the marriage.

Ferrer's tenure as a top Hollywood actor wound down in the early 1960s. He played Ernest Hemingway's expatriate writer Robert Cohn in the 1957 film version of "The Sun Also Rises," then was third-billed as Harry Belafonte's rival for Inger Stevens amidst the ruins of civilization in the science fiction classic "The World, The Flesh and the Devil (1959). The following year, he filmed "Blood and Roses" (1960), an elegant and erotic vampire film for Roger Vadim, and then enjoyed his last substantive part for decades as Major General Robert Haines in the World War II epic "The Longest Day" (1962). Ferrer balanced supporting roles in American and international productions like "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964) and "Sex and the Single Girl" (1964) while directing episodes of the ABC sitcom "The Farmer's Daughter" (1963-66), which featured his "World" co-star, Inger Stevens, in the lead. In 1965, he directed a Spanish musical comedy, "Cabriola" ("Every Day is a Holiday") before traveling to Italy to make "El Greco" (1966), a lavish biopic of the influential Greek artist on which he also served as producer. The film was a disaster upon its release, but he would rebound the following year as producer of "Wait Until Dark" (1967), Terence Young's adaptation of the popular stage play about a blind woman hunted by a trio of criminals for drugs hidden in her apartment. Ferrer cast Hepburn as the lead, which earned her an Academy Award nomination. It would be their last significant professional and personal collaboration; after years of divergent careers and schedules, Ferrer and Hepburn divorced in 1968.

Ferrer suffered a further setback in 1968 when he was stricken with a debilitating heart attack, which forced him to curtail his screen career for several years. He returned to show business in the early 1970s, producing a pair of little-seen features - the 1972 spy film "Embassy" with Richard Roundtree, and the thriller "W" (1974) with Twiggy - before settling into supporting turns on episodic television and in the occasional Hollywood feature, like the John Wayne vehicle "Brannigan" (1975) as a crooked European lawyer trailed by Wayne's American cop. The late 1970s saw Ferrer descend into low-budget exploitation on both sides of the Atlantic, including Tobe Hooper's grisly "Eaten Alive" (1977) and the appalling "Guyana: Cult of the Damned" (1980), among others. He rebounded, after a fashion, to play Jane Wyman's attorney and subsequent husband on "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990), and even directed an episode of the series.

Ferrer continued to work in American television, throughout the 1980s, contributing small but significant turns in miniseries like the Emmy-winning "Peter the Great" (NBC, 1986) as Frederick I, King of Prussia, and "Dream West" (CBS, 1986), a biopic of adventurer John C. Fremont. He made his final screen appearance in "Catherine the Great" (A&E, 1995) before retiring to his home, a ranch in Carpinteria, CA. Failing health forced him to move to a convalescent home in Santa Barbara in 2008, where he died of heart failure on June 2 of that year.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Green Mansions (1959)
Director
Macao (1952)
Director of addl scenes
The Secret Fury (1950)
Director
Vendetta (1950)
Director
The Fugitive (1947)
Director Assistant
Boston Blackie's Rendezvous (1945)
Dialogue Director
Let's Go Steady (1945)
Dialogue Director
Ten Cents a Dance (1945)
Dialogue Director
A Thousand and One Nights (1945)
Dialogue Director
The Girl of the Limberlost (1945)
Director
They Live in Fear (1944)
Dialogue Director
Sergeant Mike (1944)
Dialogue Director
Meet Miss Bobby Socks (1944)
Dialogue Director
Together Again (1944)
Dialogue Director
Louisiana Hayride (1944)
Dialogue Director

Cast (Feature Film)

Audrey Hepburn: Remembered (1993)
Only the Good Die Young (1990)
Dr Brooks
In Vino Veritas (1990)
Things That Go Bump in the Night (1989)
Lili Marleen (1989)
David Mendelssohn
Easy Come, Easy Go (1989)
Outrage! (1986)
Seduced (1985)
One Shoe Makes It Murder (1982)
Mangiati vivi dai Cannibali (1980)
Professor Carter
Memory Of Eva Ryker (1980)
Dr Sanford
City of the Walking Dead (1980)
General Murchison
Fugitive Family (1980)
Anthony Durano
Die Jaeger (1979)
Screamers (1979)
Guyana: Cult of the Damned (1979)
The Visitor (1979)
Dr Walker
The Fifth Floor (1979)
Zwischengleis (1978)
Colonel Stone
The Amazing Captain Nemo (1978)
The Norseman (1978)
King Eurich
L' Anti Cristo (1978)
The Hi-Riders (1978)
Sharon: Portrait of a Mistress (1977)
La Ragazza del Piagiame Gialle (1977)
Eaten Alive (1976)
Il Corsaro Nero (1976)
Van Gould
Das Netz (1975)
Morelli
Brannigan (1975)
Mel Fields
Tenafly (1973)
Charlie Rush
Time For Loving (1971)
El Greco (1966)
El Greco
Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
Themselves
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
Cleander
The Hands of Orlac (1964)
Steven Orlac
Sex and the Single Girl (1964)
Rudy DeMeyer
The Devil and the Ten Commandments (1963)
Philip Allan
The Longest Day (1962)
General Haines
Blood and Roses (1961)
Leopoldo De Karnstein
The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)
Benson Thacker
Fräulein (1958)
Foster MacLain
The Sun Also Rises (1957)
Robert Cohn
The Vintage (1957)
Giancarlo Barandero
War and Peace (1956)
Prince Andrey Bolkonsky
Elena and Her Men (1956)
Proibito (1955)
Don Paolo
Oh... Rosalinda! (1955)
Knights of the Round Table (1954)
Arthur [Pendragon]
Saadia (1954)
Henrik
Lili (1953)
Paul Berthalet
Scaramouche (1952)
Noel, Marquis de Maynes
Rancho Notorious (1952)
Frenchy Fairmont
The Brave Bulls (1951)
Luís Bello
Born to Be Bad (1950)
[Gabriel] Gobby [Broome]
Lost Boundaries (1949)
Scott Carter

Writer (Feature Film)

Every Day Is a Holiday (1966)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

The Thanksgiving Promise (1986)
Executive Producer
W (1974)
Producer
Embassy (1973)
Producer
The Night Visitor (1971)
Producer
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Producer
El Greco (1966)
Producer
Every Day Is a Holiday (1966)
Producer

Cast (Special)

Wild Jack (1989)
Winston Fielding
The Return of Captain Nemo (1978)
Cook

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Catherine the Great (1996)
Dream West (1986)
Peter the Great (1986)
The Top of the Hill (1980)
Origins of the Mafia (1974)

Life Events

1938

First Broadway appearance (as chorus dancer) in "You Never Know"

1940

New York stage acting debut in "Kind Lady"

1940

Wrote children's book, "Tito's Hats"

1945

Film directing debut, "The Girl of the Limberlost"

1945

Returned to New York; first starring role on Broadway in "Strange Fruit"

1947

Worked as assistant director to John Ford on "The Fugitive"

1949

Film acting debut in "Lost Boundaries"

1959

Directed Audrey Hepburn in "Green Mansions"

1963

TV directing debut, "The Farmer's Daughter" (episode)

1965

First film as co-writer (with Jose-Maria Palacio) and producer, "Cabriola/Every Day's a Holiday" (also director)

1973

Made TV-movie acting debut in two-hour pilot of "Tenafly"

1981

Starred in the CBS series "Behind the Screen"

1986

Played Frederick in "Peter the Great" miniseries (NBC)

1987

Returned to the stage in the revival of "The Best Man" at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles

Photo Collections

Scaramouche - Publicity Stills
Here are several publicity stills from MGM's Scaramouche (1952), starring Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, and Janet Leigh. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Green Mansions - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Green Mansions (1959). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Night Visitor, The (1971) - It's Your Paperweight Joining a conversation in which Swedish country doctor Anton (Per Oscarsson) and wife Ester (Liv Ullmann) have revealed their own foul play in earlier family dramas, and after an unexplained murder, they elect to spy on her sister, who could be a threat, with shocking result, in The Night Visitor, 1971.
Sex And The Single Girl (1964) - Dirty Delusions Of Grandeur First scene for Natalie Wood as "Dr. Brown," only her name inspired by author Helen Gurley Brown, with colleagues (Otto Kruger, Mel Ferrer, Edmund Glover), angry over a scandal sheet's coverage of her work, in Sex And The Single Girl, 1964.
Lili (1953) - You Have No Family? Everyone’s French and idyllic, Jean Pierre Aumont, Kurt Kasznar and Mel Ferrer haggling over fruit when title character Leslie Caron (in her first role after An American In Paris), arrives, her expectations let down, Alex Gerry as a storekeeper, opening the MGM fantasy musical hit Lili, 1953.
Lili (1953) - I'm A Very Interesting Fellow 16-year-old French orphan Leslie Caron (title character), fired from the carnival after failure as a waitress, moping until puppeteer Paul (Mel Ferrer) sees an opportunity, draws her into conference with his puppets, based on other members of the troupe, in MGM’s Lili, 1953.
Knights Of The Round Table (1954) - Spoiled My Fight The first meeting between Lancelot (Robert Taylor), who's come to serve the new king, and Arthur (Mel Ferrer), who fight over a minor offense until they exchange names, Maureen Swanson the escorted bystander, in MGM's first wide-screen film, Knights Of The Round Table, 1954.
Knights Of The Round Table (1954) - We Are One People Politics very olde English style, as Arthur (Mel Ferrer) orates and Merlin (Felix Aylmer) explains about Stonehenge (with an altogether unfounded theory!), and Lancelot (Robert Taylor) sounds the alarm, in MGM's Knights Of The Round Table, 1953.
Knights Of The Round Table (1954) - I Make You Henceforth The Queen's Champion The pretty form of Guinivere (Ava Gardner) is emphasized in her speedy wedding to Arthur (Mel Ferrer) and Lancelot (Robert Taylor) arriving late, is rewarded for his service, in MGM's Knights Of The Round Table, 1953.
War And Peace (1956) - He Almost Never Smiles At the country home of the Rostov’s, friend Pierre (Henry Fonda) urges mourning Prince Andrei (Mel Ferrer) to move past his grief, though he resists, then he overhears Natasha (Audrey Hepburn), speaking about him, in the Paramount 1956 treatment of Tolstoy’s War And Peace.
War And Peace (1956) - I'll Do It For Nothing At the Moscow home of Dolokhov (Helmut Dantine), in a scene modified from Tolstoy, betting Anatol (Vittorio Gassman) he can complete the stunt, to be followed by Pierre (Henry Fonda), until Prince Andrei (Mel Ferrer) intervenes, in King Vidor’s Italian-made Paramount production, War And Peace, 1956.
Lili (1953) - Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo Continuing the scene in which troubled puppeteer Paul (Mel Ferrer) has engaged 16-year-old orphan Leslie Caron (title character) in conversation with his creations, carnival friends led by Kurt Kasznar watching, the hit song by Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch, in MGM’s Lili, 1953.
Born To Be Bad (1950) -- Christabel Is So, So Alive Director Nicholas Ray's opening, establishing San Francisco and bride-to-be Donna (Joan Leslie), her boss's sister Clara (Virginia Farmer), artist pal Gobby (Mel Ferrer), and her boss's niece Christabel (Joan Fontaine), arriving early, in Born To Be Bad, 1950.
Born To Be Bad (1950) - There's No Norwegian Sailor Crafty new gal in town Christabel (Joan Fontaine) is enjoying the attention of San Francisco painter Gobby (Mel Ferrer) but gets caught pretending to be offended by the attitudes of his ruffian writer friend Nick (Robert Ryan), in Nicholas Ray’s Born To Be Bad, 1950.

Trailer

Lili - (Original Trailer) A French orphan gets a job with a carnival puppet show in Lili (1953), starring Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Longest Day, The - (Original Trailer) An all-star cast including John Wayne and Henry Fonda in a re-creation of the D-Day invasion on The Longest Day (1962).
War And Peace (1956) - (Original Trailer) Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda star in King Vidor's massive adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic War And Peace (1956).
Green Mansions - (Original Trailer) Audrey Hepburn is Rima, the Bird Woman of the Amazon rain forest in the romantic adventure Green Mansions (1959) co-starring Anthony Perkins.
Vintage, The - (Original Trailer) Two fugitives (Mel Ferrer, John Kerr) hide out in a vineyard in The Vintage (1957).
Sun Also Rises, The - (Original Trailer) A group of disillusioned American expatriate writers live a dissolute, hedonistic lifestyle in 1920's France and Spain in The Sun Also Rises (1957).
Rancho Notorious - (Original Trailer) A cowboy (Arthur Kennedy) infiltrates a bandit hideaway - the Chuck-a-Luck - in search of his girlfriend's killer in Rancho Notorious (1952), Fritz Lang's cult Western featuring Marlene Dietrich in one of her definitive screen portrayals.
World, the Flesh and the Devil, The - (Original Trailer) A black man (Harry Belafonte), a white woman (Inger Stevens) and a white man (Mel Ferrer) are the only people left alive after a nuclear disaster.
Scaramouche (1952) - (Original Trailer) In 18th-century France, a young man masquerades as an actor to avenge his friend's murder in Scaramouche (1952).
Saadia - (Original Trailer) A young doctor (Mel Ferrer) in the Sahara clashes with the local witch doctor in Saadia (1954).
Knights of the Round Table - (Original Trailer) Technical language and fanfare in the trailer for MGM's first Cinemascope feature, as Queen Guinevere is torn between love for her husband and Sir Lancelot in Knights of the Round Table, 1953, starring Ava Gardner & Robert Taylor.
Sex and The Single Girl - (Original Trailer) A journalist (Tony Curtis) sets out to expose a female sex expert (Natalie Wood) in Sex and The Single Girl (1964) inspired by the self-help book by Helen Gurley Brown.

Family

Jose Maria Ferrer
Father
Physician. Heart specialist.
Marie Irene Ferrer
Mother
Jose Ferrer
Brother
Doctor. Not the actor.
Mela Ferrer
Daughter
Born in 1940; mother, Barbara C Tripp.
Pepa Ferrer
Daughter
Mother, Barbara C Tripp.
Chris Ferrer
Son
Mother, Barbara C Tripp.
Mark Ferrer
Son
Born 1944; mother, Frances Pilchard.
Sean Ferrer
Son
Actor. Born in 1960; mother, Audrey Hepburn.

Companions

Frances Pilchard
Wife
Married on October 23, 1937; divorced; after marriage to Barbara Tripp, remarried; divorced a second time in 1953.
Barbara C Tripp
Wife
Married in 1940; divorced.
Audrey Hepburn
Wife
Actor. Married on September 25, 1954; divorced in 1968.
Elizabeth Soukotine
Wife
Married on February 19, 1971.

Bibliography

"Tito's Hats"
Mel Ferrer (1940)