Actor Mel Ferrer dead at age 90

Mel Ferrer, the tall, darkly handsome star of such classic films as Lili, War and Peace and The Sun Also Rises, as well as producer and director of movies starring his wife, Audrey Hepburn, has died at age 90.

LOS ANGELES — Mel Ferrer, the tall, darkly handsome star of such classic films as Lili, War and Peace and The Sun Also Rises, as well as producer and director of movies starring his wife, Audrey Hepburn, has died at age 90.

Ferrer died Monday at his ranch near Santa Barbara, family spokesman Mike Mena said.

“It’s a sad occasion, but he did live a long and productive life,” Mena told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Ferrer’s most impressive film role came in 1953 in Lili. He played a rippled carnival puppeteer with whom a French orphan (played by Leslie Caron) falls in love.

He also won critical acclaim as Luis Bello in Robert Rossen’s 1951 depiction of the public and private life of a bullfighter in The Brave Bulls, based on a Tom Lea book, and starred opposite Hepburn in 1956’s War and Peace.

In later years, he turned more to directing and producing for movies and TV.

“Acting, at times, depresses Mel,” Hepburn once said. “Directing lifts him. He’s so relaxed at it that I just know it is the job he loves.”

He and Hepburn had become engaged in 1954 when they appeared together in the New York play Ondine. They married later that year in Burgenstock, Switzerland.

The pair divorced in 1968 and Ferrer married his fourth wife, Elizabeth Soukhotine, in 1971. She survives him.

Ferrer and Hepburn co-starred in a television version of Mayerling and Ferrer directed Hepburn in the 1959 film Green Mansions.

He also produced one of Hepburn’s greatest film triumphs, 1967’s Wait Until Dark, a terrifying thriller in which she portrays a blind woman terrorized by drug dealers who break into her home.

Born Melchor Gaston Ferrer on Aug. 25, 1917, in Elberon, N.J., Ferrer was the son of a doctor from Puerto Rico and a socialite mother. He grew up in comfortable surroundings, attending private schools and Princeton University.

After winning a playwright’s award in his sophomore year, Ferrer left Princeton to write a novel in Mexico. Instead, he wrote a children’s book, Tito’s Hats, which was published by Doubleday.

He spent a year as a book editor in New York, then began his acting career as a dancer in Broadway musicals. He acted in plays and on radio and directed a Hollywood movie, Girl of the Limberlost.

Back in New York, he starred in the play Strange Fruit, about a lynching in the South and directed Jose Ferrer (no relation) in Cyrano de Bergerac. His first major film role was in 1949’s Lost Boundaries, playing a light-skinned African-American doctor who passed for white in a New Hampshire town.

Ferrer’s commanding presence and well-modulated voice made him ideal for characters of certitude and decision.

His films included Rancho Notorious, Scaramouche, Knights of the Round Table (as King Arthur), Born to Be Bad, The Longest Day, The Fall of the Roman Empire, The Sun Also Rises, and El Greco, which was made in Spain with Ferrer as co-producer and actor in the title role.

Ferrer was married and divorced three times before Hepburn: to Frances Pilchard (one daughter); to Barbara Tripp (a daughter and son); and a remarriage to Pilchard.

In all, he appeared in more than 100 films and made-for-television movies, directed nine films and produced nine more.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau Liberals face confidence vote over proposed anticorruption committee

Bloc Quebecois plans to support the Conservative motion

A bottle of hand sanitizer is seen in Vancouver on October 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Experts say counterfeit hand sanitizer recall at Dollarama is a lesson for retailers

Fraudulent version may not be effective at killing bacteria and viruses

George Orme, owner of Jacques-Orme Funeral Home, and Dr. Henry George are seen with the city’s first ambulance at the Red Deer Exhibition around 1925. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Red Deer’s first ambulances were also used as hearses

There has been a great deal of media attention in recent weeks… Continue reading

Manitoba skip Tracy Fleury releases a rock as they play Ontario at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Fleury has brought on veteran skip Sherry Middaugh to serve as coach of the Winnipeg-based team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Team Tracy Fleury adds longtime skip Sherry Middaugh as coach

Previously coached at the U18 and U21 levels

The main entrance to the Museums Island and the Neue Museum, left, in Berlin, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. A large number of art works and artifacts at some of Berlin’s best-known museums were smeared with a liquid by an unknown perpetrator or perpetrators earlier this month, police said Wednesday. The ‘numerous’ works in several museums at the Museum Island complex, a UNESCO world heritage site in the heart of the German capital that is one of the city’s main tourist attractions, were targeted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Oct. 3, police said. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Over 60 exhibits damaged at Berlin museums, motive a mystery

Surveillance camera footage doesn’t show obvious signs of anyone applying the liquid

FILE - This Aug. 13, 2020 photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore. Netflix Inc. (NFLX) on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 reported third-quarter net income of $790 million. The Los Gatos, California-based company said it had profit of $1.74 per share. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Netflix reports a summer slump in subscriber growth

Added 28 million subscribers in the first nine months of the year

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Most Read