José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón, best known as José Ferrer, was a Puerto Rican actor, as well as a theater and film director. He was the first Puerto Rican actor to win an Academy Award.
Ferrer was born in the Santurce district of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Maria Providencia Cintron and Rafael Ferrer, an attorney and writer. He studied in the Swiss boarding school Institut Le Rosey. In 1933, he graduated from Princeton University, where he wrote a senior thesis, French Naturalism and Pardo Bazán; he was also a member of the Princeton Triangle Club.
Ferrer made his Broadway debut in 1935. In 1940, he played his first starring role on Broadway, the title role in Charley's Aunt, partly in drag. He played Iago in Margaret Webster's 1943 Broadway production of Othello, starring Paul Robeson in the title role, Webster as Emilia, and Ferrer's wife at the time, Uta Hagen, as Desdemona. It became the longest-running production of a Shakespeare play staged in the U.S., a record it still holds. His Broadway directing credits include The Shrike, Stalag 17, The Fourposter, Twentieth Century, Carmelina, My Three Angels, and The Andersonville Trial.
Ferrer may be best-remembered for his performance in the title role of Cyrano de Bergerac, which he first played on Broadway in 1946. Ferrer feared that the production would be a failure in rehearsals due to the open dislike for the play by director Mel Ferrer, so he called in Joshua Logan to serve as "play doctor" for the production. Logan wrote that he simply had to eliminate pieces of business which director Ferrer had inserted in his staging; they presumably were intended to sabotage the more sentimental elements of the play that the director considered to be corny and in bad taste. The production became one of the hits of the 1946/47 Broadway season, winning Ferrer the first Tony Award for his depiction of the long-nosed poet/swordsman .