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Monday, January 27, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Actor Jose Ferrer; Won Oscar, Tony As Cyrano De Bergerac

Knight-Ridder News Service: Los Angeles Times

MIAMI - He was Cyrano de Bergerac and Toulouse-Lautrec, Iago and Charley's Aunt. To colleagues in the theater, he was simply "Joe."

Jose Ferrer, the versatile Puerto Rican actor who won an Oscar and three Tonys, died yesterday at Doctors' Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 80.

Cause of his death was not announced but he was known to have been in failing health since last month when he left the scheduled Broadway production of "Conversations With My Father" on his doctors' advice. Before that he had been battling cancer.

"He was remarkable," said legendary Broadway director George Abbott, who worked with the actor on the New York stage. "He created a lot of different people. He didn't rely just on his own personality."

The role Mr. Ferrer will be best remembered for is the huge-nosed "Cyrano," which won him Broadway's first best-actor Tony, an award he shared with Fredric March in 1947.

When Mr. Ferrer transferred the role to film in 1950, wearing a 2 3/4-inch-long proboscis and quoting Edmond Rostand's long speeches about "needing a nasal crane to hoist it up," he won the Oscar.

He was also nominated for a supporting Oscar for his film debut as the Dauphin opposite Ingrid Bergman's Joan of Arc in the 1948 movie of the same name and for best actor for his tortured Toulouse-Lautrec in director John Huston's colorful "Moulin Rouge" in 1952.

Mr. Ferrer etched other memorable film characters: as a sadistic Turk in "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), as the defense attorney who questions Capt. Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) in "The Caine Mutiny" in 1954 and as a vocal Hitler supporter in "Ship of Fools" in 1965.

The actor had his first major Broadway triumph in the 1940 revival of "Charley's Aunt" as Lord Fancourt Babberley, who pretends to be the aunt of a college roommate. In an acclaimed 1943 revival of "Othello," Mr. Ferrer was Iago to Paul Robeson's Moor.

"Broadway was the heart and soul of this man," said theater publicist Charlie Cinnamon. "There was no time when he didn't have a project going on."

His other memorable Broadway appearances include "Twentieth Century" (1950) as a frantic producer and "The Shrike" (1952) as a mental patient needled by his demanding wife. Mr. Ferrer won a second acting Tony for the latter in 1952. That same year, he won a best director award for three plays: "Stalag 17," "The Fourposter" and "The Shrike."

Born Jose Vincente Ferrer Otero y Cintron in Santurce, Puerto Rico, he was raised the son of a successful attorney in the United States and earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University.

He made his Broadway debut in 1935 with one line in "A Slight Case of Murder": "What's going on around here?"

The actor recently bowed out of two plays. He was to appear in "Tete-a-Tete," which was to launch the new stage of the Theatre Club of the Palm Beaches. In October, he left that show, which was later canceled, so he could appear in a "Conversations With My Father," starring Judd Hirsch.

Ferrer is survived by his wife, Stella Daphne Magee; six children; and eight grandchildren. His previous marriages, to actress Uta Hagen, Phyllis Hill and singer Rosemary Clooney, ended in divorce.

One of his five children with Clooney is actor Miguel Ferrer, who portrayed the strange FBI pathologist on "Twin Peaks."

The family plans no funeral or memorial services.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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