Melchior Gastón Ferrer[1] (August 25, 1917 – June 2, 2008) was an American actor and director of stage and screen, film producer and the first husband of Audrey Hepburn.

Mel Ferrer
Mel Ferrer - 1960.jpg
Ferrer in 1960
Melchior Gastón Ferrer

(1917-08-25)August 25, 1917
DiedJune 2, 2008(2008-06-02) (aged 90)
OccupationActor, director, producer
Years active1937–1998
Frances Pilchard
(m. 1937; div. 1939)

Barbara C. Tripp
(m. 1940; div. 1944)

Frances Pilchard
(m. 1944; div. 1954)

Audrey Hepburn
(m. 1954; div. 1968)

Elizabeth Soukhotine (m. 1971)
RelativesEmma Ferrer (granddaughter)
AwardsWalk of Fame
6240 Hollywood Blvd

Early lifeEdit

Ferrer was born in the Elberon section of Long Branch, New Jersey, of Cuban and Irish descent. His father, Dr. José María Ferrer (1857–1920), was born in Cuba, of Spanish ancestry, and was an authority on pneumonia and served as chief of staff of St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.[2] His American mother, Mary Matilda Irene (née O'Donohue; 1878–1967),[3] was a daughter of coffee broker Joseph J. O'Donohue, New York's City Commissioner of Parks, a founder of the Coffee Exchange, and a founder of the Brooklyn-New York Ferry. An ardent opponent of Prohibition, Irene Ferrer was named, in 1934, the New York State chairman of the Citizens Committee for Sane Liquor Laws.[4]

Ferrer had three siblings. His elder sister was Dr. M. Irené Ferrer, a cardiologist and educator, who helped refine the cardiac catheter and electrocardiogram.[5] She died in 2004 in Manhattan, New York at age 89 of pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

His brother, Dr. Jose M. Ferrer, born 1912, was a surgeon; he died in 1982 at age 70 after an abdominal surgery complication. His other sister, Teresa (Terry) Ferrer, was the religion editor of The New York Herald Tribune and education editor of Newsweek.[4][6] The family is not related to actors José and Miguel Ferrer.

His mother's family, the O'Donohues, were prominent Roman Catholics. Mel Ferrer's aunt, Marie Louise O'Donohue (Mrs. Joseph J. O'Donohue, Jr.) was named a papal countess,[7] and his mother's sister, Teresa Riley O'Donohue, a leading figure in American Catholic charities and welfare organizations, was granted permission by Pope Pius XI to install a private chapel in her New York City apartment.[8]

Ferrer was privately educated at the Bovée School in New York (one of his classmates was the future author Louis Auchincloss) and Canterbury Prep School in Connecticut before attending Princeton University until his sophomore year, at which time he dropped out to devote more time to acting. He also worked as an editor of a small Vermont newspaper and wrote a children's book, Tito's Hats (Garden City Publishing, 1940).[9]


Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer on the set of War and Peace in 1955

Early theatre workEdit

Ferrer began acting in summer stock as a teenager and in 1937 won the Theatre Intime award for best new play by a Princeton undergraduate; the play was called Awhile to Work and co-starred another college student, Frances Pilchard, who would become Ferrer's first wife that same year.[10]

At age twenty-one, he was appearing on the Broadway stage as a chorus dancer, making his debut there as an actor two years later. He appeared as a chorus dancer in two unsuccessful musicals, Cole Porter's You Never Know and Everywhere I Roam.

His first acting roles were in a revival of Kind Lady (1940) and Cue for Passion (1940), directed by Otto Preminger.[11][12]

After a bout with polio, Ferrer worked as a disc jockey in Texas and Arkansas and moved to Mexico to work on a novel, Tito's Hat, which was published in 1940.

Columbia PicturesEdit

Ferrer was contracted to Columbia Pictures as a director, along with several other "potentials" who began as dialogue directors: Fred Sears, William Castle, Henry Levin and Robert Gordon.[13]

Among the films he worked on were Louisiana Hayride (1944), They Live in Fear (1944), Sergeant Mike (1944), Together Again (1944), Meet Miss Bobby Socks (1944), Let's Go Steady (1944), Ten Cents a Dance (1945), and A Thousand and One Nights (1945). Some of these were Bs but others – such as Thousand and One Nights – were more prestigious.

Ferrer directed The Girl of the Limberlost (1945), a B movie starring Ruth Nelson.


Eventually, he returned to Broadway, where he starred in Strange Fruit (1945–46), a play based on the novel by Lillian Smith. It was directed by José Ferrer (no relation).

Ferrer then directed José Ferrer in the 1946 stage production of Cyrano de Bergerac.[14]

He worked as an assistant on The Fugitive (1947), directed by John Ford in Mexico. Along with Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Joseph Cotten, he founded the La Jolla Playhouse in the San Diego suburb of La Jolla.

Screen actorEdit

Ferrer made his screen acting debut with a starring role in Lost Boundaries (1949), playing a black person who passes for white. The film was controversial but much acclaimed.[15]

Howard Hughes' RKO StudiosEdit

Ferrer had a supporting role in Born to Be Bad (1950) at RKO, directed by Nicholas Ray. At that studio, he directed Claudette Colbert in The Secret Fury (1950) and did some directing on Vendetta (1950), The Racket (1951) and Macao (1952). Ferrer then starred as a bullfighter in The Brave Bulls (1951) for Robert Rossen at Columbia. Ferrer fought with Arthur Kennedy over Marlene Dietrich in Rancho Notorious (1952) directed by Fritz Lang at RKO.


Ferrer went to MGM, replacing Fernando Lamas as the villain in Scaramouche (1952). The film, particularly notable for a long, climactic swordfight between Ferrer and Stewart Granger, was a huge hit.

MGM kept him on for Lili (1953), playing the puppeteer loved by Leslie Caron's title character. It was another big success; Ferrer and Caron also got a hit single out of it, "Hi-Lili-Hi-Lo". Saadia (1953), which Ferrer made with Cornel Wilde, was a flop, but Knights of the Round Table (1954), in which Ferrer played King Arthur, was another big hit.

Ferrer met Audrey Hepburn at a party; she wanted to do a play together. They appeared in Ondine (1954) on Broadway and later got married.


Ferrer went to Italy to make Proibito (1954) and to England for Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955), directed by Powell and Pressburger. Neither film was widely seen, but War and Peace (1956) was a big success; Ferrer played Prince Andrei, co-starring with then-wife Audrey Hepburn. In France, he co-starred with Ingrid Bergman in Elena and Her Men (1956), directed by Jean Renoir.

United StatesEdit

Ferrer and Hepburn made Mayerling (1957) for American television; it was released theatrically in some countries.

Ferrer returned to MGM to make The Vintage (1957) with Pier Angeli, which was a big flop. He made two films for 20th Century Fox: an all-star adaptation of The Sun Also Rises (1957) and Fräulein (1958), a war story with Dana Wynter. At MGM, he played one of the last three people on Earth in The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959), another flop.

Ferrer went to Italy to star in Roger Vadim's vampire movie Blood and Roses (1960). After an English horror film, The Hands of Orlac (1960), he starred in the Italian adventure film Charge of the Black Lancers (1962).

Ferrer was one of several stars in The Devil and the Ten Commandments (1962) and The Longest Day (1962). He had a cameo in his wife's Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and was Marcus Aurelius Cleander in The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).

Ferrer turned to television, doing some directing for the series The Farmer's Daughter (1963–1966) starring Inger Stevens.

Ferrer had a supporting role in Sex and the Single Girl (1964).


Ferrer produced and starred in the biopic El Greco (1966), playing the famous painter. He also produced Wait Until Dark (1967), starring his wife, another big hit. He and Hepburn divorced in 1968.


Ferrer was mostly a jobbing actor in the 1970s, working much in Italy. Among his credits were A Time for Loving (1972); The Antichrist (1974) in Italy; Brannigan (1974), a crime drama set in London that starred John Wayne; Silent Action (1975) and The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975), both for Sergio Martino; The Net (1975), shot in Germany; The Black Corsair (1976), an Italian swashbuckler; Gangbuster (1977) in Italy; The Pyjama Girl Case (1977); Seagulls Fly Low (1977).

He also played a blackmailing reporter in the Columbo episode "Requiem for a Fallen Star", starring Anne Baxter.

In America, he was in Hi-Riders (1978), The Norseman (1978), Guyana: Crime of the Century (1979), and The Fifth Floor (1979). In 1979, he portrayed Dr. Brogli in an episode of Return of the Saint.

In Europe, he was in The Visitor (1979), Island of the Fishmen (1980), Nightmare City (1980), The Great Alligator River (1980) and Eaten Alive! (1980). He went to Germany for Lili Marleen (1981)

He also appeared in two films with Marisol, the Spanish star: Cabriola (as director) and La chica del molino rojo (as actor).

Later careerEdit

From 1981 to 1984, he had a role opposite Jane Wyman as Angela Channing's attorney and briefly her husband Phillip Erikson in the soap opera Falcon Crest, as well as directing a few of the episodes. He also appeared in the miniseries Peter the Great (1986) and Dream West (1986). Later credits include Eye of the Widow (1991) and Catherine the Great (1995).

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Mel Ferrer has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6268 Hollywood Blvd.

Personal lifeEdit

Ferrer was married five times, to four women, with whom he had six children. His wives were:

  1. Frances Gunby Pilchard, his first and third wife, an actress who became a sculptor.[16] They married in 1937, and divorced in 1939 after having one child together.[17]
  2. Barbara C. Tripp, they married in 1940 and later divorced. They had two children: daughter Mela Ferrer (born 1943) and son Christopher Ferrer (born 1944).
  3. Frances Gunby Pilchard, for the 2nd time; they remarried in 1944, and divorced in 1953, after having two more children together: Pepa Philippa Ferrer and Mark Young Ferrer (born 1944).
  4. Audrey Hepburn, to whom he was married from 1954 until 1968. They had one son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer (born 1960).
  5. Elizabeth Soukhotine, from Belgium, to whom he was married from 1971 to his death in 2008.[17]

Before his marriage to Elizabeth Soukhotine in 1971, Ferrer also had a relationship with 29-year-old interior designer Tessa Kennedy.[18][19]


A resident of Carpinteria, California, Ferrer died of heart failure at a convalescent home in Santa Barbara on June 2, 2008.[14] He was 90 years old.


As actorEdit

As directorEdit

As dialogue coachEdit

TV episodes and miniseriesEdit

For TV movies, see filmography.


Year Program Episode/source
1952 Family Theater Hound of Heaven[21]
1953 Radio Theater Undercurrent[22]


  1. ^ Some sources spell his first name as MELCHIOR but this is incorrect based on Ferrer's records at Princeton University. Also he was named for his paternal grandfather, Melchor Ferrer. And the name MELCHOR G. FERRER was used on the cover of Tito's Hats, a children's book that Ferrer wrote in 1940.
  2. ^ "Dr. Jose M. Ferrer", Obituaries, The New York Times, February 24, 1920
  3. ^ "Weddings: Ferrer-O'Donohue", The New York Times, October 19, 1910
  4. ^ a b "Mrs. J.M. Ferrer, Civic Leader, 89", The New York Times, February 21, 1967.
  5. ^ Changing the Face of Medicine – Dr. M. Irené Ferrer
  6. ^ "Terry Ferrer, 82, Education Editor", The New York Times, April 1, 2002
  7. ^ "Joseph O'Donohue, Real Estate Man, Dead", The New York Times, October 31, 1937
  8. ^ "Teresa O'Donohue, Charities Worker", The New York Times, August 18, 1937
  9. ^ The book's illustrations were by Jean Charlot.
  10. ^ "M.G. Ferrer Wins Prize Play Award", The New York Times, March 3, 1937, p. 27
  11. ^ "Kind Lady". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on April 16, 2018. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  12. ^ "Cue for Passion". Internet Broadway Database. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  13. ^ Tom Weaver (April 29, 2008). "Katz-mania". Films of the Golden Age.
  14. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (June 3, 2008). "Mel Ferrer, actor-director, husband of Audrey Hepburn, dies". Yahoo! News.
  15. ^ Margaret Lilliard (July 25, 1989). "Landmark '49 Film About Family Passing for White Recalled". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ "Catharsis", Time, February 10, 1941
  17. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (June 5, 2008). "Obituary: Mel Ferrer". The Guardian. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  18. ^ Paris, Barry. Audrey Hepburn. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-425-18212-6.
  19. ^ Cawthorne, Nigel. Sex Lives of the Hollywood Goddesses Part 2. p. 271. ISBN 1-85375-514-1.
  20. ^ Notre jour le plus long La Presse de la Manche 2012
  21. ^ Kirby, Walter (April 20, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved May 9, 2015 – via  
  22. ^ Kirby, Walter (November 29, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 14, 2015 – via  

External linksEdit