José Ferrer

  1. Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend, 1945.     Despite a Muni-style stolidity, Billy Wilder craved Broadway’s newest hot star (in everything from Charley’s Auntto Iago). Paramount insisted on “a handsome star, a bigger name.” Ferrer certainly had the latter: José Vincent Ferrer de Otero y Cintron… and George Clooney’s   uncle.
  2. Larry Parks, The Jolson Story, 1945.     After James Cagney refused another musical biopic and Danny Thomas rejected a suggested nose-job, Columbia chief Harry Cohn yelled at Ferrer and Richard Conte for awhile. Parks, alone, actually tested and was cheaper as he was under contract to Columbia. He was later black-listed  – ruined! – by such oafs as Senator Joe McCarthy and numbnuts Ward Bond.
  3. Henry Fonda, The Fugitive, 1947.     “You’re out of your mind,  I can’t play that part. It’s not fair to ask me to” – Henry Fonda to John Ford about Graham Greene’s Spanish priest  in The Power and The Glory novel.   Fonda  suggested “Joe” Ferrer,  “a hell of an actor – he is Spanish.” He introduced Joe to Jack and all was set, except Ferrer’s Cyrano de Bergerac became far too successful on Broadway.
  4. Jay Silverheels, Captain From Castille, 1947.     Change  of  the  servant, Coatl –  reduced so much that Sileverheels was never credited. He soon would be – and globally – as Tonto, the TV pardner of The  Lone Ranger, 1949-1957. 
  5. George Sanders, All About Eve, 1950.
  6. Maurice Evans, Androcles and Lion, 1951.   During three years of bizarre casting of the George Bernard Shaw playlet – everyone from the sublime Chaplin (and Harpo Marx) to the ridiculous Eddie Bracken! James Donald and Jean Simmons (in their Hollywood debuts) actually began shooting on February 9. After a few days, everything stopped. For seven months! During which time Ferrer won Emperor Antoninus Caesar away from Rex Harrison, Cedric Hartdwicke and George Sanders.
  7. Edmund Purdom,  The Egyptian,  1954.    Marlon Brando suddenly fled and Fox production chief Darryl Zanuck ran all over LA for a replacement. Ferrer, John Cassavetes, Rock Hudson all agreed with Brando – the physician Sinuhe was unplayable.
  8. James Dean, Giant, 1955.
  9. Mel Ferrer, Oh… Rosalinda!!  1955.    José had an Oscar and all the qualities, said Michael Powell, that the other Ferrer singularly failed to possess: charm, humour, honesty, sex appeal, talent and a touch of genius.  And, this time,  greed. “He wanted too much money!”
  10. Anthony Quinn, Notre Dame de Paris,  Italy-France, 1956.    French realisateur Jean Delannoy’s first idea for Quasimodo.

  11. Werner Klemperer, Operation Eichmann, 1961. Director RG Springsteen’s first choice for his…  “Manhunt of the Century… For the Master Assassin!”  
  12. Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou,  1964.   Producer Harold Hecht was keen on Ferrer – no one’s  first choice for a Western, much less a Western farce. “Lee was the seventh guy after six turned it down: Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, a whole list,” reported Dan Gurler from the office of Marvin’s agent Meyer Mishkin. He worked it for $30,000, something like that.” Hecht wasn’t pleased with Marvin in rehearsals and told director Elliot Silverstein to fire him.  No!  “We’re going to Colorado in 48 hours. We’re going with Lee Marvin. Or you’re going with a different director.”  When Hecht later tried to fire Silverstein, Marvin said much the same…   And won the support Oscar on April 18, 1966.
  13. Cesar Romero,  Batman, TV, 1966-1968.   Ferrer and Gig Young were talked of for The Joker. Romero painted make-up over his moustache rather than shave it off.  Frank Sinatra wanted the role. (No, really!)
  14. Maurice Evans, Planet of the Apes, 1967.
  15. Bryan Mosley, Get Carter, 1971.    “I mean,” said Mosley, later a Coronation  Street star, “can you imagine José Ferrer playing that part.” Nor could Mike Hodges who said he’d quit if MGM didn’t stop blathering about star names.
  16. Dirk Bogarde, Mort a Venezia/Death in Venice, Italy, 1971.    José (and producer Joseph Besch) held the rights to Thomas Mann’s novella. Ferrer had always intended to direct, before handing over to Zeffirelli. With mere days to go before Luchino Visconti started directing Dirk Bogarde in their overly-praised tear-jerker, Ferrer was holding out  – for the main role!
  17. Lew Ayres, End of the World,  1977.     Newly installed in Hollywood at  suggestion of Billy Wilder and Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee aimed to avoid horror vehicles  and was “conned’ in to this Z sf number, on the promise of co-starring with vets  like Ferrer, Richard Basehart, John Carradine, Arthur Kennedy. “That’s all right by me. But it turned out it was a complete lie.”


 Birth year: 1912Death year: 1992Other name: Casting Calls:  17