Ferrer, Mel: Actor and Audrey Hepburn’s First Husband Dies at 90

June 3, 2008–Mel Ferrer, the tall, handsome star of such films as Lili, War and Peace and The Sun Also Rises, as well as producer and director of movies starring his wife, Audrey Hepburn, died Monday at age 90 at his ranch near Santa Barbara.

Ferrer’s most impressive film role came in 1953 in Lili, in which he played a carnival puppeteer with whom a French orphan 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 and starred opposite Hepburn in 1956s War and Peace.

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

Ferrer and Hepburn costarred in a TV version of Mayerling, and Ferrer directed Hepburn in the 1959 film Green Mansions. He also produced one of Hepburn’s most popular film, Wait Until Dark (1967), for which she earned her last Best Actress nomination.

Born in Elberon, N.J., Ferrer was the son of a doctor from Puerto Rico and a socialite mother, and attended Princeton University. After winning a playwrights award in his sophomore year, Ferrer left Princeton to write a novel in Mexico.  Instead, he wrote a childrens book, Titos Hats, which was published by Doubleday.

Ferrer 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 Lost Boundaries, playing a light-skinned African-American doctor who passed for white.

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.

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