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Actor-director Mel Ferrer dies at 90

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Mel Ferrer, the tall, darkly handsome
star of such classic films as "Lili," "War and Peace" and "The Sun Also
Rises," as well as producer and director of movies starring his
then-wife, Audrey Hepburn, died Monday at age 90.

In this September 29, 1954, photo, Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn arrive
in Rome, Italy, after they were married.

Ferrer died at a Santa Barbara, California, convalescent home, his son
Mark Ferrer said Tuesday. He had been in failing health for the past
six months and had recently moved to the home from his nearby ranch in
Carpinteria, his son said.

Ferrer's most impressive film role came in 1953 in "Lili." He played a
disabled carnival puppeteer with whom a French orphan (played by 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," based on a Tom Lea book, and starred opposite Hepburn in 1956's
"War and Peace."

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

"Acting, at times, depresses Mel," Hepburn once said. "Directing lifts
him. He's so relaxed at it that I just know it is the job he loves."

He and Hepburn had become engaged in 1954 when they appeared in the New
York play "Ondine." They married that year in Burgenstock,

The pair divorced in 1968, and Ferrer married his fourth wife,
Elizabeth Soukhotine, in 1971. She survives him.

Ferrer and Hepburn costarred in a television version of "Mayerling,"
and Ferrer directed Hepburn in the 1959 film "Green Mansions."

He also produced one of Hepburn's greatest film triumphs, 1967's "Wait
Until Dark," a thriller in which she portrays a blind woman terrorized
by drug dealers who break into her home.

Born Melchor Gaston Ferrer on August 25, 1917, in Elberon, New Jersey,
Ferrer was the son of a Cuban-born doctor and a socialite. He grew up
in comfortable surroundings, attending private schools and Princeton

He originally planned to be a writer.

"I don't think he ever really wanted to be an actor," his son said
Tuesday. "He had kind of a stunning face, and it got him typecast."

After winning a playwright's award in his sophomore year, Ferrer left
Princeton to write a novel in Mexico. Instead he wrote a children's
book, "Tito's Hats," which was published by Doubleday.

He spent a year as a book editor in New York and 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 1949's "Lost Boundaries,"
playing a light-skinned African-American doctor who passed for white in
a New Hampshire town.

Ferrer's commanding presence and well-modulated voice made him ideal
for characters of certitude and decision. 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.

In all, he appeared in more than 100 films and made-for-television
movies, directed nine films and produced nine more.

Ferrer was married and divorced three times before Hepburn: to Frances
Pilchard (one daughter), to Barbara Tripp (a daughter and son) and
again to Pilchard.

He is survived by his wife; his sons, Mark, Peter, Sean and
Christopher; daughters Pepa and Mela; and several grandchildren.


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