Jose Ferrer Is the First Latino Actor to Ever Win an Academy Award and His Oscar Is Missing

Lead Photo: Photo: AP
Photo: AP
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Somewhere, in some humble marquesina on Puerto Rico’s north shore, probably not too far from San Juan, there sits a small golden statue on an otherwise unassuming mantlepiece. Engraved in its base it reads “Academy Award to José Ferrer. Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Cyrano de Bergerac. 1950.” Or maybe not, maybe they’ve already taken that part off and pawned it for a few hundred bucks. Because, you see, José Ferrer’s Oscar was stolen from the University of Puerto Rico — to which he had donated his historical award — during renovations back in 2000.

After the incident, Ferrer’s son, actor Miguel Ferrer, quickly offered a cash reward for the statuette but eventually gave up hope when no one came forth, surmising that it was “at the bottom of the sea.” José Ferrer is known as the first Latino actor to ever win an Academy Award, and to date is the only Latino to have won an award for Best Lead Actor — making the statue worth well more than its weight in gold. The Puerto Rican-born thespian’s standout career took him to the heights of Hollywood and Broadway, and had him acting alongside fellow legends like Paul Robeson and Cary Grant before his death in 1992. A 1952 Best Actor nomination for Moulin Rouge further cemented his status as a Hollywood icon, but he lost that one out to Gary Cooper for High Noon.

Miguel is still hoping to recover the little gold man, and has formally petitioned the Academy for a replacement, which he has offered to pay himself. Unfortunately, the Academy has a strict policy of replacing statuettes only for living honorees, something that has caused Miguel a great deal of displeasure. In recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Miguel wondered aloud why they would be so “intractable” in replacing this historical award when the Academy is bending over backwards to be culturally inclusive.

Maybe he can find some solace in knowing that his father isn’t alone — more than half of all Academy Awards statuettes have gone missing, and they are probably standing proudly on unassuming mantlepieces across the world.