Jose Ferrer, First and Only Latino to Win Best Actor Oscar Did So Today in 1951
José Ferrer is the first and only Latino ever to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Born in Puerto Rico, Ferrer received his golden statue on this day in 1951 for his portrayal of the title character in the 1950 version of Cyrano de Bergerac. Ferrer would be nominated again in 1952 for Moulin Rouge, however, to date only one other Latino has since been nominated for Best Actor. Anthony Quinn was nominated twice (1957 and 1964). Although, Quinn would go home with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1952 and 1956, he never earned the coveted prize of Best Actor.
Even though Ferrer was the first Latino to win for acting, it should be pointed out that the very first Latino to win any Academy Award was a Set Decorator named Emile Kuri. Born in Mexico, Kuri received his Oscar for Best Art Direction for his work on The Heiress in 1949. He would eventually receive six more nominations and win a second Oscar for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1954 (the same year he was also nominated for another film, Executive Suite). Obviously, Kuri was a very talented and busy Art Director.
Nominations for other Latinos in many other categories would follow over time, including in the categories of Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Documentary and Documentary Short, Editing, Foreign Language, Animated Short, Best Live Action Short, MakeUp, Original Score and Song, Best Picture, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Best Original and Adapted Screenplay, and one nomination for a category once called Best Story. In case you've lost track there has never been a Latino nominated as Best Director. Not yet anyway.
No one can say that the talent is not there. On the contrary, as history has revealed, there is an inherent problem within Hollywood that prevents anyone who is not perceived as "white" from obtaining the recognition of, let alone the opportunities for, bringing their talents to the screen. Time will eventually change the status quo, but such change always comes too slowly. Therefore, we must remember to celebrate every stride as it comes until such strides become every day events. Viva Latinos in Cinema!