Scant information is available on Mel Ferrer’s marriage to Barbara Tripp, his second wife. A few
isolated sources provide the unverified information that her name was Barbara C. Tripp and that she was an interior designer from New York City,
though their married life seems to have been in California. Various dates – most
inaccurate – are given for
both their marriage and divorce, but it seems logical to assume the marriage took place in either late 1941 in NYC or more likely early 1942 in California, and that the divorce was initiated during the
Summer or Fall of 1943 in California. Of particular significance is that this marriage corresponds
exactly with the most critical years of Mel’s bout with polio before the
affliction had been diagnosed – a period of time he later called
a “sort of lost weekend without the alcohol that lasted for two years.”
Mel and Barbara's life together probably began in Ojai, California, since
that's where Mel was living when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941.
He was working odd jobs in and around Los Angeles at the time (battery repairman,
grocery deliveryman, telephone laundry salesman etc.), and
immediately attempted to enlist but was turned down based on the paralysis of his right arm and shoulder.
Sometime thereafter, he made the decision to apply for jobs in radio, where his inactive limb would not be problematic. His first radio job was
as a DJ in Longview, Texas, followed by a second job as a country music DJ in Little Rock, Arkansas,
while the third job took him back to New York City. It seems
unlikely that Barbara was with him at any of these three locations, but details for
1942 and much of 1943 remain unclear.
Two absolutes do exist for this brief marriage – Barbara gave birth to two children
by Mel Ferrer: Mela (referred to occasionally as Mela Chucha) was born on January
22, 1943 and Christopher was born on February 4, 1944. In later
interviews Ferrer indicated both children were born and raised in Los Angeles,
somewhat substantiating vague indications Mel and his second wife spent very
little time together during their year as a married couple.
Mel Ferrer’s third radio job was a major professional
advancement. In 1943 he became a producer for NBC Radio in New York City, an important position that
completely turned his life around. In fact, three life-altering events occurred in 1943 while Mel was working for NBC. First, his
career and financial worth escalated substantially.
Secondly, his crippling disease was at long last diagnosed as polio, and
he began vigorous rehabilitation to regain full strength in the comatose arm. And thirdly, he got back together with his first wife Frances
and their small daughter Pepa, who was not yet three years old.
whether Mel and Barbara had determined to separate before this
reconciliation took place, but it seems likely.
Later reports consistently state their parting was amicable, and since Mel continued
his relationship with their children, this would
even seem probable. Mel himself was living once again in California by
the end of 1943, where he was to begin his career in the movie industry
at the Columbia Studios. His "new" wife Frances and baby daughter Pepa moved
to Los Angeles with him, and Frances was already pregnant with their son Mark.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the move put Mel nearby for the birth of Christopher, as well. All of
these events happened long before Mel Ferrer was well known, of course,
and he's never explained any of it at all, except to say it was "very
Barbara and her two children appear to have been living
in Los Angeles throughout Mel's re-marriage to Frances Pilchard,
the years from 1943–1953.
But sometime before 1958, probably soon after his marriage to Audrey Hepburn,
she and her children relocated to Carmel, California, a beautiful and
ultra expensive coastal area just south of the San Francisco Bay.
The photo above shows Mel Ferrer with his two children by Barbara Tripp during a
NYC interview at the Persian Room in July of 1954. He probably had them for
a visit and brought them along on the interview. Note the matching suits on
Mel and Christopher. An interesting 1957 photo (right) shows Mel and Audrey
Hepburn with all four of his children by three previous marriages to two
wives: Pepa, Mela, Christopher and Mark.