Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, KSG (//; Spanish pronunciation: [montalˈβan]; November 25, 1920 – January 14, 2009) was a Mexican actor. His career spanned seven decades, during which he became known for many different performances in a variety of genres, from crime and drama to musicals and comedy.
Montalbán as Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island (1977)
|Born||Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino
November 25, 1920
Mexico City, Mexico
|Died||January 14, 2009
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Congestive heart failure|
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery
Culver City, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Georgiana Belzer (m. 1944; d. 2007)|
|Relatives||Carlos Montalbán (brother)|
|Awards||Emmy Award (1978)
Screen Actors Guild (1993)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Among his notable roles was Armando in the Planet of the Apes film series from the early 1970s. He also starred in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972).
Ricardo Montalbán played Mr. Roarke on the television series Fantasy Island (1977–1984), and Khan Noonien Singh in both the original Star Trek series (1967) and the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). He won an Emmy Award for his role in the miniseries How the West Was Won (1978), and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993.
Montalbán was professionally active into his eighties, when he provided voices for animated films and commercials, and appeared as Grandfather Valentin in the Spy Kids franchise. During the 1970s, he was a spokesman in automobile advertisements for Chrysler, including those in which he extolled the "rich Corinthian leather" used for the Cordoba's interior.
Montalbán was born on November 25, 1920, in Mexico City and grew up in Torreón, the son of Spanish immigrants Ricarda Merino Jiménez and Genaro Balbino Montalbán Busano, a store manager, who raised him as a Roman Catholic. He was born with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in his spine. Montalbán had a sister, Carmen, and two brothers, Pedro and Carlos. As a teenager, he moved to Los Angeles to live with Carlos. They moved to New York City in 1940, and Montalbán earned a minor role in the play Her Cardboard Lover.
In 1941, Montalbán appeared in three-minute musicals produced for the Soundies film jukeboxes. He appeared in many of the New York–produced Soundies as an extra or as a member of a singing chorus (usually billed as Men and Maids of Melody), although he had the lead role in He's a Latin from Staten Island (1941), in which he (billed simply as "Ricardo") played the title role of a guitar-strumming gigolo, accompanied by an offscreen vocal by Gus Van. Late in 1941, Montalbán returned to Mexico after learning that his mother was dying. There, he acted in a dozen Spanish-language films and became a star in his homeland.
Montalbán recalled that when he arrived in Hollywood in 1943, studios wanted to change his name to Ricky Martin.
His first leading role was in the film noir Border Incident (1949) with actor George Murphy. He was the first Hispanic actor to appear on the front cover of Life magazine on November 21, 1949.
Many of his early roles were in Westerns in which he played character roles, usually as Native Americans or as Latin Lovers, but he was cast against type in the film noir Mystery Street (1950), playing a Cape Cod police officer. From 1957 to 1959, he starred in the Broadway musical Jamaica, singing several light-hearted calypso numbers opposite Lena Horne.
During the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of only a handful of actively working Hispanic actors in Hollywood, although he portrayed several ethnicities – occasionally of Japanese background, as in with the character of Nakamura in the film Sayonara (1957), and as Tokura in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Samurai" (1968). In the romance comedy Love Is a Ball (1963), he played a naive, penniless French duke being groomed as a potential husband for a rich American woman.
Montalbán also starred in radio, such as on the internationally syndicated program "Lobo del Mar" (Seawolf), in which he was cast as the captain of a vessel which became part of some adventure at each port it visited. This 30-minute weekly show aired in many Spanish-speaking countries until the early 1970s. In 1972, Montalbán co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee with actors Carmen Zapata, Henry Darrow and Edith Diaz. In 1975, he was chosen as the television spokesman for the new Chrysler Cordoba. The car became a successful model, and over the following several years, was heavily advertised; his mellifluous delivery of a line praising the "soft Corinthian leather" upholstery of the car's interior, often misquoted as "fine" or "rich Corinthian leather" (he did describe the leather as "rich" for later ads for the Chrysler New Yorker), became famous and was much parodied, and Montalbán subsequently became a favorite subject of impersonators. For example, Eugene Levy frequently impersonated him on SCTV. In 1986, he was featured in a magazine advertisement for the new Chrysler New Yorker.
Montalbán's best-known television role was that of Mr. Roarke on the television series Fantasy Island, which he played from 1977 until 1984. For a while the series was one of the most popular on television, and his character as well as that of his sidekick, Tattoo (played by Hervé Villechaize), became popular icons. Before that he appeared on American television in the 1976 Columbo episode "A Matter of Honor".
Another of his well-known roles was that of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), in which he reprised a role that he had originated in the 1967 episode of Star Trek titled "Space Seed". Early rumors suggested Montalbán wore prosthetic muscles on his chest during filming of Star Trek II to appear more muscular. Director Nicholas Meyer replied that even in his sixties Montalbán, who had a vigorous training regimen, was "one strong cookie", and that his real chest was seen on film. Khan's costume was specifically designed to display Montalbán's physique. Critic Christopher Null called Khan the "greatest role of Montalbán's career".
New Yorker critic Pauline Kael said Montalbán's performance as Khan "was the only validation he has ever had of his power to command the big screen". Montalbán agreed to take the role for a significant pay cut, since by his own admission, he relished reprising the role, and his only regret was that he and William Shatner never interacted – the characters never meet face to face, except through video communication – as their scenes were filmed several months apart in order to accommodate Montalbán's schedule for Fantasy Island. When Montalbán guest-starred in the Family Guy episode "McStroke" as a genetically engineered cow, his character made several references to his role as Khan, and similar references were made in his role as Guitierrez on the animated series Freakazoid.
Montalbán appeared in many diverse films including The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988) as well as two films from both the Planet of the Apes and Spy Kids series. In addition, he appeared in various musicals, such as The Singing Nun (1966), also starring Debbie Reynolds. Over the course of his long career, he played lead roles or guest-starred in dozens of television series. Montalbán also narrated several historical documentaries including the Spanish version of the National Park Service's history of Pecos Pueblo for Pecos National Historical Park.
Prior to his death in January 2009, Montalbán recorded the voice for a guest character in an episode of the animated series American Dad!, in which main character Roger becomes the dictator of a South American country. According to executive producer Mike Barker, it was his last role.
During the filming of the film Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Montalbán was thrown from his horse, knocked unconscious, and trampled by another horse, which aggravated his arteriovenous malformation and resulted in a traumatic back injury that never healed. The pain increased as he aged, and in 1993, he underwent over nine hours of spinal surgery that left him paralyzed below the waist and requiring the use of a wheelchair. Despite constant pain, he continued to perform, providing voices for animated films and supporting his Nosotros foundation. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez created a role in his Spy Kids film series specifically for Montalbán, which included the use of a jet-propelled wheelchair.
Nosotros Foundation and Montalbán TheatreEdit
The way he was asked to portray Mexicans disturbed him, so Montalbán, along with Richard Hernandez, Val de Vargas, Rodolfo Hoyos Jr., Carlos Rivas, Tony de Marco and Henry Darrow established the Nosotros ("We") Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latinos in the movie and television industry. He served as its first president and was quoted as saying: "I received tremendous support, but there also were some negative repercussions. I was accused of being a militant, and as a result I lost jobs." Ironically, he and the Nosotros Foundation were instrumental in taking roles away from Nico Minardos, a Greek-American actor who in the 1970s often played Latino roles because of his appearance and accent. Minardos similarly became outspoken and, according to his agent and others, it cost him a recurring role as a Mexican mayor in an episode of Alias Smith and Jones.
The foundation created the Golden Eagle Awards, an annual awards show that highlights Latino actors. The awards are presented in conjunction with the Nosotros American Latino Film Festival (NALFF), held at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood.
The Nosotros Foundation and the Ricardo Montalbán Foundation agreed to purchase the Doolittle Theatre in 1999 from UCLA. The theater had been owned by Howard Hughes in the early 1930s then later renamed the Huntington Hartford Theater when purchased in 1954 by philanthropist Huntington Hartford, then later the Doolittle Theater. The process from agreement to opening took over four years. The facility in Hollywood was officially renamed the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in a May 11, 2004 ceremony. The event was attended by numerous celebrities, including Ed Begley Jr., representing the Screen Actors Guild (SAG); Valerie Harper, Loni Anderson, Hector Elizondo and Robert Goulet.
When Montalbán rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, he repeated "the five stages of the actor" (originally coined by Jack Elam) that he famously stated in several interviews and public speeches:
- Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
- Get me Ricardo Montalbán.
- Get me a Ricardo Montalbán type.
- Get me a young Ricardo Montalbán.
- Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
He then jokingly added two more stages:
- "Wait a minute—isn't that What's-his-name?", referring to his role in the Spy Kids movies
- "Who the hell is that?", believing that to be the reaction of people seeing his name on the theater marquee. Contrary to his assertions, a young generation is somewhat familiar with him through his voice as Señor Senior, Sr., in five Kim Possible television episodes from 2002–2007 and as the grandfather in the movies Spy Kids 2 and Spy Kids 3.
Montalbán spoke about the goal of the Nosotros organization:
Mexico is my mother; the United States the best friend I will ever have. And so I dream of the day when my mother will say, 'Ricardo, you have chosen a wonderful friend.' And the day when the friend will say, 'Ricardo, you have a sensational mother.' That is why it is very important to bring us together. Brothers and sisters, love thy neighbor as thyself. And this theatre, I think, can be a little grain of sand towards that end. Here we have opened the doors not only for the opportunity of young talent to develop—writers, directors, actors—but also in coming together as a group in this society in which we live. Let's open a hand of friendship and love and brotherhood. That is my dream. I'll never see it complete while I'm still alive, but I think this is the beginning, and that is what makes me so happy to see this come to fruition.
Montalbán married actress and model Georgiana Young (born Georgiana Paula Belzer; September 30, 1923 – November 13, 2007) in 1944. Georgiana was the half-sister of actresses Sally Blane, Polly Ann Young and Loretta Young. After 63 years of marriage, Young died from undisclosed causes on November 13, 2007. She was 84 years old. Her death preceded Montalbán's by one year and two months. They had four children together: Laura, Mark, Anita and Victor.
He was a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California. In 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSG), the highest honor a Roman Catholic lay person can receive from the Church. In 1986, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, he recorded a public service announcement celebrating America's generosity and hospitality to him as a foreign-born actor.
Although Montalbán spent most of his life in the United States, he remained a citizen of Mexico and never applied for American citizenship. However, in a 2002 interview, he stated that he was "honored to be an American". His autobiography, Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds, was published in January 1980 by Doubleday.
On January 14, 2009, Montalbán died at his home in Los Angeles at age 88. According to his son-in-law, Gilbert Smith, he died of "complications from advancing age". The precise cause of death was later revealed to be congestive heart failure. He is buried next to Georgiana Young, his wife of 63 years, who preceded him in death, at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.
|1941||Soundies||Chorus Member / Crowd Extra||Musical Shorts|
|1942||The Three Musketeers||Uncredited|
|1942||El verdugo de Sevilla||Jacobito||Uncredited|
|1942||The Saint Who Forged a Country||Soldado||Uncredited|
|1943||La razón de la culpa||Anunciador en barco||Uncredited|
|1943||Cinco fueron escogidos||Stefan|
|1943||Five Were Chosen|
|1945||Cadetes de la Naval||Cadet Ricardo Almagro|
|1945||La hora de la verdad||Rafael Meija|
|1945||La casa de la zorra||Alberto Salcedo|
|1946||Pepita Jiménez||Luis Vargas|
|1948||On an Island with You||Ricardo Montez|
|1948||The Kissing Bandit||Fiesta Specialty Dancer|
|1949||Neptune's Daughter||José O'Rourke|
|1949||Border Incident||Pablo Rodriguez|
|1950||Mystery Street||Lieutenant Peter Morales|
|1950||Right Cross||Johnny Monterez|
|1950||Two Weeks With Love||Demi Armendez|
|1951||The Mark of the Renegade||Marcos Zappa|
|1951||Across the Wide Missouri||Ironshirt|
|1952||My Man and I||Chu Chu Ramirez|
|1953||Latin Lovers||Roberto Santos|
|1954||The Saracen Blade||Pietro Donati|
|1954||Sombra verde||Federico Gascón|
|1954||Queen of Babylon||Amal|
|1955||A Life in the Balance||Antonio Gómez|
|1956||Three for Jamie Dawn||George Lorenz|
|1957||Desert Warrior||Prince Said|
|1960||Let No Man Write My Epitaph||Louie Ramponi|
|1961||Rage of the Buccaneers||Captain Gordon|
|1962||Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man||Major Padula|
|1962||The Reluctant Saint||Father Raspi|
|1963||Love Is a Ball||Duke Gaspard Ducluzeau|
|1964||Cheyenne Autumn||Little Wolf|
|1964||The Fantasticks||El Gallo||TV Movie|
|1964||¡Buenas noches, año nuevo!||Fernando|
|1965||The Money Trap||Pete Delanos|
|1966||Madame X||Phil Benton|
|1966||The Singing Nun||Father Clementi|
|1967||The Longest Hundred Miles||Father Sanchez|
|1969||Sweet Charity||Vittorio Vitale|
|1969||Desperate Mission||Joaquin Murrieta||TV Movie|
|1971||Escape from the Planet of the Apes||Armando|
|1972||Conquest of the Planet of the Apes||Armando|
|1973||The Train Robbers||The Pinkerton Man|
|1974||The Mark of Zorro||Captain Esteban||TV Movie|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Silent Film Star|
|1976||Joe Panther||Turtle George|
|1977||Mission to Glory: A True Story||Gen. Lafuente|
|1977||Captains Courageous||Manuel||TV Movie|
|1982||Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan||Khan Noonien Singh|
|1984||Cannonball Run II||King|
|1988||The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!||Vincent Ludwig|
|2002||Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams||Grandpa Valentin Avellan|
|2003||Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over||Grandpa Valentin Avellan|
|2006||The Ant Bully||The Head of Council||Voice|
|1956||General Electric Theater||Esteban||1 episode|
|1957||Wagon Train||Jean LeBec||1 episode|
|1958||Frances Farmer Presents||Tio||1 episode|
|1959||Adventures in Paradise||Henri Privaux||1 episode|
|1959||Riverboat||Lt. Andre B. Devereaux||Episode: "A Night at Trapper's Landing"|
|1960||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Tony "Pepe" Lorca||Episode: "Outlaw in Town"|
|1960||Death Valley Days||Joaquin Murietta||1 episode|
|1961||The Dinah Shore Chevy Show||Karl Steiner||1 episode|
|1961||The Untouchables||Frank Makouris||Episode: "Stranglehold"|
|1962||Cain's Hundred||Vincent Pavanne||1 episode|
|1962||The Lloyd Bridges Show||Navarro||Episode: "War Song"|
|1962||The Virginian||Enrique Cuellar||Episode: "The Big Deal"|
|1963||Ben Casey||Henry Davis||1 episode|
|1964||The Defenders||"Spanish John" Espejo||1 episode|
|1964||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Satine||Episode: "The Dove Affair"|
|1966||The Wild Wild West||Colonel Noel Bartley Vautrain||Episode: "The Night of the Lord of Limbo"|
|1966||Dr. Kildare||Damon West||4 episodes|
|1966||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Delgado||Episode: "The King of Diamonds Affair"|
|1966||Daniel Boone||Count Alfonso De Borba||Episode: "The Symbol"|
|1966||I Spy||General Vera||Episode: "Magic Mirror"|
|1967||Star Trek||Khan Noonien Singh||Episode: "Space Seed"|
|1967||Mission: Impossible||Gerard Sefra||Episode: "Snowball in Hell"|
|1968||Ironside||Sgt. Al Cervantes||1 episode|
|1968||The High Chaparral||El Tigre||Episode: "Tiger by the Tail"|
|1968||It Takes a Thief||Nick Grobbo||2 episodes|
|1968||The Virginian||Louis Boissevain||Episode: "The Wind of Outrage"|
|1968||Hawaii Five-O||Tokura||Episode: "Samurai"|
|1968||The High Chaparral||Padre Sanchez||Episode: "Our Lady of Guadalupe"|
|1970||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Rick Rivera||1 episode|
|1972||Here's Lucy||Prince Phillip Gregory Hennepin of Montalbania||1 episode|
|1972||Hawaii Five-O||Alex Pareno||Episode: "Death Wish on Tantalus Mountain"|
|1973||Griff||Episode: "Countdown to Terror"|
|1974||Wonder Woman||Abner Smith||Pilot|
|1976||Columbo||Luis Montoya||Episode: "A Matter of Honor"|
|1976-1977||Executive Suite||David Valerio||8 episodes|
|1977||Police Story||Major Sergio Flores||1 episode|
|1978||How the West Was Won||Satangkai||4 episodes|
|1978–1984||Fantasy Island||Mr. Roarke||124 episodes|
|1985–1987||The Colbys||Zachary "Zach" Powers||48 episodes|
|1986||Dynasty||Zachary "Zach" Powers||2 episodes|
|1990||B.L. Stryker||Victor Costanza||1 episode|
|1990||Murder, She Wrote||Vaacclav Maryska||1 episode|
|1991||Dream On||Alejandro Goldman||1 episode|
|1993||The Golden Palace||Lawrence Gentry||1 episode|
|1994||Heaven Help Us||Mr. Shepherd||13 episodes|
|1997||Chicago Hope||Colonel Martin Nieves||1 episode|
|1998||The Love Boat: The Next Wave||Manuel Kaire||1 episode|
|2000||Buzz Lightyear of Star Command||Vartkes||1 episode|
|2001||Titans||Mr. Sanchez||1 episode|
|2002||Dora the Explorer||El Encantador||Episode: "The Missing Piece"|
|2002–2007||Kim Possible||Señor Senior Sr.||5 episodes|
|2008||Family Guy||The Cow||Voice
|2009||American Dad!||General Juanito Pequeño||Voice
Episode: "Moon Over Isla Island", (final television appearance)
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- Catholics in Media Associates Lifetime Achievement Award
- Montalban on the cover of Life Magazine, November 21, 1949