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Ricardo Montalban

Ricardo Montalban

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Also Known As: Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbn Y Merino Died: January 14, 2009
Born: November 25, 1920 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Mexico City, Mexico Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Despite being one of the first heavily employed and high profile Hispanic actors working in post-war Hollywood of the 1950s and '60s, Ricardo Montalbán became strangely more famous later in his career - first, as the mysterious host Mr. Roarke on the TV hit drama, "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984), followed not long after by his classic turn as Captain Kirk's arch nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982). Montalbán was born on Nov. 20, 1920 in Mexico City, Mexico. As a teenager he moved to the United States at the behest of his elder brother Carlos Montalban, where his poor English skills threatened to keep him out of Los Angeles high schools. Studying English for hours each day at downtown L.A.'s Belmont High School, he had improved enough to be accepted to the more esteemed Fairfax High School, where he started trying out for and winning parts in plays. It was at Fairfax where a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive first caught him on stage during a performance of "Tovarich." The exec was impressed enough to signing Montalban to a contract with the then largest and most prestigious studio in town. The young actor cut his teeth on a number of Spanish language films...

Despite being one of the first heavily employed and high profile Hispanic actors working in post-war Hollywood of the 1950s and '60s, Ricardo Montalbán became strangely more famous later in his career - first, as the mysterious host Mr. Roarke on the TV hit drama, "Fantasy Island" (ABC, 1978-1984), followed not long after by his classic turn as Captain Kirk's arch nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982). Montalbán was born on Nov. 20, 1920 in Mexico City, Mexico. As a teenager he moved to the United States at the behest of his elder brother Carlos Montalban, where his poor English skills threatened to keep him out of Los Angeles high schools. Studying English for hours each day at downtown L.A.'s Belmont High School, he had improved enough to be accepted to the more esteemed Fairfax High School, where he started trying out for and winning parts in plays. It was at Fairfax where a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive first caught him on stage during a performance of "Tovarich." The exec was impressed enough to signing Montalban to a contract with the then largest and most prestigious studio in town. The young actor cut his teeth on a number of Spanish language films initially, but also began landing parts in MGM musicals set in exotic Latin locales before scoring his first starring role as Pablo Rodriguez in "Border Incident" in 1949. The studio - not sure what to do with the handsome, but obviously Hispanic-looking actor in those white-washed days - went on to appear in countless westerns in the 1940s and 50s, playing everything from a bandito to a Native American. Along with fellow Latin lovers like Fernando Lamas, Montalban filled in whatever ethnic niche he could in those limited days. Unfortunately, while working on one of his more prestigious pictures (starring the studio's biggest star, Clark Gable) "Across the Wide Missouri" (1951), the athletic actor suffered an injury to his spinal chord which, despite surgery to repair it, would go on to plague him even decades later. After years of paying his onscreen eye-candy dues opposite such stars as Esther Williams, Cyd Charisse and Lana Turner in mindless films like "Neptune's Daughter" (1949), "Sombrero" (1953) and "Latin Lovers" (1953), Montalban finally earned the industry's respect when he nabbed a Tony Award for his performance in the musical "Jamaica" in 1958. In the 1960s, like most former matinee idols pushing 40, Montalbán made dozens of guest star appearances on shows such as "The Untouchables" (CBS, 1959-1963), "Ben Casey" (ABC, 1961-66) and "The Lieutenant" (NBC, 1963-65). He played several characters on "Letter to Loretta" (NBC, 1953-1961) and held a recurring role as Damon West on the very popular medical drama, "Dr. Kildare" (NBC, 1961-66). Among these guest spots was a part which would secure him a place in film and sci-fi history - that of the evil Khan, on "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69). In the season one episode, entitled "Space Seed," Montalbán played a charismatic but dangerous genetic super-man from the 20th century, revived from suspended animation. With this brief TV appearance on a show few held out much hope for succeeding, the world would not see the last of Khan. Though no foreword-thinking executive - let alone Montalban, himself - realized this at the time. Montalbán continued with guest spots on "Gunsmoke" (CBS, 1955-75), "Marcus Welby" (ABC, 1969-1976), "The Virginian," (NBC, 1962-1971) "Hawaii-Five-O" (CBS, 1968-1980) and even "Here's Lucy" (CBS, 1968-1974). He returned to the sci-fi fold with what would have been another villainous leading role in an alternate "Wonder Woman" (ABC, 1974) TV movie, starring Cathy Lee Crosby. But thankfully for Lynda Carter fans, the pilot did not take off. He also played the leading role of David Valerio in the short-lived corporate drama, "Executive Suite" (CBS, 1976-77). Following such extensive TV exposure, Montalbán was tapped by producer Aaron Spelling in 1977 to play the enigmatic Mr. Roarke on the producer's latest flight of fancy, "Fantasy Island." Clad in an immaculate white suit, with his sidekick Tattoo (Hervé "De Plane!" Villechaize), at his side each week, Montalbán introduced each episode's guests as they disembarked from the sea plane, hinting at their fantasy and what it might mean for their individual destinies. At first a 1977 television movie, the show took off like gangbusters, providing a perfect fantastical bookend to the show's Saturday night lead-in, Spelling's other big hit, "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986). In the midst of the fluffy "Fantasy Island" era, Montalban was recognized with an Emmy Award for his performance as Satangkai in the epic miniseries, "How the West Was Won" in 1978. In an unexpected move, Montalbán was approached by Paramount to reprise his mostly forgotten role of Khan from the "Star Trek" pilot for the much-anticipated feature film sequel, "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Through his robust, red-blooded performance, Montalbán and his chiseled chest was introduced to a new generation of young sci-fi fans, who thrilled to the strategic maneuvering between Khan and William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk. Others simply enjoyed watching both actors shamelessly chew the scenery. With his profile higher than ever, Montalbán went on to star in the "Dynasty" spin-off, "The Colbys" (ABC, 1985-87), where he played powerful patriarch Zach Powers. Showing a flair for comic timing, he went on to play the villain in the classic cop spoof, "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad," (1988) opposite Leslie Nielsen. At the same time, he had been the commercial spokesman for the Chrysler Cordoba, appearing in a long-running ad campaign hailing back to the 1970s, in which his smooth Latin accent added a romantic touch to his descriptions of "soft Corinthian leather" - commercials which had been widely parodied through the years. He left such an impression with his suggestive selling technique, that even 30 years later, Montalban was still being sought for extensive voice over and commercial work. In 1993, Montalbán was plagued by his long-time spinal cord injury, and was confined to a wheelchair much of the time. Aside from some guest shots on "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000) and "Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN, 1998), he remained mostly active with voice work, providing voices for "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command," (The Disney Channel, 2000), "Kim Possible" (ABC/The Disney Channel, 2002- ) and the 2006 feature film, "The Ant Bully." He also appeared as the grandfather in the hugely successful live action kiddie film franchise, "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" (2002) and "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003). The good-humored Montalban continued to be a favorite at conventions and fan screenings, often garnering a standing ovation for his role as the malevolent mullet-wearing Khan, a role he often described as "Even when I'm not in the scene, they're talking about me."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Ant Bully, The (2006)
2.
 Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) Grandfather
3.
 Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002) Grandfather
4.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Song Performer
6.
 High Rise (1990) Victor Constanza
8.
 Cannonball Run II (1984) King
10.
 Return to Fantasy Island (1978) Roarke
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1941:
First appeared on stage in "Her Cardboard Lover" opposite Tallulah Bankhead
1941:
Short film debut, "He's a Latin from Staten Island"
1942:
Returned to Mexico after mother's death and made feature debut in "El Verdugo de Sevilla"
1947:
Signed a contract with MGM studios
1947:
Made US feature debut in the musical, "Fiesta"; had a memorable dance scene with a young Cyd Charisse
:
Appeared regularly on NBC's anthology series "The Loretta Young Show"
1955:
Appeared on Broadway in the short-lived, "Seventh Heaven"
1957:
Starred in the Broadway musical "Jamaica," opposite Lena Horne
:
Played Zachary Powers on "Dynasty II: The Colbys"
:
Appeared in commercials for Chrysler Cordoba
1991:
Announced his intention to run for the presidency of Nosotros
1993:
Underwent operation in July to take care of a hemorrhage on his spine; was bedridden for a month and subsequently needed a walker
1994:
Began working on the Aaron Spelling-produced series, "Heaven Help Us"; played an angel, supplying a voice much of the time and making most of his occasional appearances sitting down
2002:
Cast as Grandpa Cortez in "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams"
2003:
Reprised Grandpa Cortez role in "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over"
2006:
Voiced the head of the Ant Council in "The Ant Bully," a computer-animated film directed by John Davis
1957:
Played a Kabuki theater actor in the Oscar-winning film "Sayonara"
1965:
Served as vice president of the Screen Actors Guild
1966:
Co-starred with Debbie Reynolds in "The Singing Nun"
1969:
First TV-movie, "The Pigeon" (ABC)
1972:
Appeared in the Broadway production of "Don Juan in Hell"
:
Became a commercial spokesman for Ford Motors in the late 1970s
1978:
Best-known for the role of Mr. Roarke in the Aaron Spelling-produced series "Fantasy Island" (ABC)
1982:
Played the role of Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
1984:
Cast as The Sheik's father in the comedy film, "Cannonball Run II"
1985:
Portrayed shipping tycoon Zachary Powers in the "Dynasty" spinoff series, "The Colbys" (ABC)
1988:
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
1995:
Had a recurring role as the voice of Armondo Gutierrez in "Freakazoid!" (Kids' WB!)
2002:
Voiced Señor Senior Sr. on the Disney Channel's animated series "Kim Possible"
:
Played the grandfather in both "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams" (2002) and "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003)
2006:
Voiced the Head of Council in the animated film, "The Ant Bully"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Fairfax High School: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

There is a rich source of untapped material [stories about Latin Americans] but Hollywood has never made any attempt to scratch the surface....I always hoped that for an actor the only barrier would be the limit of his own talent."--Ricardo Montalban ("TV Time," July 13, 1991)

"Hollywood killed my dreams. I had dreamt of being a working actor, of choosing roles that had essence. In the roles I had, you had to have your head in place and keep your shoes shined. I did it because that's what was offered me. I wish I had the luxury of choosing between 15 scripts. I had to decide to do one script--usually bad--or not work."--Ricardo Montalban ("TV Time," July 13, 1991)

At age thirty-five with the flush of youth behind him, his maturity, not his romantic allure, stood him in good professional stead. Like his predecessor, Gilbert Roland, he has remained a familiar character star in both films and television ever since. He was never a mysterious, enigmatic romantic lead like Roland, or even Lamas, but his sincerity as a performer made him equally convincing in such disparate roles as a priest or a heavy."--James Robert Parish ("The MGM Stock Company," 1973)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Georgiana Young. Actor. Married October 26, 1944; youngest sister of Loretta Young.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Jennaro Montalban.
mother:
Ricarda Montalban. Died 1941.
brother:
Carlos Montalban. Actor, dancer. Older; died March 28, 1991 at the age of 87.
sister:
Carmen Montalban.
sister-in-law:
Loretta Young. Actor.
sister-in-law:
Sally Blane. Actor.
son:
Mark Montalban. Born 1947; mother Georgiana Young.
daughter:
Laura Montalban. Born 1949; worked as assistant to clothing designer Bill Blass in the 1970s; mother Georgiana Young.
daughter:
Anita Montalban. Born 1952; mother Georgiana Young.
son:
Victor Montalban. Mother Georgiana Young.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds"

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