Ricardo Montalban

Ricardo Montalban

88 (passed away Jan. 14th, 2009)
Nov. 25th, 1920
Born in
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

Ricardo Montalban's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Star Trek: The Original Series TV Show
Star Trek: The Original Series
Fantasy Island (1978) TV Show
Fantasy Island (1978)
Freakazoid! TV Show
The Colbys TV Show
The Colbys
Win, Lose or Draw TV Show
Win, Lose or Draw
The Arthur Murray Show TV Show
The Arthur Murray Show
The Great Adventure TV Show
The Great Adventure
Colgate Theatre TV Show
Colgate Theatre
Executive Suite TV Show
Executive Suite
Heaven Help Us TV Show
Heaven Help Us
The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show TV Show
The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


He was the epitome of continental elegance, charm and grace on film and TV and in the late 40s and early 50s reinvigorated the Valentino/Novarro "Latin Lover" style in Hollywood without achieving top screen stardom. Moreover, unlike most minority actors of his time, he fought to upscale the Latin (particularly, Mexican) image in Hollywood. His noted militancy may have cost him a number of roles along the way, but he gained respect and a sturdy reputation as a mover-and-shaker within the acting community while providing wider-range opportunities for Spanish-speaking actors via Los Angeles theater.

Born in Mexico City on November 25, 1920, the youngest of four children to Castilian Spaniards (his father was a dry goods storeowner), he moved to Los Angeles as a teen and lived with his much older brother 'Carlos Montalban', who was then pursuing show business as both an actor and dancer. He attended Fairfax High School in Hollywood and was noticed in a student play but didn't act on a screen test that was offered. Instead he traveled with his brother to New York where Ricardo earned a bit part in the Tallulah Bankhead stage vehicle "Her Cardboard Lover" in 1940, and won subsequent roles in the plays "Our Betters" and "Private Affair".

Returning to Mexico to care for his extremely ill mother, his dark good looks and magnetic style helped propel him into the Spanish-language movie business. After nearly a dozen or so films, he was on the verge of stardom in Mexico when MGM took an interest in him and he relocated back to Los Angeles. Making his Hollywood leading debut as a robust bullfighter and love interest to MGM star Esther Williams (I) in the "B" level musical Fiesta (1947), he attracted immediate attention. His second film with Williams, On an Island with You (1948), led to a contract with the studio where he routinely ignited "Latin Lover" sparks opposite such prime female stars as Cyd Charisse, Shelley Winters, Anne Bancroft (I), Pier Angeli, Laraine Day and Esther Williams (I) (once again, this time in Neptune's Daughter (1949)). One such movie opposite gorgeous Lana Turner was actually called Latin Lovers (1953)! His strongest Hispanic competition in films at the time was Argentine-born and fellow MGM player Fernando Lamas, who wound up marrying Esther Williams (I).

Perfecting this handsome, virile, romantic stereotype only pigeon-holed him further. Unable to extricate himself from the usual portrayals of gringos, bandidos and gigolos, he did manage to find an interesting film here and there, such as his leads/co-leads in the film noirs Border Incident (1949) and Mystery Street (1950), the classic war film Battleground (1949), and the boxing drama Right Cross (1950). Occasionally he was handed ethnic roles outside the Latino realm, such as his Blackfoot Indian chief in Across the Wide Missouri (1951) starring Clark Gable, his heroic, barechested rebel warrior in the steamy Italian sword-and-sandals costumer Cortigiana di Babilonia (1954) [The Queen of Babylon] alongside Rhonda Fleming and his Japanese Kabuki actor in the Oscar-winning feature Sayonara (1957). It was during the filming of Across the Wide Missouri (1951) that he suffered a serious injury to his spine, which resulted in a permanent limp, after a fall from a horse.

Well established by this time, Montalban returned to the stage in 1954 with such varied roles in "Can-Can,", "The Inspector General," "South Pacific" and "Accent on Youth," before making his 1955 Broadway debut as Chico in the original musical "Seventh Heaven" with Gloria DeHaven, Kurt Kasznar and Bea Arthur. He then earned a Tony nomination as the only non-African-American actor in the tropical-themed musical "Jamaica" (1957) co-starring Lena Horne. He also toured as the title role in "Don Juan in Hell" in the 1960s, returning to Broadway with it in 1973 with Agnes Moorehead, Paul Henreid and Edward Mulhare, and touring once again with the show in 1991.

His strong work ethic and discernible talent enabled him to continue on TV long after his exotic beefcake status in films had waned. Marrying Loretta Young's half-sister Georgiana Young (I) in 1944, he appeared on his sister-in-law's 1960s TV show several times. He also showed up in a number of TV dramatic anthologies ("Playhouse 90" and "Colgate Theatre") and made guest appearances on the popular 60s shows of the day including "Death Valley Days," "Bonanza," "Burke's Law," "Dr. Kildare," "The Defenders," and, more notably, a 1967 "Star Trek" episode in which he memorably portrayed galaxy archvillain Khan Noonien Singh. He resurrected this character memorably in the film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

Over the years he continued to appear occasionally on the big screen typically playing continental smoothies in such films as Love Is a Ball (1963), Madame X (1966) and Sweet Charity (1969), but it was TV that finally made him a household name. As the urbane, white-suited concierge of mystery of the Aaron Spelling hit "Fantasy Island" (1978), Montalban stayed with the show for six seasons, buoyed by his popular "odd couple" teaming with the late Hervé Villechaize, who played Mr. Roarke's diminutive sidekick and fellow greeter Tattoo. While a dismissible role for the talented Montalban, it nevertheless became his signature character. The series faltered after Villechaize, who had become erratic and difficult on the set, was fired from the series in 1983. Corpulent Britisher Christopher Hewett, as Lawrence, replaced the Tattoo character but to little avail and the series was canceled one season later. Villechaize died a suicide in 1993.

An Emmy winner for his role in the mini-series "How the West Was Won" (1978) and a noteworthy villain in the "Dynasty" spin-off soap series "The Colbys" (1985), Montalban was also famous for his seductive ads in commercials, primarily as the ultra-sleek TV salesman for the Chrysler Corporation, pitching the elegant auto with its "rich, Corinthian leather." It was later discovered that this phrase had been conjured up as a mere marketing tool, and that there was no such product from Corinth or anywhere else!). As for film and TV in later years, he good-naturedly spoofed his Hollywood image in a number of featured parts, including The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988). Two of his final, larger-scaled film roles were as the grandfather in the two "Spy Kids" sequels: Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002) and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003). His deep, soothing, confident tones could also be heard in animated features and TV series.

Frustrated at Hollywood's portrayal of Mexicans, he helped to found, and gave great support, attention and distinction to, the image-building Nosotros organization, a Los Angeles theatre-based company designed for Latinos working in the industry. Nosotros and the Montalban foundation eventually bought the historic Doolittle Theater in Hollywood and renamed the theatre in his honor in 2004. It became the first major theater facility (1200 seats) in the U.S to carry the name of a Latino performing artist. In 1980 he, along with Bob Thomas, published his memoir entitled "Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds".

A class act who was beloved in the industry for his gentle and caring nature, the long-term effects of his spinal injury eventually confined him to a wheelchair in later years. He died in his Los Angeles home of complications from old age on January 14, 2009, at age 88. His wife having died in 2007, he was survived by their two daughters and two sons: Laura, Anita, Victor and Mark.

  • Had four children with 'Georgiana Young (I)' (qv). Sons: Victor Montalban, born April 18, 1952, Mark Montalban, born March 13, 1947. Daughters: Laura Montalban, clothing designer, born August 12, 1945, and Anita Montalban, born March 21, 1949.
  • Appeared in episodes of three different series with 'Madlyn Rhue' (qv): _"Bonanza" (1959)_ (qv), _"Star Trek" (1966)_ (qv) and _"Fantasy Island" (1978)_ (qv). They played husband and wife in the first two of these.
  • Was nominated for Broadway's 1958 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for "Jamaica."
  • Agreed to reprise his role of "Khan" in _Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)_ (qv) for only $100,000 because he loved the role so much.
  • For years, was a commercial spokesman for Chrysler Corp. automobiles.
  • Best remembered by the public for his starring role as "Mr. Roarke" on _"Fantasy Island" (1978)_ (qv).
  • His friendly "Latin Lover" rivalry with fellow MGM film star 'Fernando Lamas' (qv) prodded a memorable _"Saturday Night Live" (1975)_ (qv) sketch in later years with 'Bill Murray (I)' (qv) entitled "Quien es mas macho, Fernando Lamas o Ricardo Montalban?".
  • Is the only "Star Trek" movie villain who previously appeared on _"Star Trek" (1966)_ (qv). He played Khan Noonien Singh in _"Star Trek" (1966) {Space Seed (#1.22)}_ (qv) and _Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982)_ (qv).

Related sites for this celeb
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