R.I.P. Ricardo Montalban

Suave Latin actor Ricardo Montalban passed away today at the age of 88. He died from complications of old age, and suffered from a painful spinal condition in his later days, but was always trying to raise the profiles of Latinos in Hollywood. Montalban was a screen star in the 1940’s, but was best known for his role as Mr. Roarke on ABC’s “Fantasy Island.”

Beginning in the 1940s, Montalban starred in dozens of films with some of the greatest names in movies, including Clark Gable and Lana Turner. When major film roles dried up in the ’70s, he became a commercial spokesman for Chrysler. He was particularly known (and brilliantly spoofed by Billy Crystal) for his sexy description of the “fine, Corinthian leather” of the Chrysler Cordoba, although no such leather really existed!

He eventually turned to TV acting, where he became familiar to millions as the mysterious host whose signature line, “Welcome to Fantasy Island,” opened the hit show that ran from 1978 – 1984. While making “Fantasy Island,” Montalban also gave one of his best movie performances – as Khan Noonian Singh in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, a follow-up to a popular 1967 “Star Trek” television episode, “Space Seed,” that also featured him.

As Khan, Montalban was fabulously over the top, vowing his revenge on Star Trek’s Admiral Kirk, saying: “I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nivea, and ’round the Antares maelstrom, and ’round perdition’s flames before I give him up.”

New York Times movie critic Janet Maslin wrote that Montalban, “with his fierce profile, long white hair, manful decolletage and space-age jewelry looks like either the world’s oldest rock star or its hippest Indian chief.” And New Yorker magazine critic Pauline Kael said Montalban’s performance as Khan “was the only validation he has ever had of his power to command the big screen.”

Rawr. We’ll miss you, Ricardo. Rest in peace.

source: LA Times