Template:Spanish name Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, KSG (pronounced /ˌmɒntəlˈbɑːn/, Spanish pronunciation: [montalˈβan]; November 25, 1920 – January 14, 2009) was a Mexican radio, television, theatre and film actor. He had a career spanning seven decades (motion pictures from 1943 to 2006) and multiple notable roles. During the mid-1970s, Montalbán was most notable as the spokesman in automobile advertisements for the Chrysler Cordoba (in which he famously extolled the "soft Corinthian leather" used for its interior). From 1977 to 1984, he became famous as Mr. Roarke the main star in the television series Fantasy Island. He played Khan Noonien Singh in both the 1967 episode "Space Seed" of the first season of the original Star Trek series, and the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He won an Emmy Award in 1978, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993. Into his 80s, he continued to perform, often providing voices for animated films and commercials, and appearing in several Spy Kids films as "Grandfather Valentin".

Early life

Montalbán was born in Mexico City, but grew up in the city of Torreón,[1] the son of Castilian Spanish émigrés Ricarda Merino and Jenaro Montalbán, a store manager.[2] He was raised as devout Roman Catholic.[3][4] Montalbán had a sister, Carmen, and two brothers, Pedro and the actor Carlos Montalbán.[5] As a teenager, Ricardo moved to Los Angeles to live with Carlos. The two went to New York City in 1940, and Ricardo earned a minor role in the play, Her Cardboard Lover.


In 1941, he appeared in his first motion pictures, three-minute musicals produced for the Soundies film jukeboxes. Montalbán 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). Ricardo Montalbán's first starring film was He's a Latin from Staten Island (1941), in which the young Latin (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 learned that his mother was dying, so he returned to Mexico. There, he acted in a dozen Spanish-language films and became a star in his homeland.[6]

Montalbán recalled that when he arrived in Hollywood in 1943, studios wanted to change his name to Ricky Martin.[7] He frequently portrayed Asian characters – mostly of Japanese background, as in Sayonara and the Hawaii Five-O episode "Samurai". His first leading role was in the 1949 film Border Incident with actor George Murphy. He was the first Hispanic actor to appear on the front cover of Life magazine on November 21, 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of only a handful of actively working Hispanic actors.

Many of his early roles were in Westerns in which he played character parts, usually as an "Indian" or as a "Latin Lover". In 1950, he was cast against type, playing a Cape Cod police officer in the film Mystery Street. In 1957, he played Nakamura in the Oscar-winning film Sayonara.

From 1957 to 1959, he starred in the Broadway musical Jamaica, singing several light-hearted calypso numbers opposite Lena Horne.

Montalbán starred in radio, such as 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, Montalban co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee with actors Carmen Zapata, Henry Darrow and Edith Diaz.[8]

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", became famous and was much parodied, and Montalbán subsequently became a favorite subject of impersonators. Eugene Levy, for example, frequently impersonated him on SCTV. (In deference to American habits, he deliberately misstressed the car's name on the second syllable.) 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 in the television series Fantasy Island, which he played from 1978 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 pop icons. Another of his well-known roles was that of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which he reprised a role that he had originated in the 1967 episode of Star Trek titled "Space Seed". There were some questions initially as to whether Montalbán had had prosthetic muscles applied to his chest during filming of Star Trek II to make him appear more muscular; director Nicholas Meyer replied that even in his sixties Montalbán 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".[9] When Montalbán guest starred in the Family Guy episode "McStroke" as the genetically engineered cow, he made several references to his role as Khan (such as using the quote "...including... my beloved wife").

Montalbán appeared in many diverse films including The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 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 1966's The Singing Nun, also starring Debbie Reynolds. Over the course of his long career, he played lead roles or guest-starred in dozens of television series.

Prior to his death in January 2009, Montalbán recorded the voice for a guest character in an episode of the animated TV 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.[10]


During the filming of the 1951 film, Across the Wide Missouri, Montalbán was thrown from his horse, knocked unconscious, and trampled by another horse, resulting in a painful back injury that never healed. The pain increased as he aged, and in 1993, Montalbán underwent 9½ hours of spinal surgery which left him paralyzed below the waist and using a wheelchair. Despite constant pain, the actor persevered; he performed and provided voices for animated films and supported Nosotros. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez created a role for him as "Grandfather Cortez" in the popular 2000s Spy Kids film series, and wrote the part specifically including his wheelchair – now jet-propelled to allow him to move throughout the scenes.[11][12][13]

Personal life

He married Georgiana Young (née Georgiana Paula Belzer; September 10, 1924—November 13, 2007), who had had a brief acting and modeling career, in 1944; they had four children: Laura, Mark, Anita and Victor.[1][14] Georgiana was the half-sister of the actresses Sally Blane, Polly Ann Young, and movie and television star Loretta Young, who nicknamed her "Georgie". After sixty-three years of marriage, she died at the age of 83, on November 13, 2007, predeceasing her husband by fourteen months.[15]

Montalbán was a practicing Roman Catholic and once had said that his religion was the "most important thing" in his life.[16] In 1998, Pope John Paul II named him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great,[17] the highest honor a Roman Catholic lay person can receive from the Church.[4] He recorded a Public Service Announcement, celebrating America's generosity and hospitality to him as a foreign-born actor, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986.[18] Although he spent most of his life in the United States, he remained a citizen of Mexico and never applied for American citizenship.[19]

Montalbán's autobiography, Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds, was published in January 1980 by Doubleday.[20]

Nosotros Foundation

The way he was asked to portray Mexicans disturbed him, so Montalbán, along with Richard Hernandez, Val de Vargas, Rudolfo Hoyos Jr., Carlos Rivas, Tony de Marco, and Henry Darrow[21] established the Nosotros ("We") Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latinos in the movie and television industry.[22] He served as its first president and was quoted as saying:[6]

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.

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.[21]

Ricardo Montalbán Theatre

The Nosotros Foundation and the Ricardo Montalbán Foundation agreed to purchase the Doolittle Theatre in 1999 from UCLA. 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.[23]

When Montalbán rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair, he repeated "the five stages of the actor" that he famously stated in several interviews and public speeches:

  1. Who is Ricardo Montalbán?
  2. Get me Ricardo Montalbán.
  3. Get me a Ricardo Montalbán type.
  4. Get me a young Ricardo Montalbán.
  5. 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[24]

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.

File:Ricardo Montalbán Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.jpg

Ricardo Montalbán Hollywood Walk of Fame Star shortly after his death.

Montalbán then spoke about the goal of the Nosotros organization:[23]

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 died on January 14, 2009 at his home in the Greater Los Angeles Area, at age 88.[25] According to his son-in-law Gilbert Smith, Montalbán died of "complications from advancing age". His cause of death was later revealed to be congestive heart failure.[26][27] He is buried next to his wife in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery.


Year Film Role Notes
1941 Soundies musical shorts Chorus member and crowd extra appeared in at least two dozen titles
1943 Santa Jarameño
1944 La Fuga Teniente
1947 Fiesta Mario Morales
1948 On an Island with You Ricardo Montez
The Kissing Bandit Fiesta Specialty Dancer
1949 Neptune's Daughter José O'Rourke
Border Incident Pablo Rodriguez
Battleground Rodriguez
1950 Mystery Street Lieutenant Peter Morales Alternative title: Murder at Harvard
Two Weeks With Love Demi Armendez
Right Cross Johnny Monterez
1951 Across the Wide Missouri Ironshirt (Blackfoot war chief)
Mark of the Renegade Marcos Zappa
1952 My Man and I Chu Chu Ramirez
1953 Latin Lovers Roberto Santos
1954 The Saracen Blade Pietro Donati
1955 A Life in the Balance Antonio Gómez
1956 Three for Jamie Dawn George Lorenz
1957 Sayonara Nakamura
1962 Ernest Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man Major Padula
1963 Love Is a Ball Duke Gaspard Ducluzeau Alternative title: All This and Money Too
1964 Cheyenne Autumn Little Wolf
1965 The Money Trap Pete Delanos
1966 Madame X Phil Benton
The Singing Nun Father Clementi
1967 The Longest Hundred Miles Father Sanchez
1968 Sol Madrid Jalisco Alternative title: The Heroin Gang
1969 Sweet Charity Vittorio Vidal
1971 The Deserter Natachai
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
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 Grandfather
2003 Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over Grandfather
2006 The Ant Bully The Head of Council Voice
Year Title Role Notes
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
1960 Death Valley Days Joaquin Murietta 1 episode
1960 Bonanza Matsou 1 episode
1961 The Dinah Shore Chevy Show Karl Steiner 1 episode
1961 Hamlet (German TV production) (uncredited) Claudius (dubbed English voice) [28] 1 episode
1961 The Untouchables Frank Makouris 1 episode - "Stranglehold"
1962 Cain's Hundred Vincent Pavanne 1 episode
1962 The Lloyd Bridges Show Navarro 1 episode – "War Song"
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 1 episode
1966 The Wild Wild West Col. Noel Bartley Vautrain 1 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 1 episode
1967 Star Trek Khan Noonien Singh 1 episode – "Space Seed"
1967 Mission: Impossible Gerard Sefra 1 episode – "Snowball In Hell"
1967 Combat! Barbu 1 episode
1968 Ironside Sgt. Al Cervantes 1 episode
1968 Hawaii Five-O Nakamura 1 episode – "Samurai"
1970 Gunsmoke Chato 1 episode
1972 Here's Lucy Prince Phillip Gregory Hennepin Of Montalbania 1 episode
1972 Hawaii Five-O Alex Pareno 1 episode – "Death Wish on Tantalus Mountain"
1973 Griff 1 episode – "Countdown to Terror"
1974 Wonder Woman Abner Smith Made for TV movie (pilot)
1975 Switch Jean-Paul 1 episode
1976 Columbo Luis Montoya 1 episode
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
1995–1996 Freakazoid! Armondo Gutierrez (Voice) 4 episodes
1997 Chicago Hope Col. Martin Nieves 1 episode
1998 The Love Boat: The Next Wave Manuel Kaire 1 episode
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command Vartkes (Voice) 1 episode
2001 Titans Mr. Sanchez 1 episode
2002 Dora the Explorer El Encantador (Voice) 1 episode
2002–2007 Kim Possible Señor Senior Sr. (Voice) 5 episodes
2008 Family Guy The Cow 1 episode (McStroke)
2009 American Dad! El Generalisimo 1 episode (Moon Over Isla Island).
Last role before his death.

Further reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 Munoz, Lorenza: [1] Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2009 – Suave actor Ricardo Montalban dies
  2. Ricardo Montalban Biography (1920-)
  3. Dillon, Nancy (2009-01-14). "'Fantasy Island' actor Ricardo Montalban dies at 88". Daily News. Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Muñoz, Lorenza (January 15, 2009). "Ricardo Montalban dies at 88; 'Fantasy Island' actor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 16, 2010. 
  5. Ricardo Montalban Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  6. 6.0 6.1 International Herald Tribune: January 15, 2009-Ricardo Montalban, early Latino leading man, dies by Claire Dederer and Bruce Weber
  7. 2002 Archive Interview of Ricardo Montalbán, Part 1 of 5
  8. "Actress Edith Diaz dies at 70; Credits include 'Sister Act' films and CBS' 'Popi' sitcom". Hollywood Reporter. 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-03-18. 
  9. Christopher Null (2002). "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". Filmcritic.com. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  10. TV Guide; September 14, 2009; p. 63
  11. Brennan, Sandra: [2] All Movie Guide, Ricardo Montalban
  12. Mahalo Answers: Ricardo Montalban
  13. NNDB: Ricardo Montalban
  14. Evanier, Mark: [3] News From Me, January 14, 2009-Ricardo Montalban, R.I.P.
  15. Georgiana Young was born in 1924 as per Intelius and the Social Security Death Index
  16. "Ricardo Montalbán receives first Spirit of Angelus Award at student film festival". CatholicWeb.com. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  17. "Gallantry magazine online". Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  18. http://video.aol.com/video-detail/ricardo-montalban-liberty-minute-psa-1986/279466912/?icid=VIDURVENT08
  19. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1116547/Fantasy-Islands-mysterious-Mr-Roarke-actor-Ricardo-Montalban-dies-aged-88.html%7Cpublisher=Daily Mail|title=Fantasy Island's mysterious Mr Roarke actor Ricardo Montalban dies aged 88
  20. Montalbán, Ricardo; Bob Thomas (1980). Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385128780.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  21. 21.0 21.1 Latin Heat Online: June 16, 2006-Ricardo Montalbán presents the Nosotros American Latino Film Festival
  22. Yahoo News "'Fantasy Island' star Ricardo Montalban dies at 88"
  23. 23.0 23.1 Star Trek website: May 8, 2004-Crowds Gather to Inaugurate Montalbán Theatre
  24. "Crowds Gather to Inaugurate Montalbán Theatre". www.startrek.com. 5 November 2004. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  25. "'Fantasy Island' star Ricardo Montalbán dies at 88". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-14. [dead link]
  26. "Mexican-American actor Ricardo Montalbán dies at 88". New York Daily News. January 15, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  27. "Ricardo Montalban, Actor, Dies at 88". Associated Press in New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-24. Ricardo Montalban, the Mexican-born actor who became a star in splashy MGM musicals and later as the wish-fulfilling Mr. Roarke in TV's Fantasy Island, died Wednesday morning at his home, his family said. He was 88. [dead link]
  28. "IMDB, #114". 

External links

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