Ricardo montalban

This name uses Spanish naming customs; the first or paternal family name is Montalbán and the second or maternal family name is Merino.
Ricardo Montalbán
Fiesta (1947)
Born Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino
(1920-11-25)November 25, 1920
Mexico City, Mexico
Died January 14, 2009(2009-01-14) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Congestive heart failure
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery
Residence Los Angeles
Nationality Mexican
Occupation Actor
Years active 1941–2009
Known for Khan Noonien Singh
Mr. Roarke
Grandfather Valentin
Armando Guitierrez
Home town Torreon
Television Fantasy Island
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Georgiana Belzer (m. 1944–2007) (her death) 4 children
Children 4
Relatives Carlos Montalbán
Awards Golden Boot, 1985
Easter Seals Lifetime Achievement Award

Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, KSG (/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, and was known for many different roles. During the mid-1970s, Montalbán was a spokesman in automobile advertisements for Chrysler, including those in which he extolled the "soft Corinthian leather" used for the Cordoba's interior.[1] From 1977 to 1984 he played Mr. Roarke, the host character in the television series Fantasy Island. He played Khan Noonien Singh in the 1967 episode "Space Seed" of the original Star Trek series, and the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He won an Emmy Award in 1978 for his role in the miniseries How the West Was Won[2] and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993. In his 80s, he provided voices for animated films and commercials, and appeared in the Spy Kids films as "Grandfather Valentin".

Early life

Montalbán was born Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino in Mexico City, but grew up in the city of Torreón,[3] the son of Spanish immigrants Ricarda Merino and Jenaro Montalbán, a store manager.[4] who raised him as a Catholic.[5][6] He was born with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in his spine.[7] Montalbán had a sister, Carmen, and two brothers, Pedro and Carlos Montalbán, an actor.[8] As a teenager, Ricardo moved to Los Angeles to live with Carlos Montalbán. This duo moved to New York City in 1940, and Ricardo earned a minor role in the play, Her Cardboard Lover.[9]


In 1941, he appeared in 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), although he had the lead role in 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.[10] 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.[11]

Montalbán recalled that when he arrived in Hollywood in 1943, studios wanted to change his name to Ricky Martin.[12] His first leading role was in the film 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. 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).

Many of his early roles were in Westerns in which he played character parts, usually as an "Indian" or as a "Latin Lover", but.he was cast against type in the film 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.

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, Montalbán co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee with actors Carmen Zapata, Henry Darrow and Edith Diaz.[13]

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 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".[14]

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."[15] 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.[16] 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 in the cartoon series Freakazoid.

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 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 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.[17]


During the filming of the 1951 film, Across the Wide Missouri, Montalbán was thrown from his horse, knocked unconscious, and trampled by another horse which aggravated his AVM[7] and resulted in a traumatic back injury that never healed. The pain increased as he aged, and in 1993, Montalbán underwent 9½ hours of spinal surgery which left him paralysed below the waist and using a wheelchair. Despite constant pain, the actor persevered; he performed and provided voices for animated films and supported his Nosotros foundation. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez created the role "Grandfather" specifically for Montalbán in his Spy Kids film series, including a jet-propelled wheelchair.[18][19][20]

Personal life

He married Georgiana Young (née Georgiana Paula Belzer; September 10, 1924–November 13, 2007), who had a brief acting and modeling career, in 1944; they had four children: Laura, Mark, Anita and Victor.[3][21] 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, from undisclosed causes, preceding her husband by fourteen months.

Montalbán was a practicing Roman Catholic and once had said that his religion was the "most important thing" in his life.[22] He was a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.[23] In 1998, Pope John Paul II made him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSG),[24] the highest honor a Roman Catholic lay person can receive from the Church.[6] 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.[25] Although he spent most of his life in the United States, he remained a citizen of Mexico and never applied for American citizenship.[26] However, in an archive interview from 2002, Montalban stated "I am honored to be an American".[27] Montalbán's autobiography, Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds, was published in January 1980 by Doubleday.[28]

Nosotros Foundation

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[29] established the Nosotros ("We") Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latinos in the movie and television industry.[30] He served as its first president and was quoted as saying:[11]

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.[29]

Ricardo Montalbán Theatre

The Nosotros Foundation and the Ricardo Montalbán Foundation agreed to purchase the Doolittle Theatre in 1999 from UCLA. The theater was owned by Howard Hughes in the early 1930s then later renamed the Huntington Hartford Theater when purchased in 1954 by philanthropist Huntington Hartford,[31] the Doolittle Theater and then the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. 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.[32]

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.[33] 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 then spoke about the goal of the Nosotros organization:[32]


Montalbán died on January 14, 2009, at his home in the Los Angeles Area, at age 88. 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.[34][35] He is buried next to his wife in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery.[36]



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 Sombrero Pepe Gonzales with Pier Angeli
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
1960 Let No Man Write My Epitaph Louie Ramponi
1962 Ernest Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man Major Padula
The Reluctant Saint Father Raspi
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 Vitale
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
1959 Riverboat Lt. Andre B. Devereaux "A Night at Trapper's Landing"
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) [37] 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
1966 Daniel Boone Count Alfonso De Borba 1 episode – "The Symbol"
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 It Takes A Thief Nick Grobbo 2 episodes
1968 Hawaii Five-O Tokura 1 episode – "Samurai"
1970 Gunsmoke Chato 1 episode
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 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 A Matter of Honor
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! General Juanito Pequeño 1 episode (Moon Over Isla Island)
Last role before his death


Further reading

  • Latino American Cinema: An Encyclopedia of Movies, Stars, Concepts, and Trends, Scott Baugh, 2012, pages 175-77.

External links

Biography portal
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Internet Broadway Database
  • TCM Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • wiki)
  • Find a Grave
  • Archive of American Television interview with Ricardo Montalbán on August 13, 2002
  • Catholics in Media Associates Lifetime Achievement Award
  • "Ricardo Montalbán's death announced in Los Angeles"
  • , Thursday, January 15, 2009.
  • , Thursday, January 15, 2009.

id:Ricardo Montalbán
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