Biography of Ricardo Montalban, famous TV and movie actor (November 25, 1920 – January 14, 2009)
Ricardo Montalban Personal life
Ricardo Montalban was born in Mexico City, the son of Ricarda Merino and Jenaro Montalban. He had a brother, actor Carlos Montalban, and a sister, Carmen. He was a practicing Roman Catholic and has said that his religion is the “most important thing” his life. He remained a Mexican citizen by choice, and never applied for American citizenship.
In 1944, he married actress Georgiana Young. Together, they had four children. She was half-sister of the late actresses Sally Blane, Polly Ann Young, and Oscar-winner Loretta Young, who nicknamed her ‘Georgie’. Georgiana Young de Montalban passed away on November 13, 2007, at the age of 84.
Ricardo Montalban’s Career
Ricardo Montalban has stated that when he first arrived in Hollywood, studios wanted to change his name to Ricky Martin. He has frequently portrayed Asian characters – mostly of Japanese background (as in Sayonara and the Hawaii Five-O episode “Samurai”). His first leading role was the 1949 film Border Incident, with George Murphy. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of only a few actively working Hispanic actors.
Many of his early roles were in Westerns in which he played character parts. He was typically cast 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.
In 1975, he was chosen as the television spokesman for the new Chrysler Cordoba. The car became a success, and over the next several years, was heavily advertised; his delivery of a line praising its “soft Corinthian leather” upholstery, became famous and was much parodied, and Ricardo Montalban subsequently became a favorite subject of impersonators.
Ricardo Montalban’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. Both his character as well as that of his sidekick, Tattoo (played by Herve Villechaize), became pop icons.
He also became associated with the role of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A role he first played decades before in the 1967 episode of Star Trek entitled “Space Seed”.
Ricardo Montalban appeared in many genres, ranging from the musical (Bathing Beauty, The Singing Nun), comedy (The Naked Gun), science fiction (Planet of the Apes) and juvenile (Spy Kids), among others. Over the course of his long career, he has played lead roles or guest starred in dozens of television series. Since 1993, Ricardo Montalban has had to use a wheelchair after an old spinal injury recurred.
The five stages of the actor
In several interviews and public speeches, Ricardo Montalbán has described “the five stages of the actor”, which are:
- Who is Ricardo Montalban?
- Get me Ricardo Montalban.
- Get me a Ricardo Montalban type.
- Get me a young Ricardo Montalban.
- Who is Ricardo Montalban?
Death of Ricardo Montalban
On January 14, 2009, Ricardo Montalbán died at his home in Los Angeles at thee age 88. According to his son-in-law, Gilbert Smith, he died of “complications from advancing age”. The precise cause of death was revealed to be congestive heart failure. He is buried next to Georgiana Young, his wife of 63 years, who predeceased him, at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California. For a personal tribute, read In Memoriam of Ricardo Montalbán.
Ricardo Montalban Filmography
- Five Were Chosen (1942) (a Spanish version was filmed the following year)
- The Twig of Seville (1942)
- The Reason of the Fault (1943)
- Santa (1943)
- Flight (1944)
- Cadets of the Navy (1945)
- We (1945)
- The Hour of Truth (1945)
- The House of the Fox (1945)
- Pepita Jimanez (1946)
- Ranch Fantasy (1947)
- Fiesta (1947)
- On an Island with You (1948)
- The Kissing Bandit (1948)
- Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
- Border Incident (1949)
- Battleground (1949)
- Mystery Street (1950)
- Right Cross (1950)
- Two Weeks with Love (1950)
- Mark of the Renegade (1951)
- Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
- The Million Dollar Nickel (1952) (short subject)
- My Man and I (1952)
- Sombrero (1953)
- Latin Lovers (1953)
- The Saracen Blade (1954)
- Untouched (1954)
- A Life in the Balance (1955)
- The Queen of Babylon (1955)
- Three for Jamie Dawn (1956)
- Desert Warrior (1957)
- Sayonara (1957)
- Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960)
- Rage of the Buccaneers (1961)
- Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
- The Reluctant Saint (1962)
- Love Is a Ball (1963)
- Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
- Good Night, New Year (1964)
- The Money Trap (1965)
- The Singing Nun (1966)
- Madame X (1966)
- The Longest Hundred Miles (1967)
- Sol Madrid (1968)
- Blue (1968)
- Sweet Charity (1969)
- The Deserter (1971)
- Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
- Sentinels of Silence (1971) (short subject)
- Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
- The Train Robbers (1973)
- Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
- Joe Panther (1976)
- Mission to Glory: A True Story (1977)
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
- Cannonball Run II (1984)
- The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
- Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002)
- Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
- The Ant Bully (2006) (voice)
Ricardo Montalban Television
- Operation Cicero (1956)
- Rashomon (1960)
- Bonanza (1960)
- Hamlet (1961) (voice dubber in English version)
- The Virginian Enrique Cuellar (The Big Deal) (1962)
- Alice Through the Looking Glass (1966)
- The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (The Dove Affair) (1964)
- Star Trek (Space Seed) (1967)
- Code Name: Heraclitus (1967)
- The Longest Hundred Miles (1967)
- Samurai Hawaii Five-O, 1st Season, Guest Star (1968)
- Fade-In (1968)
- The Pigeon (1969)
- The Desperate Mission (1969)
- Black Water Gold (1970)
- The Aquarians (1970) (unsold pilot)
- Sarge (1971)
- Fireball Forward (1972)
- Wonder Woman (1974) (unsold pilot)
- The Mark of Zorro (1974)
- McNaughton’s Daughter (1976)
- Executive Suite (1976-1977)
- Fantasy Island (1977) (pilot for series)
- Captains Courageous (1977)
- Return to Fantasy Island (1978) (2nd pilot for series)
- Fantasy Island (1978 – 1984)
- How the West Was Won (1978) (miniseries)
- The Colbys (1985 — 1987)
- Murder, She Wrote (1990)
- Heaven Help Us (1994) (canceled after 13 episodes)
- Freakazoid (1995 -1997) (voice)
- Kim Possible (2002-2007) Senor Senior Sr.(voice)
- Dora the Explorer: The Missing Piece (2004) (Wizard voice)
- Querida Enemiga (2008)
- Family Guy – voice actor for the genetically modified cow in “McStroke”
Ricardo Montalban Broadway musical
- Jamaica (1957 – 1959)