Memories of the actor who always personified class and style — the late, lamented Ricardo Montalban
In memoriam of Ricardo Montalban
When Ricardo Montalban recently passed away, on October 14, 2009, I was down in the mouth. When trying to explain to my children why, I explained about the death of Ricardo Montalban. They naturally enough asked who he was. Trying to put it in perspective for them, I told them that he was the grandfather in the wheelchair in the Spy Kids movies. Their eyes grew wide, and my eleven-year-old daughter, with tears starting to form, asked, “Their grandfather died?”
That’s a compliment to the acting skill of the late Ricardo Montalban. To my children, he was that role — as well as the voice of Señor Senior Sr. from the Kim Possible Disney cartoon. To me, he was Mr. Rourke, the mysterious master of Fantasy Island. To my wife, he was the spokesman for ‘rich Corinthian leather‘. When I was younger, I would have answered that he was curiously honorable yet cruel Khan from Star Trek – the original series as well as in the best of the Star Trek movies, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Something that I only recently became aware of was his history as a musical star. One example is in Neptune’s Daughter with Esther Williams — as well as demonstrating his comic ability alongside Red Skelton.
One thing that I always thought about Ricardo Montalban was that he always epitomized class and style, even when playing the villain. Something that’s not as publicly known is that he has suffered from debilitating back pain for many years. That’s why the characters that my children are familiar with him portraying are wheelchair bound. And yet, he didn’t publicly complain, or use it to excuse bad behavior, as so many of his fellow actors have done. To his dying day, literally, he was the living epitome of class — and he is missed.