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Ricardo Montalban

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Ricardo Montalban
Ricardo Montalban
Birth name: Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino
Gender: Male
Date of birth: 25 November 1920
Place of birth: Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Date of death: 14 January 2009
Place of death: Los Angeles, California
Character(s): Khan Noonien Singh
... as Khan in TOS: "Space Seed" (1967)
... as Khan in TOS: "Space Seed" (1967)
... as Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
... as Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Ricardo Montalban (25 November 192014 January 2009; age 88) was an Emmy Award-winning, Tony Award-nominated Mexican actor who enjoyed a long career in television and film. He is best known to Star Trek fans for his role as the genetically-engineered Khan Noonien Singh, a role he originated in the original series episode "Space Seed". He reprised the role 15 years later in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

An almost stereotypical "Latin Lover" type, Montalban is perhaps best known to the general public as the enigmatic Mr. Roarke from the television series Fantasy Island (1978-84). Others may remember him as the Chrysler pitchman who touted the Cordoba, with its "soft, Corinthian leather".

Since the early 1940s, Montalban had worked on over 200 film and television projects, in addition to numerous stage credits. Before achieving pop culture status with his roles as Khan and Mr. Roarke, Montalban was known for his performances in musicals for MGM and on the Broadway stage during the 1940s and 1950s. He continued to work until his death in 2009, despite having been confined to a wheelchair since 1993, the result of an injury he suffered (and had been concealing) since 1951.

In 1993, he was given a Life Achievement Award by the Screen Actors Guild. [1] He and Brock Peters are the only two Star Trek alumni to have received this honor to date. Montalban also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Ricardo Montalbán Theatre in Hollywood, California, is named in his honor.

Personal life

Montalban was born Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino in Mexico City, Mexico. As a teenager, he moved to Los Angeles to live with his older brother, Carlos, who was pursuing a career in show business. Montalban returned to Mexico in 1941 upon learning that his mother was dying. He returned to Los Angeles in 1947 to continue pursuing his Hollywood career. [2]

While shooting the Western film Across the Wide Missouri with Clark Gable in 1951, Montalban suffered a back injury that would plague him for the rest of his life. According to Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer, Montalban suffered the injury after a horse rode over the actor during production, which also left him with a limp that he concealed for the rest of his professional career. (Meyer made no reference to Montalban's back, only that the actor suffered a leg injury.) Despite his injury, Montalban continued to work in film and television as well as in theater throughout the next several decades.

By 1993, the injury Montalban sustained in the 1950s had grown to the point at which Montalban required 9½ hours of spinal surgery. Unfortunately, the surgery left him in constant pain, unable to walk, and confined to a wheelchair. Nonetheless, he continued to work, albeit primarily in voiceover roles and the occasional role that could be filmed around his disability. Coincidentally, Montalban's co-star and love interest in "Space Seed", Madlyn Rhue (who played Marla McGivers in the episode) had also been confined to a wheelchair due to health issues. Also like Montalban, Rhue continued to work despite her predicament (which included an appearance with Montalban on Fantasy Island in 1982). She passed away in 2003.

Montalban died at his home in Los Angeles, California, on 14 January 2009 at 6:30 pm local time. He was 88 years old. [3] [4] According to his son-in-law, Montalban died "from complications of advancing age." [5] His cause of death was later revealed to be congestive heart failure. [6] He is buried next to his wife at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. [7]

He was among the industry talents who were honored at the "In Memoriam" film at the 81st Annual Academy Awards on 22 February 2009, which was accompanied by Queen Latifah's performance of "I'll Be Seeing You". [8]

A tribute film to Ricardo Montalban is included on the remastered Blu-ray release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy DVD and Blu-ray sets, both released in 2009.

Career

1942-1967

During his first visit to the United States in the early 1940s, Montalban landed a small role in George Cukor's 1942 romantic comedy Her Cardboard Lover. This was followed by a role in a low budget movie called Five Were Chosen, also released in 1942. He then starred in many films in his native Mexico throughout the 1940s, after which he landed a contract with MGM and returned to the US. Montalban's first major American film appearance came in 1947, with a supporting role opposite Esther Williams in the musical Fiesta. His next musical, also with Esther Williams, was 1948's On an Island with You. He again worked with Williams on the 1949 musical Neptune's Dauggter.

In 1949, he had his first starring role, playing a Mexican federal agent in the MGM noir drama Border Incident, which co-starred fellow TOS guest performer Arnold Moss. He also appeared in the war drama Battleground that same year. He followed this in 1950 with a starring role in the film noir Mystery Street (with John Crawford and Frank Overton) and a supporting role in the John Sturges drama Right Cross (with Kenneth Tobey and John Crawford). He then played the male lead in the musical Two Weeks with Love.

Following his injury on the set of Ride the Wide Missouri in 1951, Montalban continued working with MGM on such films as the musical Sombrero (in which he again played the lead) and the comedy Latin Lovers, opposite Lana Turner. His contract with MGM ended in 1953. Montalban then co-starred with Michael Ansara in the 1954 adventure film The Saracen Blade. They would later work together in two more films: 1968's Sol Madrid (also with Perry Lopez) and in 1977's Mission to Glory: A True Story (also with Anthony Caruso).

In 1955, Montalban made his Broadway debut, portraying Chico in the musical Seventh Heaven, which ran for 44 performances. Afterward, Montalban was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the lead role of Koki in the Broadway musical Jamaica, which ran for 555 performances from October 1957 through April 1959.

Montalban placed third as Top Male Supporting Performance at the Laurel Awards for his performance in the Academy Award-winning 1957 film Sayonara. He was beat out by Arthur Kennedy (for Peyton Place) and Red Buttons (also for Sayonara). His subsequent film credits included Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960, with James Darren and Roy Jenson), Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962, co-starring Richard Beymer, Whit Bissell, Michael J. Pollard, and Peter Brocco), and the John Ford western Cheyenne Autumn (1964, with Charles Seel).

Montalban was active on television during this time, as well. Years prior to taking on the role of Khan on TOS, Montalban starred in another science fiction script written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry called The Secret Defense of 117. This episode, which aired on the Chevron Hall of Stars (aka Chevron Theater) in March 1956, was Roddenberry's first science fiction sale to television.

In addition, six years before they co-starred as potential lovers on Star Trek, Montalban and actress Madlyn Rhue played husband and wife in an episode of Bonanza entitled "Day of Reckoning". Montalban later made guest appearances on such programs as The Untouchables (with Phillip Pine), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (including one episode directed by Joseph Sargent and co-starring Nancy Kovack, George Sawaya, and John Winston), and The Wild Wild West (with Davis Roberts). In 1966, Montalban played the recurring role of Damon West on the NBC medical drama Dr. Kildare.

1967-2009

After playing Khan for the first time in Star Trek's "Space Seed," Montalban made guest appearances on such television programs as Mission: Impossible (with Steven Marlo), Ironside (with Barbara Anderson, Gene Lyons, Phillip Pine, and "Space Seed" co-star Blaisdell Makee), Gunsmoke (directed by Vincent McEveety), and even The Carol Burnett Show. He continued landing roles in feature films, as well, notably as Vittorio Vidal in the 1969 musical Sweet Charity, co-starring Ben Vereen. Montalban later appeared as Armando in two Planet of the Apes movies: Escape from the Planet of the Apes in 1971 (with William Windom, Jason Evers, James B. Sikking and Janos Prohaska) and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes in 1972 (with Paul Comi).

In 1977, Montalban took on the role of the mysterious Mr. Roarke for the TV movie pilot for Fantasy Island. It was picked up as a series the following year. Star Trek: Voyager guest star Wendy Schaal became a regular on the program in 1980. Interestingly, Montalban's character was later played by Star Trek Generations actor Malcolm McDowell in the 1998 revival of the series. Co-starring Mädchen Amick, this revival only lasted one season.

Montalban won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Satangkai on the epic 1978 Western mini-series How the West Was Won. Also appearing in this series were fellow Star Trek alumnus Robert DoQui, Fionnula Flanagan, Brian Keith, Ed Lauter, Gregg Palmer, Robert Phillips, George D. Wallace, Morgan Woodward, Harris Yulin, and Montalban's "Space Seed" and Wrath of Khan co-star William Shatner.

In 1981, Montalban agreed to reprise the role of Khan in Star Trek II for only $100,000, reportedly because he loved the role and was thrilled to play the character again. Six years later, he played another villainous role, that of Vincent Ludwig, in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! In this film, Raye Birk played the bad guy who hired Montalban's character to assassinate the Queen of England, while Tiny Ron played Al, a tall police lab technician.

Following the end of Fantasy Island in 1984, Montalban starred as Zach Powers in the primetime soap opera The Colbys from 1985 through 1987. For his performance on this program, Montalban was nominated for two Soap Opera Digest Award as Outstanding Villain in a Prime Time Serial. He also portrayed Powers in two episodes of Dynasty, from which The Colbys was spun-off.

In 1994, Montalban starred in Aaron Spelling's short-lived syndicated series Heaven Help Us, in which he played an angel who helps a recently-deceased newlywed couple, played by Melinda Clarke and John Schneider. Also in the 1990s, Montalban voiced eye-patched villain Armondo Guitierrez on the animated series Freakazoid!; fellow Star Trek film actors John Schuck and David Warner voiced villains on this program, as well. Montalban parodied himself in an episode in which his character with confused quotations of the second Star Trek film.

Montalban entertained a whole new generation of audiences with his portrayal of high-tech wheelchair-bound grandfather in two of the Spy Kids films, beginning with Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams in 2002 (with Christopher McDonald) and followed by Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over in 2003. He also continued to do voice work for various cartoons and animated films. He voiced the role of Señor Senior, Sr. on the Disney series Kim Possible.

Montalban's final roles were characters on two of the animated shows created by Star Trek fan Seth MacFarlane. The first was the role of a cow in an episode of Family Guy, in which he parodies his Khan role by paraphrasing some of his lines from Star Trek II. His very last role was that of General Pequeno in an episode of American Dad!, which also featured the voice of Star Trek: The Next Generation star Patrick Stewart. The episode, "Moon Over Isla Island," aired in October 2009 – nine months after Montalban's death.

Other Trek connections

Additional projects in which Montalban has worked with other Star Trek performers include:

External links

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