Ricardo Montalban, 1920-2009
Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban, best known to ComicMixers as Khan Noonien Singh or the enigmatic Mr. Roarke, died today at age 88.
According to the Associated Press, Montalban died this morning at his home in California. No cause of death was provided.
"The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in my Council District – where the next generations of performers participate in plays, musicals, and concerts – stands as a fitting tribute to this consummate performer," city council by president Eric Garcetti said in a written statement.
The flamboyant actor began his acting career in his native land before coming to Hollywood to become a star for MGM. He made his American debut opposite swimming star Esther Williams in 1946’s Fiesta.
As a working actor in the 1960s, Gene Roddenberry cast him as Khan, the Genetics War exile in the 1966 episode of Star Trek, “Space Seed”. Years later, director Nicholas Meyer was captivated by the performance and wondered what Khan would be like 15 years later, leading to the story behind Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
In between, Montalban also played the heavy in the Cathy Lee Gibson Wonder Woman telefilm before straddling the line between good and evil as the host of Fantasy Island. In his white suit and twinkling eyes, people’s fears and desires were made manifest from 1978-1984.
He was also a long running automobile pitchman, waxing rhapsodic about the car’s rich Corinthian leather, which was later parodied for years.
A crippling back injury occurred during the filming of 1952’s Across the Wide Missouri. He was thrown by a horse and stepped on a second horse. When it recurred in 1993, he was limited to a wheelchair and surgery only made the situation worse, limiting his film and television work over the last 15 years although he did manage to appear in including The Naked Gun as well as two films from both the Planet of the Apes and Spy Kids series.