Friday, January 16, 2009

Ricardo Montalban: From Latin Lovers to Khan (1920-2009)

Yesterday was a heavy business day so I'm late on the news.

The most important movie item yesterday was the passing of Ricardo Montalban (pictured left, source). He was 88 years old when he passed away on Wednesday. His greatest fame came in the 80s from television. You may remember him as either "Mr. Roarke" on Fantasy Island, "Zach Powers" on Dynasty spinoff The Colbys or as the title villain in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) --the only Star Trek outing I've ever loved and largely thanks to him. Khan was a character he was reprising from a guest stint on the 60s television show and yes, that was his real chest in the movie. He was eating his spinach as a sexagenarian.

Like many actors who get choice supporting roles in genre movies and/or television stardom in their senior years, Montalban was already famous. He'd been both a working Broadway actor and a movie star in Mexico. Fiesta (1947) was the big breakthrough and like many bilingual foreign actors before him, Hollywood snapped him up. He became a contract player in the studio system.

His American movie career peaked in the 1950s when Montalban was in his 30s and often cast for his physicality and exotic beauty (Hollywood used to have a new ubiquitous 'Latin Lover' every decade, didn't they?). He starred in films like The Mark of the Renegade (1951) with Cyd Charisse, Latin Lovers (1953) with Lana Turner and Sayonara (1957) with Marlon Brando for which he won his only big screen acting nomination, the Golden Laurel (from an awards group that was short lived, lasting from 1958 through 1971). He lost that award to his co-star Red Buttons who also went on to win the Oscar. Montalban was not nominated though his three co-stars were (It's hard for a single film to achieve four acting nominations -- only 34 films have done so in the 80 year history of the Oscars). Still and all, this was a long and rich entertainment career stretching across multiple mediums and making things easier for future generations of Latino actors. Well done!


Anonymous said...

I think of Montalban, and I think of "class." He was a gentleman through and through, a quality that is quickly disappearing these days.

The only current stars that project Montalban's charisma, style, and class are George Clooney and possibly Brad Pitt.

Unknown said...

Ask and you shall receive.

Anyway, I'm a huge Star Trek fan and Oscar fan, but I can't remember a Star Trek movie clip ever making the telecast since I've been watching, although ST has been nominated as recently as 1996. But Ricardo should be a shoo-in for the death clip, as should his most indelible character, Khan.

Anonymous said...

This year, hopefully Trek's First Lady, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry("Nurse Chappell"), will be included also in the clips of actors we lost. Majel was part of all the Trek tv series and her voice included in several of the movies, including the new one being released in May, 09. Both she & Ricardo should be in this year's ceremony, unless time span ends at 12/31/08.


well i think the time spans are weird... because wasn't Heath Ledger in the memoriam last year and he had JUST died... even though they sometimes claim people aren't in them because they missed the deadline.

god, this sounds horrible

Anonymous said...

I loved Ricardo Montalban, and I'm sad he only got four comments. He is one of the best character actors of all times. He's like the Edward Everett Horton of the 1960s and 70s.

Anonymous said...

Not only was the man a wonderful actor, he was a life-long devout Catholic and practicioneer of his faith. One of the best memories I have of him (one that impacted me a great deal) was an interview he did on late night T.V. about the sanctity of the vows you take before God; i.e., marriage, which takes work and faith to sustain. He also expressed enlightened views on birth control... Abstinance during marriage, if that's what it took; and it did it all with such grace and not one interruption from the host.

The man believed in Faith and the rules that go with that belief. We aren't going to see many like him anymore, and that is truly a shame.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Seeing those young pictures of him, you can see why he was the host of Fantasy Island.

I actually really liked the Star Trek: First contact, where Captian Picard is taken by the Borg. Resistance is futile. kind of reminds me of our last administration.