Remembering Ricardo Montalban

This week, Star Trek fans were saddened by the death of actor Ricardo Montalban, whose portrayal of Khan has become iconic. Today  TrekMovie celebrates Montalban’s many acting roles with some thoughts as well as some special never before seen pictures and a comment by director Nicholas Meyer.  


Saying goodbye to a legend

"Smiles everyone! Smiles! Smiles!"  Each episode of the TV series Fantasy Island started with Ricardo Montalban’s character Mr. Roarke cheering this quote.  And smiles were what Ricardo Montalban brought to television and film audiences from 50 years.  Some celebrities feel like they’ve always been here, and always will be and Montalban was one of these kind of actors.  From his romantic films of the 1940s to the comedies of the 1990s, generations of film goers and television fans have experienced that Montalban magic.  His blend of charm and sophistication, kindness and romance, talent and hard work made Montalban an entertainment constant.  So many of his colleagues and fans who have met him use a single word – "gentleman" – to describe him. 

Indeed, Montalban played many roles in Hollywood and in real life.  He was an advocate for the Latino community, husband, father of four, and a person of religious faith.  Through his many characters, he influenced subsequent actors and fans.  Genre fans are familiar with his science fiction roles, from Khan in Star Trek to Armando in the Planet of the Apes to Grandfather in Spy Kids, to Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island.  Younger fans know him from Spy Kids, middle aged fans from his Cordoba Commercials, Fantasy Island, and Star Trek, and fans who went to the cinemas of the 1940s and 1950s knew him as a romantic leading man.  Ricardo Montalban was truly a multi-generational star, who created icons that spanned the decades.   

Montalban – the perfect gentleman

Montalban – in pictures and film
Today, Trekmovie celebrates the acting career of Ricardo Montalban with pictures and video.  We begin with his role of Khan, arguably the best villain in the Star Trek pantheon, and one of the best villains of all cinema. Many of the pictures featured below are are from the University of Iowa’s Nicholas Meyer Collection, an archive which I have been researching over the past few years and we have been granted special permission by Mr. Meyer to present these photos as a tribute to Ricardo Montalban.  The behind the scene photos from the making of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, most never seen before, show the joy and craft Montalban brought to the role of Khan.  

[Note some images are clickable for larger versions]

‘Historical Photo’ of Khan used in "Space Seed" (1967)

With Nick Meyer on the Set of Star Trek II (1982)

Shooting Star Trek II (notice the wire on Koenig)

At Nick Meyers’ 36th birthday party

Crew creates ‘Tatoo’ doll for Ricardo
(STII shot during run of Fantasy Island)

 (front center – right next to Shatner) with cast and crew of Star Trek II

Promotional image for Star Trek II

Montalban’s acting career began in the 1940s, with a group of very popular dancing and singing feature films costarring Esther Williams and Cyd Charisse.  Here is one example of his abilities, made all the amazing by the fact that Montalban suffered from spinal cord problems his entire life, and which were exaggerated after a horse riding accident in 1951.  He was even featured on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1949 because of his talents.     

Montalban in "Fiesta" (1947)

1949 Life Magazine cover

Promotional image from the 40s

After the 1950s, Montalban created other great genre characters both on television and in theaters.  Most famous was his role as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.  My family is honored to have a signed picture of Montalban as Mr. Roarke, and the kind words he wrote to us symbolize Montalban’s charm and his genuine enthusiasm for his fans.

As Armando in promo image for "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" (1972)

As Mr. Roarke in signed "Fantasy Island" promo picture (1979)

As the Grandfather in promo image for "Spy Kids 2" (2002)

In his non acting life, Montalban utilized his fame and talents to help others, especially through his work with Nosotros, an organization he co-created to help foster a more positive experience and presentation of Latinos and Latinas in the arts and entertainment. For his courage living with a disability and his contributions to the arts, Ricardo Montalban was awarded the first ever Easter Seals Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.  This half hour video includes tributes from William Shatner and Antonio Banderas, and discusses his amazing career and life.   

Easter Seals Montalban Lifetime Achievement Award show (1998) – 3 parts

Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood – where his legend will live on


Meyer remembers Montalban
Ricardo Montalban was a role model for anyone wishing to live a life full of love and talent, compassion and honor.  We end our tribute with a comment sent to TrekMovie by Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer:

Ricardo Montalban’s character and contributions to our world were unique.  His death punches a large hole in the lives of all who saw or knew him.  He was a great artist and a swell gent, humorous, multi-talented, self-effacing and gallant.   We will miss his company and his art.


TV Tributes
For those fans who wish to learn more about Montalban’s life and his non-Star Trek roles, many networks are having tributes this week.:

  • January 21 10:00 AM (Eastern) Bio Channel is featuring a "Biography Remembers" documentary about Montalban’s life and films
  • January 23 starting at 7:30 AM (Eastern) Turner Classic Movies is celebrating the movies of Ricardo Montalban with a marathon of seven of his best films
  • January 26 and 27 Fox Movie Channel is also offering its tribute, including showing Montalban’s two Planet of the Apes feature films.  Check for more information.


Special thanks to Nicholas Meyer for photos and tribute

YouTube clips thanks to Brian Baker and Varadero

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great guy, slowly but surely time marches on and the stars of the past from star trek succumb to age. Good Bye Richardo.Star Trek marches on as well, with a new movie. First!, I dont think so.


There’s a thing Khan (Montalban) did as he was coming to in the sick bay where he was focusing himself and stretching. He put his hands together and pushed in and down in an isometric or I guess yoga type of way. I don’t know what you’d call it. I always thought it was a very cool move and showed the physical discipline that both he and the character had. To this day I do this when I’m trying to focus myself when I stretch in the morning at the gym. I always think of it as my tribute to Montalban. Kind of a salute to the man now.

*Geek Alert* The picture is actually from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. One of My fav films and a grea performance by Mr. M. A truly great man. I am saddened by the loss of this great man. Now I must grow, for I am fatigued.

Cast photo from STAR TREK II is AWESOME!

So much you could read into it, too: Kirstie Alley looking bored; where’s Nimoy?; awkward body language between Shatner and Montalban.

he saved Star Trek. Without the Wrath of Kahn there would be no franchise

wow, he looks pretty hot in this pic:comment image

:\ R.I.P


Montalban and Shatner were good friends. It would be a mistake to intrepret the gesture as awkward between the two of them considering they are friends.

What a talented and handsome man. Gosh, I can’t believe he’s gone.

#5…I’m wonderin the same thing,,,wheres Spock?

I believe Nimoy’s not in the picture to mock the Spock is going to die mania. Note that his photo is being held by the producer behind Shatner.


In the Meyer Collection there are other photos of the crew which features the Spock’s Enterprise photon casing and Nimoy not in the photo was meant to be a joke reference to Spock’s experience during Star Trek II.

I don’t see Nichelle Nichols in the picture either.

Rest in Peace KHAAAAAN!

I would do anything to see Star Trek II on the big screen again.

The FOX Cinema on Queen Street East in Toronto is showing a special screening of The Wrath of Khan (7pm this Tuesday.)

It is listed under the group “Wrath of Khan/Raiders of the Lost Ark Double Bill! ” on Facebook.

Where’s Nichelle Nichols in the cast photo? Is it the front row left? I don’t think so, as the hair is too long, but I can’t see anyone else close.

Ricardo Montalban is one of those rare actors who stays with you forever. His manner, his delivery, his impeccable voice with its striking accent, everything about him portrayed a very noble, dignified person. Whether he played the hero or the villain, Montalban brought a penetrating edge to his performances… which is what I will remember most about him as Khan.


What a joy he was and an outstanding legacy he leaves.
Thank you to this site for sharing these photos and comments.

If you have time, I recommend watching all three parts of the Easter Seals video above–it’s entertaining, not boring at all, and educational. And Montalban’s remarks at the end are great.

Rest In Peace sir , you were one in a million .

I had asked a question on the diamond select toys ask DST board and they sent out a free gift to me , which just happened to be a “Genesis” Khan . Later that night I heard he had passed . Quite an odd coincidence .

A wonderful actor. An individual who can be respected for his contribution to his craft and to his family. I will continue to enjoy his performances. Rest in Peace, sir.

Great article. Great pics (that capture his great pecs! :-) ). Great tribute!

Thank you, Mr. Tenuto, for this wonderful gift to his fans.

I didn’t know there was a theater named after him. I’m glad he will have that as a legacy.

RIP Senor Montalban.

Thanks to Mr. Tenuto and to Mr. Meyer for putting together such a classy tribute.

#20 – Thanks for the link to that fine article. Nice to know that he had so much integrity and modesty.


Yeah, that is a nice article.

Mr. Tenuto — since Mr. Montalban and Mr. Shatner were good friends, have there been any comments from Mr. Shatner on Mr. Montalban’s passing that you know of?

Nice photos.

Khan was terrific, and certainly brought out a side of Montalban which we never saw elsewhere. Brilliantly played, and instantly iconic, Khan was as relentless as a Terminator with a simmering complexity beneath a surface of relentless focus.

Never to be forgotten.

28 – AJ – Wow! Nice summation and appraisal of Khan’s character and Mr. Montalban’s protrayal of him.

A true gentleman indeed

A cast photo like that has to overcome scheduling challenges! They’re on the Genesis Cave set and if the actors not in costume aren’t working that day they wouldn’t have needed to come in except for this photo. Even if Nimoy’s absence is a “dearly departed” gag, he probably had another gig, likewise Nichelle Nichols.

The great thing is seeing Shatner with Montalban since they filmed nothing together, working weeks apart on different redresses of the same bridge set.

Khan’s outfit from Star Trek II is on display at the Arizona Science Center until May for anyone in phoenix metro.

another end of an era, its amazing how much it hurts to loose one of the good guys, even though he was 88 years old.

…I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Ricardo’s first run-in with Gene Roddenberry: The Secret Defense of 117 for the old Chevron Theater.

Great tribute John.

Mr. Montalban was a true class act and the perfect fit for the part of Khan. I also struggle with back pain and understand what it took to push past that and become whatever the part was asked of him.

I grieve for his family, though his profession is one that allows a kind of immortality that few others ever will. We can see him in his prime each time we take a shine to do so.

Vaya con dios, señor!

Great Tribute to Mr. Montalban and thanks for sharing the great photos!

One thing I also noticed in the crew pic was Roddenberry is nowhere to be found as well. Just thought I’d point that out.

I remember watching “Space Seed” (several hundred times) as a kid and my mother commenting that Ricardo Montalban “oozed class from every pore.” She was right about that as I would learn some years later.

In the summer of 1982 (the summer STII:WROK came out) our family went to Los Angeles to visit family. My aunt took us to NBC studios to see a taping of a TV show. We were able to get tickets to a pilot for a show called “Fantasies” (or something like that, I don’t remember exactly anymore. It was never picked-up or aired by the Network anyway).

Peter Marshal (from the original “Hollywood Squares” and a really nice guy) was the host. The format for the show was that celebrity guests would help contestants from the audience win cash and prizes. It turned out Mr. Montalban was the celebrity guest and that taping.

All audience members were asked to filled-out information cards and I was chosen by the producer to be a contestant because by coincidence I have the same name as a now deceased famous singer/actor from the 60’s.

As this was a pilot, no actual prizes were awarded, but I did get to meet Mr. Montalban and we were able to talk a little during the breaks and down-time. I was only 16 then and I’m sure I “geeked-out” completely as I was on Trek overload with TWOK having come out the month before and here I was actually TALKING to KHAN himself. But, despite my probable star-struck gushing and babbling, he was gracious, friendly, funny, warm and truly LOVED playing Khan and the whole Star Trek community and ideal. (One of my greatest regrets is that no pictures were allowed. Bunch of Herberts!)

From what I have read about his life and the brief time I was able spend with him, I can honestly say he had such talent, grace, intelligence, charisma and strength of will and body. He was a leader and advocate for his people. He always remained loyal to his friends, family and God and true to his ideals. He demanded respect, but never asked for it nor would he. He simply earned it. In so many ways he was Khan, but without the psychotic ego or “superior ambition.”

I love the pictures (the Tatoo doll is too funny for words) and bio. What a wonderful person and role-model he was. I wish there were more people like him. I am genuinely saddened by his passing. The world is diminished by this loss, but his contributions to Trek, his craft, and community will continue for generations.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Montalban family. Thank you, Ricardo and Rest In Peace.

Can you imagine how fabulous it is for his family to have so much of his life, at different ages, on tape? What a great supplement to home movies and photo albums. I hope time quickly eases the sorrow.


Montalban – best villian ever. Best male villian cleveage ever.

Bob May of “Lost in Space” died. Please do an article. Thanks

Mr. Tenuto, please pass along to Nick Meyer our thanks for permission to share these photos. It’s hard to believe a man with the life force of Mr. Montalban is gone. I always had held out a little hope that he would walk again before passing away.

That earlier poster was right–if “Wrath of Khan” had flopped, that very well might have been the end of the franchise 26 years ago. Thank you, Mr. Montalban. Rest in peace.


His was a life WELL LIVED!

Godspeed Ricardo!!


I mentioned it the other day, but nobody picked up on it.

It would be nice to see this rare show turn up on YouTube or somesuch. Heck, I’m still looking for a copy of the script, which Lincoln Enterprises had listed for sale in their catalog many years ago.

Bob May too??!!! Oh man what a sad few months in sci-fi fandom it’s been. Forrest Ackerman, Majel, Ricardo, Patrick McGoohan and now Bob May. Sigh.

Awww.. where’s his finest work? That cordoba commercial?


Wherever he his, I’m sure he’s resting on some pure corinthian leather.

Yes… Bob May. So sad. So many. :(

Bob May was covered in the previous article. Russ’ scifi Sunday weekly roundup. John’s article is about ricardo.

I just finished watching the video of Ricardo Montalban. It reminded me that my mother used to sing out his name when he was on TV–the same melody eery time. It made me wonder if there was some promotional campaign to say his name correctly or just to advertise his movies.

It is sad to know that he’s gone, but as one lady told me at Mom’s funeral—“No more wheelchair! No more pain!”

Señor Montalbán esta baillano entre las estrellas, ahora y siempre. (I hope that reads, “Mr. Montalbán is dancing among the stars, now and forever”!)

Great photos!

I especially enjoyed the cast photo from Wrath.

Good “Where’s Nimoy” info everyone.