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)
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 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
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.
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 foxmoviechannel.com for more information.
Special thanks to Nicholas Meyer for photos and tribute
YouTube clips thanks to Brian Baker and Varadero