Developing, Supporting, and Spotlighting Latinos in Entertainment!
He was the epitome of continental elegance, charm and grace. Ricardo Montalbán was born Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino on November 25, 1920, in Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico. Ricardo Montalbán was a man adorn by many, he was our founder and inspiration. Ricardo died in his Los Angeles home of complications from old age on January 14, 2009, at age 88. He was survived by their two daughters and two sons: Laura, Anita, Victor and Mark.
A Message From Ricardo
“Mexico is my mother; the United States the best friend I will ever have. And so I dream of the day when my mother will say, 'Ricardo, you have chosen a wonderful friend.' And the day when the friend will say, 'Ricardo, you have a sensational mother.' That is why it is very important to bring us together. Brothers and sisters love thy neighbor as thyself. And this theatre, I think, can be a little grain of sand towards that end. Here we have opened the doors not only for the opportunity of young talent to develop writers, directors and actors, but also in coming together as a group in this society in which we live. Let's open a hand of friendship and love and brotherhood. That is my dream. I'll never see it complete while I'm still alive, but I think this is
the beginning, and that is what makes me so happy to see this come to fruition”
- Ricardo Montalbán
Ricardo's acting career began in the early 1940s on Broadway, usually in small roles; afterward, he started acting in films from his native country, Mexico, where he proved sensation. A chance meeting with beautiful Gerogina Young, Loretta Young’s sister, culminated in marriage in 1944. They had 4 children, and their enduring marriage was certainly a rarity for Hollywood.
Ricardo was originally a song-and-dance man in both Mexican and American movie musicals. After that genre faded he became a character actor, often relegated to ethnic roles. In 'Sayonara' with Marlon Brando he played Japanese, he won an Emmy playing a Sioux on the mini-series How the West was Won, and he was also sometimes cast as Arabs or Greeks.
In 1948, Ricardo signed with MGM, becoming that studio’s resident Latin lover-type. Early on, MGM cast him in several Esther Williams aquacade films in mostly decorative roles. Longing to break free of the LATIN Lover mould, he was finally cast in Border Incident (1949), in which he did an excellent job and was allowed to exercise his dramatic range. In the 1950s, he continued to fight the Latin stereotype and branched out into more character roles. Moreover, unlike most minority actors of his time, he fought to upscale the Latin (particularly, Mexican) image in Hollywood.
His strong work ethic and reservoir of talent enabled him to continue on TV long after his exotic beefcake status in films had waned. He showed up in a number of TV dramatic anthologies ("Playhouse 90" (1956) and "Colgate Theatre" (1958)) and made guest appearances on the popular series of the day, such as "Death Valley Days" (1952), "Bonanza" (1959), "Burke's Law" (1963), "Dr. Kildare" (1961), "The Defenders" (1961).
However more notably, a 1967 "Star Trek"(1966) episode in which he memorably portrayed galaxy arch-villain Khan Noonien Singh. He resurrected this character memorably in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). He was the only "Star Trek" and agreed to reprise his role of "Khan" for only $100,000 because he loved the role so much. Over the years he continued to appear occasionally on the big screen, typically playing continental smoothies, in such films as Love Is a Ball (1963), Madame X (1966) and Sweet Charity (1969).
But it was TV that finally made him a household name. Ricardo captivated audiences as the urbane, white-suited concierge of mystery Mr. Roarke in the Aaron Spelling series "Fantasy Island" (1977). He stayed with the show for six seasons, buoyed by his popular "odd couple" teaming with the late Hervé Villechaize, who played Mr. Roarke's diminutive sidekick, and fellow greeter, Tattoo.
In 1970 Ricardo founded, and gave great support, attention and distinction to our organization - NOSOTROS; and although it may have cost him a number of roles along the way, he gained respect and a solid reputation as a mover and shaker within the acting community while providing wider-range opportunities for all Latinos in the Industry.
And in 1999, with the help of President of Nosotros, Jerry Velasco, established the Ricardo Montalban Foundation in order to purchase the Doolittle Theater in Hollywood to give a home to Nosotros and the establish the Latino theater experience in Hollywood. And by a unanimous vote of the Nosotros members the theater was renamed in his honor in 2004. It became the first major theater facility in the U.S. to carry the name of a Latino performing artist.
Due to the long-term effects of his spinal injury Ricardo was eventually confined him to a wheelchair, however even in to his later years he continued to work in Film and TV while still be a strong advocate for change and opportunity.
Two of his final, larger-scaled film roles were as Grandfather Cortex in the Spy Kids films. And his deep, soothing, confident tones could also be heard in animated features and TV series such eñor Senior Sr. on Disney's 'Kim Possible' and the Council Chairman in the big-screen cartoon 'The Ant Bully.
In 1980 Ricardo published his memoir, entitled "Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds".