Published January 14, 2009

Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban, after months of declining health, has died in Los Angeles, California, of complications from advancing age. He was 88.
Ricardo Montalban
The much respected actor had a career spanning over sixty years. In addition to his many stage, television and film roles, he was probably most famous for three. In the late 1970s, he was the salsa-tongued spokesman for Chrysler Cordoba — although on an infamous appearance on David Letterman he outed his usage of the term “Corinthian leather” as completely made up … but it sounded cool. From 1977 to 1984 he played Mr. Roarke in the smash hit ABC-TV series Fantasy Island. Yet the role which brought him international fame, was the villainous Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek. The character first appeared in the 1967 episode of The Original Series, entitled Space Seed. He would later, of course, reprise the role in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Ricardo Montalban as Khan
Born in Mexico City in 1920, Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalb├ín Merino was soon to be entranced by American cinema. Arriving in Hollywood in the 1940s, he was asked repeatedly to change his name to Ricky Martin. Ricardo refused. Though many of his first roles had him playing various ethnic parts — Japanese, Indian, or as a Latin lover — in 1950, he was cast against type, playing a Cape Cod police officer in the film Mystery Street. For a two year run in the late 1950s, he starred (and sang) opposite Lena Horne in the Broadway musical Jamaica. As an MGM contract player, he worked opposite some of Hollywood’s most beautiful leading ladies: Esther Williams, Lana Turner, Kathryn Grayson, Loretta Young, June Allyson, January e Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse, Shelly Winters, Claire Trevor, Yvonne De Carlo, and Nina Foch.
Ricardo Montalban
But it wasn’t until the sixties and seventies when Ricardo’s star truly began to shine. Though his three (aforementioned) signature roles were all greatly parodied, all would agree that this was a thoughtful, charitable and deeply religious man. He was once quoted as saying that his lifelong devotion to Roman Catholicism was the “most important thing” in his life. If that is true, then the second was his wife of 63 years, actress Georgiana Young (half-sister of his previous co-star Loretta Young). The couple had four children.

Georgiana Young de Montalbán died on November 13, 2007, at the age of 84.

Ricardo has now joined her.

He will be greatly missed.


Outstanding fan video

And yes, contrary to bogus rumor, that IS his real chest!