Ricardo Montalbán (1920-2009)

January 14, 2009

The actor known best for his portrayals of Mr. Roarke from Fantasy Island and Khan Noonian Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, has passed. Ricardo Montalbán was 88. He not only contributed to a hit TV show and the Star Trek franchise, but helped pave the way for other Mexican actors to find a place for themselves in the entertainment business. Montalbán was one of the first actors born in Mexico to make a name for himself in Hollywood.

Montalbán made it a priority in his life to open up Hollywood to other actors of Latin descent. He founded the nonprofit organization Nosotros Foundation to burnish what he deemed was the poor standing of the Latin community in Hollywood and increase their access to acting work.

Janet Maslin, a former movie critic from the New York Times, said that Montalbán, "with his fierce profile, long white hair, manful decolletage and space-age jewelry looks like either the world's oldest rock star or its hippest Indian chief."

Montalbán was also a spokesman for Chrysler, and boasted of the Chrysler Cordoba's "soft Corinthian leather," which would help to bolster his name in American homes everywhere.

In short, Ricardo Montalbán was one of the first Mexican actors to break down the shuttered doors of Hollywood, and the roles that made him famous continue to win his name recognition and respect. A great man has died, and he will not soon be forgotten. We hope his casket is lined with the softest Corinthian leather.