Ricardo Montalban, born on November 25, 1920 in Mexico City, is a suave United States-based Mexican television, theatre and film actor.
His elder brother, Carlos Montalban, was instrumental in bringing Ricardo to the United States. When Montalban first arrived in Los Angeles, California, he had no knowledge of the English language, and was initially rejected from Fairfax High School in West Hollywood, California.
He attended Belmont High School in downtown Los Angeles and studied English intensely for hours each day after school. Four months later, Montalban was accepted to the "more academically challenging" Fairfax High School and carried on the development of his language skills.
It was at Fairfax High that Montalban was first discovered by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executives while he was playing the lead role in the school play, "Tovarich".
Montalban's first major role was the 1949 film "Border Incident", with George Murphy. During the 1950s and 1960s he was one of the few working Hispanic actors. Many of his early roles were in Westerns in which he played character parts, usually as an Indian or the Latin lover. In 1950, he was cast against type, playing a Barnstable Cape Cod cop in the film noir "Mystery Street".
One of his most well-known roles was that of Mr. Roarke in the television series "Fantasy Island", from 1978 to 1984. For a time the series was one of the most popular on television. His character and his sidekick, Tattoo (played by Herve Villechaize), were pop icons. He played an entirely different role by appearing as Khan Noonien Singh in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", which he reprised from a 1967 episode of "Star Trek" called Space Seed
Aside from "Fantasy Island", Montalban is probably best remembered for his portrayals of Khan in "Star Trek" television and film works. He has appeared in many diverse films including "The Naked Gun" and two films from the "Planet of the Apes" series.
He also appeared in the second "Spy Kids" film in 2002, and the third one in 2003, as the kids' grandfather. Over the course of his long career, he has played roles or guest starred in dozens of television series. In "The Colbys", from 1985 to 1987, he played rival to Jason Colby performed by Charlton Heston.
From 1993 to 1994, Montalban was confined to a wheelchair and lived in constant pain. Reports differ as to the exact cause; one source says it is the result of nine and a half hours of spinal surgery to repair an injury he received making "Across the Wide Missouri" in 1951, while another says he was left immobilized by partial paralysis after three operations for a congenital condition affecting his spine.
He married Georgiana Young, youngest half-sister of the late film stars Polly Ann Young, Sally Blane, and the more famous Loretta Young. He and his wife married in 1944, and they have 4 children. They are devout, Christ-centered Catholics. In October, 2003, Montalban received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Catholic Media Associates for his "tenacity and faith" that Montalban said "has seen me through my many years in entertainment."
Ricardo Montalban had retained his Mexican citizenship, and was a permanent resident of the United States only. He died in his Los Angeles home of complications from old age on January 14, 2009, at age 88. His wife having died in 2007, he was survived by their four children and their six grand children.