Thursday, January 15, 2009
Legendary actor Ricardo Montalban has just died. He was one of the last stars from the studio system era. He was well known for his "Latin lover" roles in the 40's and the 50's. His look was so exotic he sometimes played Asians and Arabs in movies. He was in such top shape through his life that the women swooned.
But that's not really what he was known for. In the 60's he was relegated to supporting roles in the movies. He started doing guest roles on some TV shows, including an episode on a low rated science fiction show.
He had appeared in two sequels of the Planet of the Apes movie franchise in the early 70's. By the mid 70's he started doing television commercials for the Chrysler Cordova. His reading of the term "Corinthian Leather" made the car a big seller. This also helped him get the lead in his most successful role, Mr. Roarke of "Fantasy Island." This was a silly show that was a huge hit. It was a Saturday night staple from the late 70's to the early 80's.
Due to his new popularity, he revisited the role from that sci-fi from the 60's. The low rated series was Star Trek. The role was Khan from an episode called "Space Seed." Star Trek was making a series of movies to capitalize on its growing popularity. So the second movie in the series featured Ricardo Montalban as Khan in what is widely regarded as the best movie in the franchise.
He continued to work constantly even after we was mostly confined to a wheelchair. He did a lot of voice work towards the end of his life.
I like the guy. I get a kick watching old movies on TCM and seeing his dashing presence. He projected nobility even in his villainous roles. Another legend gone.