A Year: Day to Day Men: 25th of November, Solar Year 2018
The Jaguar Hunter
November 25, 1920 marks the birthdate of actor Ricardo Montalban.
Born in Mexico City, Mexico, to Spanish immigrants, Ricardo Montalban made his New York stage debut in 1940 in a small role in “Her Cardboard Lover”, starring Tallulah Bankhead. In 1947 he landed his first major Hollywood film role in the musical “Fiesta”, playing twin siblings with Esther Williams. Montalbam had a memorable dance number in that film with Cyd Charisse.
The dark, handsome Montalbam with the Spanish accent would go on to play numerous Latin romantic-types. He teamed up again with Esther Williams in two more films, the musical romantic comedy “Neptune’s Daughter” and the 1948 romantic comedy “On an Island with You”. In 1949, Montalbam broke from his romantic typecast to play a border agent in the suspense drama film “Border Incident” directed by Anthony Mann.
During the 1950s and 1960s Montalbam was one of only a handful of actively working Hispanic actors in Hollywood, often playing characters of different ethnicities, such as the character Nakamura in the 1957 “Sayonara” and Tokura in a “Hawaii Five-O” episode. He also starred as a naive, penniless French duke in the romance comedy “Love is a Ball” released in 1963.
Ricardo Montalbam’s best known television role was that of the man in the white suit with the cultured demeanor, Mr. Roarke, on the television series “Fantasy Island” which ran from 1977 to 1984. The series was one of the most popular on television at that time, making him and his co-star Herve Villechaize, playing Tattoo, popular icons.
Montalbam’s most well-known film role was the character of Khan Noonien Singh in the 1982 “Star Trek II: The Wrath of khan”, in which he reprised the role he had originated in the 1967 episode of “Star Trek” titled “Space Seed”. Montalbam was already physically fit; so Khan’s costume was specifically designed to display his physique. He agreed to take the role at a significant pay cut because he relished reprising his original character. His only regret, he said, was that he and William Shatner never interacted in their roles; the scenes were all done through video communication, filming their scenes months apart to accommodate Montalbam’s schedule for “Fantasy Island”.
Montalbam reacted to the poor way Mexicans were being portrayed by establishing with other stars the Nosotros (We) Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latinos in the movie and television industry. He served as its first president. The foundation created the Golden Eagle Awards, an annual awards show that highlights Latino actors. The awards are presented in conjunction with the Nosotros American Latino Film Festival, held at the now named Ricardo Montalbam Theater in Hollywood.