As I was driving home from work last night, She Who Must Be Obeyed called to inform me of the passing of Ricardo Montalban (being the competitive people we are, my wife and I try to be the first to notify the other whenever a famous person dies). Today there are tributes all over the blogosphere. By all accounts he was as classy in real life as he appeared in his numerous film and television appearances.
There's nothing new I can add, but I'll admit I hadn't realized the extent of his television presence. In addition to a film career that spanned seven decades, Montalban was active on the small screen for more than half a century. Beginning with a role on General Electric Theater in 1956, the list of shows he appeared on are a catalogue of classic television and include Wagon Train, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Mission: Impossible, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Star Trek, Ironside, Gunsmoke, Here's Lucy, Columbo, Fantasy Island, Dynasty and Murder, She Wrote. His final appearance was the voice of a genetically enhanced cow in a 2008 episode of Family Guy.
As spokesman for the Chrysler Cordoba, Montalban starred in a much-parodied 1975 commercial that is remembered more than 30 years later. Click on the video below to experience the "soft Corinthian leather" once more.
His most famous role was that of the mysterious Mr. Roarke on the Fantasy Island. Here's a clip of the first four minutes of a third season episode. Skip ahead to the 3:45 mark to hear him intone his famous greeting "Welcome to Fantasy Island".
My final tribute to Ricardo is the trailer for 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Watch as he and Bill Shatner take turns chewing up the scenery: