Thursday, January 15, 2009


Image credit: screenshot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Cujo359 (see NOTE)

The actor who played one of the most memorable bad guys in science fiction died yesterday:

Ricardo Montalban, the suave leading man who was one of the first Mexican-born actors to make it big in Hollywood and who was best known for his role as Mr. Roarke on TV's "Fantasy Island," has died. He was 88.

Ricardo Montalban Dies At 88; 'Fantasy Island' Actor

Yes, he also starred in that TV series with the little guy, but for those of us who grew up on Star Trek, Montalban was a very different character:

While making "Fantasy Island," Montalban also gave one of his best movie performances -- as Khan Noonien Singh in the “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), a follow-up to a beloved 1967 “Star Trek” television episode that also featured Montalban.

Ricardo Montalban Dies At 88; 'Fantasy Island' Actor

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Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is one of two Star Trek movies I unreservedly recommend to people who aren't Star Trek fans. Part of its charm is Montalban's just this side of over the top performance as Khan. It's an adventurous story about growing older and facing the consequences of one's actions. If you decide to see it, I recommend that you watch the director's edition DVD version; it includes scenes that flesh out both the main story line and the sub-plot of Kirk coming to terms with his life.

As one of the first Latin American stars, Montalban's efforts weren't limited to acting, as the Los Angeles Times article points out:

Although Montalban expressed appreciation for his success, he complained that Hollywood lacked respect for Mexican American actors. He said that while under contract at MGM, he portrayed Cubans, Brazilians and Argentines, but almost never Mexicans.

"Mexican is not a nice-sounding word and Hollywood is at fault for this because we have been portrayed in this ungodly manner," he said. He challenged Hollywood to stop stereotyping Latin actors by casting them only as prostitutes, maids, gang-bangers and bandidos.

Through Nosotros -- "we" in Spanish -- Montalban attempted to highlight and recognize Latino participation in the arts and entertainment. In 1970, the foundation created the Golden Eagle Awards, which annually honors Latino stars, shows and movies.

Ricardo Montalban Dies At 88; 'Fantasy Island' Actor

Image credit: screenshot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Cujo359 (see NOTE)

Montalban's qualities of dignity and kindliness made him an interesting presence on the screen no matter what role he was playing.

We'll miss you, Khan.

NOTE: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is a copyrighted work of Paramount Studios. Neither they, nor anyone else associated with the movie or Star Trek in general, approved of or contributed to this article.

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