Ricardo Montalban art print, poster - Ricardo Montalban by Celebrity Image
Ricardo Montalban, one of Hollywood's first Latino leading men, who had a long career as a television and movie actor but whose lingering fame perhaps owes most to a less august role as the debonair concierge of "Fantasy Island," died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 88.
His death was announced by Eric Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles City Council, who represents the Hollywood district where Montalban lived and where a theater is named for him, The Associated Press reported. He did not give a cause.
Every week on "Fantasy Island," a fairy tale of wish fulfillment and exotic luxury that was shown on ABC from 1978 to 1984, a planeload of visitors with unachieved dreams flew in to a remote resort somewhere in the Pacific and were greeted by their dream facilitators, the sleek and suavely welcoming Mister Roarke, played by Montalban, and his assistant, Tattoo, an irrepressibly spirited dwarf played by Hervé Villechaize. They became one of television's most legendary odd couples.
Though Mister Roarke became Montalban's signature role, it was a mere bump in the timeline of a career that spanned decades, media and genres. Montalban embodied stereotypes, fought them and transcended them in his years in show business.
In 1971, troubled by the way he was asked to portray Mexicans, he helped found Nosotros, an advocacy group for Latinos working in the movie and television industry. As president of the organization, he later said: "I received tremendous support, but there were also some negative repercussions. I was accused of being a militant, and as a result I lost jobs."
Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban y Merino was born in Mexico City on Nov. 25, 1920, and moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to live with his older brother Carlos, who was pursuing a career in show business. The brothers traveled to New York in 1940, and Ricardo landed a bit part in "Her Cardboard Lover," a play starring Tallulah Bankhead.
Montalban made his Hollywood debut in 1947 in "Fiesta," a musical in which he was cast as an aspiring toreador with a twin sister, improbably played by the movie's star, Esther Williams. They also starred together a year later in "On an Island With You." The next year he was signed as a contract player for MGM, and he specialized in Latin-lover roles, perfecting if not defining the stereotype. He played opposite Cyd Charisse ("Mark of the Renegade"), Shelley Winters ("My Man and I") and Pier Angeli ("Sombrero"), among others. A 1953 film in which he starred with Lana Turner was actually called "Latin Lovers."
Like other minority actors of the time, Montalban, with his dark good looks and his Spanish accent, seemed to be a kind of racial utility player. This was the era of the western, and he repeatedly played American Indians, including a Blackfoot war chief in "Across the Wide Missouri." He appeared as an ancient Babylonian in "The Queen of Babylon" and as a Japanese Kabuki actor in "Sayonara." In the Broadway musical "Jamaica," set on a mythical Caribbean island, he starred opposite Lena Horne in a cast that was, aside from himself, entirely African-American. For his performance he was nominated for a Tony in 1958.
In 1967, during the first season of "Star Trek," he was a guest star as Khan Noonien Singh, a tyrannical superhuman villain; he reprised the role in the 1982 "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," giving a performance that was gleefully and confidently weird.
In recent years Montalban found work in children's entertainment, appearing in the "Spy Kids" movies and providing the voice of characters on the television series "Dora the Explorer" and in the 2006 film "The Ant Bully," in which he plays the leader of an ant colony's ant council.Also...
Cult actor Patrick McGoohan, "The Prisoner", has passed away on Tuesday.
Patrick McGoohan, a multifaceted actor who spun television legend by creating and starring in the 1960s program "The Prisoner," a mysterious allegory about a mysterious man in a mysterious seaside village that became a cult classic, died Jan. 13 in Los Angeles. He was 80.
His death was announced on the Web site of the official appreciation society of "The Prisoner," Six of One, of which McGoohan was honorary president since its founding 32 years ago. His agent, Sharif Ali, said McGoohan had died suddenly after a brief illness.
McGoohan's career ranged from success on the stages of the West End in London to starring in a popular spy series called "Secret Agent" in the United States. He was critically praised for his King Edward Longshanks in Mel Gibson's 1995 film "Braveheart" and won Emmys as a guest star on "Columbo" in 1975 and 1990.
But it was as the lead character in "The Prisoner," identified only as No.6, that he struck a remarkable chord with audiences, all on the strength of just 17 episodes. Broadcast on CBS in 1968 and 1969, it tells the story of an unnamed spy who resigns his position and is then gassed in his apartment as he packs his bags. He wakes up in the Village, superficially a resort community but actually a high-tech prison. In each episode, No.6 struggles with the camp authority figure, No.2, who pressures him to say why he resigned. No.2 is played by a different actor each time.
"The Prisoner" remains "one of the most enigmatic and fascinating series ever produced for television" the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago said on its Web site, adding that some critics believe it to be "television's first masterpiece."
A question that has long intrigued fans is whether "The Prisoner" grew directly out of "Danger Man," as "Secret Agent" was known in Britain. "Danger Man" began in London in 1960, then ran briefly on CBS in 1961 as a half-hour show before becoming an hourlong show on CBS in the mid-1960s.
A 1964 episode had McGoohan's character, John Drake, infiltrating a spy school in the middle of nowhere that the instructors had scant hope of leaving. Did Drake later materialize as No.6?
McGoohan always said no, although three episodes of "Danger Man" had been shot at the Hotel Portmeirion, a series of fantasy buildings on the Welsh seacoast, which he acknowledged was an inspiration for the Village. He said in 1977 that boredom with "Danger Man" had inspired him to create "The Prisoner," for which he wrote and directed some episodes.
Patrick Mcgoohan: Danger Man or Prisoner?