One of the most impersonated actors in the 70’s and 80’s was Ricardo Montalban, who made himself a pop culture icon several times over. With one of the most famous voices of the era, Montalban was a staple in commercials, theater, film and television. But that ended yesterday when Montalban was pronounced dead at the age of 88.
Montalban died in his home at Los Angeles, due to complications from his old age, according to his son-in-law. A city council member in Los Angeles was the first to announce Montalban’s death.
Montalban spent six decades working in show business, but is best known for his work in two of those decades. Before becoming a major star in the 70’s and 80’s, Montalban was a supporting actors in films going all the way back to the 1940’s.
MGM signed Montalban up in 1947, where he and Fernando Lamas regularly battled for “Latin lover” parts. After his contract was up at MGM, Montalban went to the stage, appearing on Broadway in the likes of “Seventh Heaven” and “Jamaica.”
Montalban continued to appear in films, even branching out to television. That led to a famed 1967 guest spot on a show called Star Trek.
Montalban first big break in the 70’s was as a commercial announcer for Chrysler. There, Montalban’s voice was first noticed – and widely impersonated – for his delivery of such phrases as “rich Corinthian leather.”
1978 brought Montalban even bigger fame, as the host of the mysterious Fantasy Island, back when television islands were more fun loving and less puzzling to figure out. Montalban made tourists’ dreams come true for six seasons on ABC.
During that time, Montalban returned to one of his former television guest star roles and brought it out into the big screen. 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is still regarded as the high mark in the famed series, mostly thanks to Montalban as the deranged, vengeful Khan. Or “KHHAAANNN!!” as Kirk might say.
Montalban was assured as a staple in pop culture for these three projects. He continued to work up to the end of his life, most notably in films like the first Naked Gun and the last two Spy Kids movies.
The death of Montalban was also joined by the death of another well known television personalty. Patrick McGoohan, star of the cult mysteries series The Prisoner, was also pronounced dead yesterday at the age of 80, due to illness. McGoohan was also best known as villains in films like Escape from Alcatraz and Braveheart.
SF Gate- “Suave actor Ricardo Montalban dies” www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi
Wired- “R.I.P. Ricardo Montalban, 1920-2009 and Patrick McGoohan, 1928-2009” blog.wired.com/geekdad/2009/01/rip-ricardo-mon.html