Ricardo Montalban, an actor with a decades long career, but who was best known as Mr. Rourke, the mysterious owner of Fantasy Island, and Khan Noonien Singh, the best known of the Star Trek villains, died at the age of 88.
Ricardo Montalban, a Mexicn national, began his film career in the 1940s appearing in such films as Neptune’s Daughter with Esther Williams and Battleground, an early depiction of the Battle of the Bulge with Van Johnson and George Murphy. Ricardo Montalban would generally play the Latin lover opposite such stars as Williams, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Shelly Winters, Yvonne De Carlo, among others.
Ricardo Montalban, besides Hispanics, would play a variety of ethnic roles in the movies and on TV. He was Japanese in the film Sayonara and in an episode of Hawaii Five-O, a Native American in a variety of westerns, and, of course, a Sikh in the Classic Star Trek episode Space Seed and in the Star Trek film Wrath of Khan.
Ricardo Montalban helped to create the Nosostros Foundation, which sought to recognize the achievements of Hispanics in the performing arts. Nosostros created the Golden Eagle Awards, which annually recognizes achievements of Hispanic performers.
One of Ricardo Montalban’s iconic characters is that of the mysterious Mr. Rourke, owner and operator of Fantasy Island, the subject of a popular 1970s television series. The premise of Fantasy Island was that people would pay large sums of money to be taken to the island, somewhere in the Pacific, to have their deepest fantasies fulfilled. These fantasies were usually given with a side helping of a moral lesson. Mr. Rourke, always seen in a white, tropical suit, was an enigmatic but benevolent figure whose origins and motivations remained unclear.
Ricardo Montalban is best known for his role as the fallen tyrant Khan Noonien Singh, who appeared first in an episode of Classic Star Trek Space Seed. In the Star Trek universe, Khan was the leader of a group of genetically enhanced supermen who seized a quarter of the world in the early 1990s. A five year long war was fought to eliminate their tyrannical rule. Khan and the surviving supermen escaped in a space ship, called ironically the Botany Bay, and placed themselves in suspended animation.
Centuries later, the star ship Enterprise came upon the Botany Bay and, unfortunately, revived Khan, not known at first who he was. Khan, despite being a villain, had his attractive qualities, strength, generosity, and more than a little attractiveness. He is apparently regarded with more than a little admiration in the 23rd Century, much as Napoleon and Caesar are in our time. After failing to capture the Enterprise, her commanding officer, Captain Kirk, exiles Khan and his followers to a harsh planet for safety.
Fast forward fifteen years later. In the film Wrath of Khan, Khan and his surviving followers escape their exile and threaten the peace of the galaxy again, once again to be confronted by now Admiral Kirk and the Enterprise. Khan, as played by Ricardo Montalban, is now more than a little bit insane, thanks to the privations he and his have endured. Once again he is thwarted.
Ricardo Montalban went on to play in a variety of roles, including that of the grandfather in the last two Spy Kids films with another Hispanic actor, Antonio Banderas, In his later years, Ricardo Montalban was confined to a wheel chair due to complications of an old horse back riding injury.
Ricardo Montalban was universally known as gracious to anyone he encountered. He was eighty eight when he died.
Source: Ricardo Montalban Has Passed Away…, Harry Knowles, Aintitcool, January 14th, 2009