Though I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, I first knew Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island. As you have probably heard by now, Montalban passed away last week in Los Angeles. He was 88.
Fellow Star Trek fans, of course, also remember Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-engineered supervillain from the 1967 episode “Space Seed.” In 1982, Montalban reprised the role for the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Both of his performances remain among Trek’s most celebrated.
Montalban’s entertainment career goes much farther back than Fantasy Island and Star Trek, though. In the 1940s, the Mexican-born actor started his film career in his native country. By the mid-1940s, MGM had signed him to contract and he moved to Los Angeles. His early American film roles included co-starring with Esther Williams in the movies Fiesta, On An Island With You, and Neptune’s Daughter.
In the 1950s and 1960s, much of Montalban’s main work was on television, appearing in episodes of Wagon Train, The Wild Wild West, and Mission: Impossible, among many others.
His 1977 role of Mr. Roarke on a TV movie named Fantasy Island made the actor a household name. Another Fantasy Island TV movie followed the next year, and then the TV series that ran through 1984.
During a break from the Fantasy Island series, Montalban broke away from the likableness of Mr. Roarke to once again portray Star Trek‘s supreme villain, Khan, in Star Trek II. His later work included The Naked Gun, the Spy Kids movies, and vocal work on the animated series Kim Possible.
Our condolences are with Montalban’s family and friends during this time. He will be missed.
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