Mr Roarke has left the island


Well, with Patrick McGoohan having already been done, I thought it would be nice to say farewell to the great Ricardo Montalbán. Here’s a funny thing, though. As a young man, he was one of the top stars in the Mexican movie industry, in films I’ve never seen. Not being a great aficionado of 1940s Mexican cinema (who is?), I’ve never seen any of them. But what I find interesting is his career on arriving in Hollywood. He was one of those leading men – Don Ameche would be another – who appeared in dozens of films that I’ve seen but can’t honestly remember the name of. And yet, I remember him. He seemed always to be there. There was a certain type of old film that would get shown on a Saturday afternoon and, if it didn’t have Don Ameche, it would probably have Ricardo Montalbán. He was that kind of a jobbing leading man, and he stood out even when his material didn’t.

What he’ll probably be remembered for – and I think the obits bear this out – is a smallish number of projects he took on later in life. The unforgettable Fantasy Island obviously gets a lot of mentions here, with Ricardo’s performance as a mysterious, possibly godlike, but ultimately benevolent authority figure having elevated the show probably more than it deserved. On the other hand, he did a great villain. Trekkies will fondly recall him in The Wrath of Khan. And don’t say you don’t remember The Colbys. It may have been a big pile of crap – more ludicrously OTT than even its parent Dynasty – but, by God, it was entertaining crap. A lot of that was down to Ricardo as the villain of the piece. Had he had a moustache, he would have twirled it, and his melodramatic villainy made the big pile of crap worth sitting down for. (Well, that and me having a bit of a thing for Stephanie Beacham, but let’s not go there right now.)

And you know what’s tickled me most from the obits? Discovering that, when the young Ricardo came to Hollywood, the studio wanted him to change his name to Ricky Martin. To his credit, he refused to downplay his roots. But they must have kept that one warm for popular Puerto Rican singer Enrique Morales…


  1. A said,

    January 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Splinty — He was a Hollywood pioneer for the people of Latin America.

    Since you threw in a sci-fi reference, it’s given me an opportunity to briefly discuss Battlestar Galactica with you. Have you seen episode 1 of the final BSG season yet? They aired it last night in the colony across the pond (Canada). Quite good … answers a couple of questions yet raises many more!

    So say we all!

  2. Garibaldy said,

    January 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    It’s on here on Tuesday night.

  3. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 17, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I plan to do something on BSG in the near future. So say we all!

  4. WorldbyStorm said,

    January 17, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Kris kindle (krindle?) brought me BSG box set for … er… Christmas. I’d lost touch at the end of Season 2. What a great show. Say nothing… nothing I tell you!

  5. WorldbyStorm said,

    January 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    And I very very fondly recall Ricardo Montalban from The Wrath of Khan. A great villain. Made the movie, which was perhaps the best of the Trek films.

  6. Garibaldy said,

    January 18, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Kringle I believe.

  7. Ciarán said,

    January 18, 2009 at 4:17 am


    (Sorry, had to get it out of the way.)

  8. Austin said,

    January 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I saw Montalban on a US game show in the early 1970’s. A woman asked him why he didn’t he didn’t appear in movies more often. In a matter-of -fact tone of voice, he said something to this effect: “Hollywood doesn’t have many roles for Mexicans.”

  9. Madam Miaow said,

    January 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Titty Montelban. Owner of the greatest pair of pecs in cinematic history. No wonder Splinty featured him.

  10. frunobulax said,

    January 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s a little gem – Mystery Street (1950)
    The DVD ‘noir’ set is well worth a punt (not many aliens though).

  11. January 19, 2009 at 11:35 am

    “Ah, Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? … It is very cold in space.”

  12. coffee said,

    February 12, 2009 at 12:16 am

    in retrospect, i think Dos Equis should have hired Ricardo Montalban to do a few ads for them as their “most interesting man in the world” (he has a Spanish accent too, which fits perfectly)

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