Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, KSG was a Mexican radio, television, theatre and film actor. He had a career spanning seven decades and multiple notable roles. During the mid-1970s, Montalbán was most notable as the spokesman in automobile advertisements for the Chrysler Cordoba. From 1977 to 1984, he became famous as Mr. Roarke the main star in the television series Fantasy Island. He played Khan Noonien Singh in both the 1967 episode “Space Seed” of the first season of the, and the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He won an Emmy Award in 1978, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1993. Into his 80s, he continued to perform, often providing voices for animated films and commercials, and appearing in several Spy Kids films as “Grandfather Valentin”.
Montalbán was born in Mexico City, but grew up in the city of Torreón, the son of Castilian Spanish émigrés Ricarda Merino and Jenaro Montalbán, a store manager. He was raised as devout Roman Catholic. Montalbán had a sister, Carmen, and two brothers, Pedro and the actor Carlos Montalbán. As a teenager, Ricardo moved to Los Angeles to live with Carlos. The two went to New York City in 1940, and Ricardo earned a minor role in the play, Her Cardboard Lover.
In 1941, he appeared in his first motion pictures, three-minute musicals produced for the Soundies film jukeboxes. Montalbán appeared in many of the New York?produced Soundies as an extra or as a member of a singing chorus. Ricardo Montalbán’s first starring film was He’s a Latin from Staten Island, in which the young Latin played the title role of a guitar-strumming gigolo, accompanied by an offscreen vocal by Gus Van.
Late in 1941, Montalbán learned that his mother was dying, so he returned to Mexico. There, he acted in a dozen Spanish-language films and became a star in his homeland.