Friday, January 16, 2009

THE HAT SQUAD: RICARDO MONTALBAN

I got an IM last night from a friend, asking where is the blog-love for Ricardo Montalban, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 88. Well, it was just a matter of personal priorities - the death of Patrick McGoohan had more of an impact on me and that needed to be addressed first. Hell, I haven't even finished my tributes to Pat Hingle yet either!

Like Patrick McGoohan, Ricardo Montalban offered up two giants among his varied directory of TV characters - Khan Noonian Singh of 'Star Trek' and Mr. Roarke of 'Fantasy Island'.

Khan may have languished in the roster of Montalban's many other TV roles, elevated slightly above General Sefra, Colonel Vautrain, Nick Grobbo, and Damon West by the fervor of 'Trek' geekdom, had it not been for the show's incursion into the movie universe.

In "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan", his persona expanded as his hatred of Kirk threatened to consume that universe. It's been said that Montalban out-hammed Shatner when it came to "chewing the scenery" in that movie.

That's a lotta ham.

Both of Montalban's major characters span centuries in the Toobworld timeline. As every good 'Trek' fan knows, Khan was born in the 20th Century (as to where? More later....) but he won't die until the 24th Century.

It was established in the original series of 'Fantasy Island' that Mr. Roarke, the host of 'Fantasy Island', was at least 300 years old... in that incarnation. (And we'll have more on that in a later post as well.)
Like McGoohan, Montalban played a murderer on 'Columbo', but
only the one time. (McGoohan matched wits with Lt. Columbo as four different killers.) Montalban's Luis Montoya may have been a cliche to him - a Mexican bullfighter - but he delivered more nuance to the man than probably needed.

Ricardo Montalban was the Anthony Quinn of the small screen - a master at playing many different nationalities and ethnicities - Greeks, Portugese, Spanish, French, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Japanese, members of several American Indian tribes, the Crown Prince of Montalbania and even a cow in the Tooniverse! If only for concerns about being politically correct, no one could match that variety today. (So it was only appropriate that Anthony Quinn should give that lifetime achievement award to Montalban back at the 1993 SAG Awards.)
And yet there were also quite a few roles that rose above ethnic origins, like Zach Powers of 'Dynasty' and Damon West of 'Dr. Kildare' as well as Teddy Green, Stephen Baird, Adam Steele, Martin Lynch, and TJ Gaynor from many other series.
Then there was the role of Ricardo Montalban himself, which he turned into a pop culture icon as he suavely sang the praise of the soft Corinthian leather in the Chrysler Cordoba. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that car only sold because of Montalban's masterful salesmanship.


So here's to you, Sir. Thank you for all of the great characters you've given us over so many years!

Good night and may God bless....
- Red Skelton

And speaking of Red, I have to go to the movie universe for this fitting exchange of dialogue between Mr. Skelton and Mr. Montalban. (You'll know who's who.....)


José O’Rourke:
"Hasta la vista."
Jack Spratt:
"Huh?"
José O’Rourke:
"I’m sorry. In your language that means, ‘Adios, amigo.’"
"Neptune's Daughter"


Adios, amigo......

BCnU....
Toby O'B

1 comment:

coffee said...

Dos Equis should have hired Ricardo Montalban to do a few ads for them, he could have done their "most interesting man in the world" bit perfectly (he has a Spanish accent too)