On Jan. 14, 2009, the 88-year-old actor passed away at his home in Los Angeles, with his daughter at his side.
Despite being one of the first heavily employed and high profile Hispanic actors working in post-war Hollywood of the 1950s and ‘60s, Ricardo Montalbán became strangely more famous later in his career – first, as the mysterious host Mr. Roarke on the TV hit drama, “Fantasy Island” (ABC, 1978-1984), followed not long after by his classic turn as Captain Kirk’s arch nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982).
Montalbán was born on Nov. 20, 1920 in Mexico City, Mexico. As a teenager he moved to the United States at the behest of his elder brother Carlos Montalban, where his poor English skills threatened to keep him out of Los Angeles high schools. Studying English for hours each day at downtown L.A.’s Belmont High School, he had improved enough to be accepted to the more esteemed Fairfax High School, where he started trying out for and winning parts in plays. It was at Fairfax where a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer executive first caught him on stage during a performance of “Tovarich.” The exec was impressed enough to signing Montalban to a contract with the then largest and most prestigious studio in town.