Friday, January 16, 2009

My Tribute To Ricardo Montalban

My Tribute To Actor Ricardo Montalban


Dr.Franklin Ruehl,Ph.D.

Suave! Handsome! Elegant! Sophisticated!

These are just a few of the adjectives that can be invoked when describing the late actor Ricardo Montalban, who just passed away at age 88. His many and varied roles, which he handled most ably in each instance, included a matador who danced with Cyd Charisse in "Fiesta" (1947), a detective endeavoring to solve a murder in Boston in "Mystery Street"(1950), a Kabuki actor in "Sayonara"(1957), and a nefarious tycoon in "Naked Gun:From The Files of Police Squad"(1988).

Personally, I was especially impressed with a choice role he had as the guest murderer on TV's "Columbo" as well as the part of a smooth-as-silk Nazi spy in "Operation Cicero" from Fox's "Hour of Stars"(which was a 1-hour remake for television of the 1952 James Mason thriller,"Five Fingers").

Of course, he will deservedly be best remembered as the iconic Mr.Roarke, the gentleman who greeted arriving visitors to "Fantasy Island"(1978-84 series) and helped the fantasizers realize their dreams, often with negative consequences, enabling them to learn what is truly worthwhile in life. He was ideally suited to portray this otherworldly character, and along with his 3-foot-tall assistant,Tattoo (Herve Villechaize), has been granted television immortality.

However, as a sci-fi buff, I would have to nominate his role as the superhuman Khan on "Star Trek" as his very finest hour. Introduced in the 1967 episode, "Space Seed," he was the leader of a contingent of superior humans who had been placed in hibernation, only to be thawed out by the Enterprise crew. Ultimately, they were consigned to a primitive planet by Captain Kirk. But, in an intriguing sequel, they made their presence felt again in the 2nd "Star Trek" film, "Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan"(1982), with Khan seeking vengeance for his plight. Montalban's characterization spanned a broad range of emotions, and was deserving of the highest commendation!

As an intriguing sidebar, he suffered a spinal injury from falling off a horse back in 1951 while filming “Across the Wide Missouri.” This left him with s permanent limp, but, with his tremendous strength of will, this gutsy actor always managed to conceal it!

While you have passed on, Ricardo, you will not be forgotten, and may the Power of the Cosmos be with You wherever you are now!

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