Mexican-born leading man Ricardo Montalban died this morning at age 88. He may be best remembered now for his commercials for the Chrysler Cordoba (with the “rich Corinthian leather) and for Maxwell House coffee, but that is because even at the end of his career, his warm, inviting voice was unforgettable.
Montalban had a remarkable and varied career that included musicals (“On an Island With You”), silly comedy (The Naked Gun – From the Files of Police Squad!), drama , family movies (Spy Kids 2 – The Island of Lost Dreams and The Ant Bully), television (Fantasy Island), and of course the title role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Back in the days when Hollywood figured that any non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic group could substitute for any other, Montalban was cast as a Japanese actor in Sayonara and a Native American in movies like “Across the Wide Missouri” and on television Westerns like “Bonanza.” He performed these roles with dignity and grace. He was one of the last of the great leading men of the 1940’s-70’s and we are lucky to have so many of his magnificent performances to watch again.