Ricardo Montalban was born in Mexico City in 1920. Though he once dreamed of becoming a bullfighter, he developed a passion for acting and moved to Los Angeles to pursue that goal. His first paid acting gig was lip-syncing in a three-minute jukebox film shown in bars. After performing in summer stock and Broadway, he was forced to return to Mexico to tend to his sick mother. While there, his performance in the film La Hora de La Verdad (1945) caught the attention of an MGM scout and Montalban found himself signed to a studio contract and returning to California.
He made his Hollywood leading man debut in the musical Fiesta, and studios immediately took notice. He went on to do several musicals including Neptune's Daughter, which produced his popular duet with Esther Williams, "Baby It's Cold Outside. Montalban had significant roles in dramatic films as well, including Border Incident, Battle Ground and Across The Wide Missouri. In 1949, Life Magazine named him "Hollywood's Newest Romantic Star.
During the 1950's, Montalban was a true triple threat, appearing in acclaimed film roles, stage roles, and a selection of steady, memorable television shows. Switching between mediums effortlessly, Montalban's highlights included The King and I, Sayonara, Across the Wide Missouri, "South Pacific, "Jamaica and notable appearances on shows such as Bonanza, and Death Valley Days.
TV roles soon became the bulk of Montalban's work. His iconic performance as Khan Noonien Singh on Star Trek led to a flood of appearances on shows such as Columbo and Wonder Woman, and he won an Emmy for his work on How the West Was Won. Montalban became the spokesman for Chrysler's Cordoba luxury car and became famous for delivering the phrase "fine Corinthian leather." Legend has it TV giant Aaron Spelling was so struck by Montalban's Chrysler commercials he offered him the role of enigmatic mastermind Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island, a show that made Montalban a household name -- he even directed two episodes.
In the 1980s, Montalban continued to appear on Aaron Spelling TV series -- he had recurring roles on Dynasty and The Colbys. He returned to film to reprise his landmark role of Khan in 1982's StarTrek: The Wrath of Khanand appeared in The Naked Gun (1988). In 1994, Montalban starred in the short-lived series Heaven Help Us and in 2002, appeared in Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams. He also dabbled in voice acting, including roles on Kim Possible and Family Guy.
In addition to acting, Montalban was an activist, author and philanthropist. In 1969, he founded Nosotros, an organization that supports the advancement of Hispanic actors. He was a supporter of many charities including March of Dimes and Easter Seals and in 1998 he was honored by Pope John Paul II for his good works. Montalban died in 2009 at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 88.
"My dear guests, I am Mr. Roarke your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!"
With that signature toast, the mastermind of Fantasy Island welcomes his new guests to a place where their wildest dreams can be realized -- for better or worse. Mysterious, debonair and decked out in his trademark elegant white suit, the enigmatic Roarke modestly refers to himself as an innkeeper, but he is far more than that: He meticulously engineers every guest's $50,000 fantasy, ensuring it is fulfilled, but not always in the manner the guests imagine. A paternal man, he makes sure every guest learns a lesson, a common thread of which is that often, fantasies should not be realized.
Prior to the beginning of each fantasy, Roarke has a consultation with the guest in his office. Though he often warns a fantasy cannot be stopped until it is fulfilled, he is omnipresent throughout -- acting as a moderator, answering questions in a cryptic manner and lightly guiding guests through their fantasies. Roarke's significant ties are few, yet he appears to be closest to his diminutive assistant, Tattoo. On the surface, the two appear to have a very formal boss-employee relationship. However, Roarke has a genuine love for his kind-hearted, amusing sidekick.