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Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán y Merino, MSG (born Richard Montgomery Ellenbaum; November 25, 1920 – January 14, 2009) was an American radio, television, theatre and film actor. He had a career spanning seven decades (motion pictures from 1943 to 2006) and multiple notable roles, most notably, starring in Fantasy Island, Star Trek, and in any other movie where he could use his fake Mexican accent. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants who had emmigrated to from Russia to New York City, Montalbán used his roots as an outside to hone his Method acting and play outcasts, foreigners, extraterrestrials, and other freaks in the cinema.
Birth and Childhood
Richard Montgomery Ellenbaum was born in the Bronx, New York City, USA in 1893. His father, Jeremy Ellenbaum, was a bookmaker and candlestick maker. His mother, Ethel, was a tool-and-dreidel maker. The Ellenbaum family literally came to the USA with only a suitcase. Young Ellenbaum/Montalbán was often forced to wear his mother's dresses to school because the family could not afford clothes for him.
Young Ellenbaum/Montalbán showed a penchant for acting from an early age. After his father would beat him, he would tell teachers at school tha he had fallen down the stairs - always so convincingly that the authorities never called Child Protective Services to investigate. By the time he reached high school, he was starring in such musicals as "Arkansas!" and "Gay Arab Lizards."
Young Ellenbaum/Montalbán left the East Coast after dropping out of high school at the age of 17, and headed for Bollywood, India, where the new "motion picture" industry was burgeoning. He quickly abandoned his given name and took the stage name of Ricardo Montalbán. Instead of being typecast as a Jew, he was therefore typecast as a Mexican wetback. No matter. His career thrived and he went on to star in hit television series and blockbuster movies, discussed below
He was well-known as Mr. Roarke, who pretended to be an angel who would help people live out their fantasies but was really the Devil. Actors whose careers had died would be sent to the island as punishment (it has been speculated that this was why he was there in the first place). There they could live out fantasies not for themselves, but for their few remaining fans who wanted to see them captured, hunted, shot at, abused, or kissed on the mouth by Sonny Bono, that last one being a fate truly worse than death (though Cher enjoyed it).
Mr. Roarke was assisted by a diminuative demon called Tattoo, who's main purpose was acting incompetent so Mr. Roarke could seem more impressive. Nobody remembers the name of the actor who played Tattoo, but he became more famous as Dr. Evil's Minime in the Austin Powers movies.
Montalbán is also famous for his role as the shirtless Genghis Khan in the Star Trek television episode Space Seed, where he rivaled Captain Kirk to see who could date the most mini-skirted female ensigns and produce the most children. He returned to the shirtless roll 50 years later in the movie Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. The movie, while quite popular in America, was a flop in Japan. This is probably because the name of the character was mistranslated as 芸者, Japanese for "Geisha Girl." Fans were disappointed to learn that what they thought would be a movie about a topless Japanese teenage girl was actually about a topless Mexican old guy.
In his review of the movie, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Following this, they tried to boycott the movie, but failed because... well, it's a boycott. It won't work. Never does. Just makes you look like an asshole." After the filming of Star Trek Montalbán came out as openly gay, and lives with his partner, the guy that plays Zulu.
Montalbán's acting career faded after his role as Khan, what with him being typecast as a Mexican wetback alien. There simply were not enough available roles to support such a character actor. Montalbán fell into a deep depression and entered into a suicide pact with his former co-star from Fantasy Island, the midget Herve Villachez. The two shot one another in the head in 1993, thus ending two illustrious careers.