Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009)

In the late actor’s long career, there were several distinct phases. Stardom in Mexico. Making waves with Esther Williams. “I am Mr. Rourke, your host.” Soft Corinthian leather. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. An entire generation of kids now knows him as the grandfather from the Spy Kids movies. Not many performers stay relevant for so long.

But you know the Montalban who will be celebrated here: the hard-boiled one. The undercover federale working hand in hand with an American agent to bust an immigrant smuggling ring in Border Incident. The small-town cop faced with big city murder and willing to take a chance on the boys in the lab in the proto-CSI Mystery Street. The detective itching for some of his crooked partner’s action in The Money Trap. All good movies made better by Montalban’s charismatic presence.

Mark Evanier has a story about working with Ricardo Montalban that’s a good one.