Ricardo Montalban, the Mexican-born actor who became a star in splashy MGM musicals and later as the wish-fulfilling Mr. Roarke in TV's FANTASY ISLAND, died Wednesday morning at his home, a city councilman said. He was 88.
Montalban's death was announced at a City Council meeting by its president, Eric Garcetti, who represents the district where the actor lived. Garcetti did not give a cause of death.
"What you saw on the screen and on television and on talk shows, this very courtly, modest, dignified individual, that's exactly who he was," said Montalban's longtime friend and publicist David Brokaw.
Montalban had been a star in Mexican movies when MGM brought him to Hollywood in 1946. He was cast in the leading role opposite Esther Williams in Fiesta, and starred again with the swimming beauty in On an Island with You and Neptune's Daughter.
But Montalban was best known as the faintly mysterious, white-suited Mr. Roarke, who presided over a tropical island resort where visitors were able to fulfill their lifelong dreams - usually at the unexpected expense of a difficult life lesson. Following a floatplane landing and lei ceremony, he greeted each guest with the line: "I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island."
After the series ended in 1984, he appeared as a regular on THE COLBYS from 1985 to 1987.