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My first memory of the actor who came to play Khan Noonien Singh, in fact, is from watching an Esther Williams film on a cold, snowy Saturday afternoon with my mother. The urbane Latin lover is trying to seduce Esther, and sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside." No matter who is singing it, whenever I hear the song, I flash back to a very young, very hot, Ricardo Montalban. Not many years later, perhaps it was only months, I was sitting with my parents, watching Star Trek, and there he was--a little older, still hot, as a product of eugenics, quoting Milton to Kirk.

For many people he will forever be Mr. Roarke, or the pitchman famous for the rich intonation on "rich Corinthian leather." Or the famously Catholic, famously faithful, devoted husband and father. Or one of the groundbreaking Hispanic actors in Hollywood. For me, he is all of those, but those two images--the suave polo player, and the brilliant, ruthless, damned warrior king, are the ones seared onto the eye of my mind.

Whatever the image, he will be missed. Vaya con Dios, Senor Montalban.

And just a few hours earlier, we've lost Dr. Syn, John Drake, Number Six, the wonderful Patrick McGoohan.

I remember the vague sense of betrayal I felt as my mother and father became fans of Danger Man, and The Prisoner. This wasn't my Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, let alone my Andrew McDhui from The Three Lives of Thomasina. Over the years, I've come to appreciate those more adult shows, and his other work, but nothing I have ever seen him in, including his fantastically cold, ruthless Edward Longshanks ever eclipsed those two memories for me. He will always be for me the vigilante vicar, and the hard-headed, logical man won over by the magic of a wonderful cat, and Susan Hampshire's English rose.

Rather than a hymn of farewell, these are the words I will always hear when I think of you, Mr. McGoohan:

On the southern coast of England,
There's a legend people tell,
Of days long ago when the great Scarecrow
Would ride from the jaws of hell,
And laugh... with a fiendish yell.
With his clothes all torn and tattered,
Through the black of night he'd ride.
From the marsh to the coast like a demon ghost,
He'd rob the rich then hide,
And he'd laugh... till he split his side.
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! The soldiers of the king feared his name.
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! The country folk all loved him just the same.
He would always help the farmer when there was no gold to bring,
He'd find a way for the poor to pay the taxes of the king,
With gold... from a smugglers ring.
So the king told all his soldiers
"Hang him high or hang him low,
But never return till the day I learn
He rides in the flames below,
Or you'll hang... with the great Scarecrow."
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! The soldiers of the king feared his name.
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! The country folk all loved him just the same.

Rest ye well.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 15th, 2009 09:32 am (UTC)
While Khan is perennial for Ricardo Montalban, my sweetest memory of his crisp and perfect fencing as Captain Esteban fighting Frank Langella's Zorro.
Jan. 15th, 2009 10:27 am (UTC)
Thank you for one of the most moving pieces I've read in a long time. I, too, will always think of Ricardo Mntalban as one of my screen idols and role models. I remember wondering how anyone could make Khan live (Wrath of Khan) yet convey a sense of an actor's total joy at playing a role. You somehow knew he was having a ball doing this role. On quick side note: we left the theater after seeing Wrath of Khan, went home and I immediately grabbed my copy of Moby Dick to see how many lines they'd taken from the book as lines for Khan. I immediately recognized, "From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." I was one of those weird teen's who'd aready read Moby Dick when it was assigned to the class. When I think of Ahab I think of Gregory Peck and Ricardo Montalban.

As for Patrick McGoohan I first think of him as the Secret Agent (Danger Man) and then as Longshanks. His unique line delivery worked for him and no one else could have gotten away with it. He made movies like Ice Station Zebra stand out. (Alistair McLean's books were on my A list for a logn time and I loved the fact that hey'd found their way to the big screen. Guns of Navarone being the most popular.)

I, too, will miss both. Thank you for your tribute.

Thank you for sharing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )