1. While he was born in Mexico City the youngest of four children, he owed his famous Castillian accent to his family’s Spanish heritage.
2. In January of 1997, he became a “Knight Commander of Saint Gregory,” the highest Papal honor bestowed upon a layperson. “My letter said, ‘It is a way of honoring people of unblemished character,’” said Montalbán, who was recognized for among other things his volunteer work with the poor, and with AIDS charities. “Well, that is where I feel I come up very short.”
3. When he was 15, Ricardo caught The Story of Alexander Graham Bell at a movie theater in Torreón, Mexico. The film starred the Young sisters, Loretta and Georgiana. He was quite taken by both of them, especially Georgiana, and he started carrying around her picture in his wallet. Georgiana would go on to become his wife of 64 years, until her death in 2007.
4. He and Georgie (as he called his wife) had four children; after that “we were ready to cool it.” In keeping with the Catholic Church, they practiced the rhythm method, and Montalbán considered it one of the reasons his union lasted so long. “Abstinence injects excitement into the marriage,” he said in 1978. “Every month is like a honeymoon.”
5. He moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and graduated from Fairfax High.
6. Montalbán had had a thriving film career in Mexico before beginning his Hollywood career in 1945, where he was typecast as the Latin Lover (in among other films, Lana Turner’s Latin Lovers). It was an archetype that he bristled against. “They were vapid parts, whereas my career in Mexico had been a series of dramatic roles,” he said.
7. Among the names that various Hollywood-types suggested that he use during his career: Richard Musclebaum, Rick Martin, and Ricky Moreno.
8. He quit smoking in 1959.
9. Both as a Catholic and the keeper of all that was mysterious and sexy, Montalbán despised pornography. “It is a cancer that debilitates relationships,” he said. “Sex is exciting when it is not that available. The imagination makes it exciting.”
10. In 1995 he won the Imagen Life Achievement Award. The awards had been started in 1985, and cite positive portrayals of Latinos and Hispanic culture on TV and in film.
11. He was born with a congenital deficiency called Arterial Venus Malformation, a condition that stayed relatively benign until 1949, when fell from a horse while filming Across the Wide Missouri after an explosion caused a feisty Pinto to bolt. After that, he had a permanent limp.
12. He had an adventurous palate and enjoyed tripe, brains and pig feet. His motto: “If something is a delicacy someplace, I give it a try.”
13. There is a theater in Hollywood that bares his name.
14. Ricardo Montalbán dabbled in carpentry. Scattered among the antiques in his Hollywood Hills home, he kept a stool that he once made without using a single nail.
15. On the subject of parenting, his philosophy was simple: “I’m not your buddy, I’m your father. This is not a democracy, and I didn’t campaign for you to elect me. We’re stuck with each other.”
16. His favorite writers were Cervantes and Shakespeare.
17. 1969, he co-founded Nosotros, an organization dedicated to promoting opportunities for Hispanic actors and eradicating the stereotypical images of them that he had to put up with for most of his career.
18. Aaron Spelling fought to get Montalbán the Mr. Roarke role that made him famous to my generation. ABC wanted either Orson Welles or John Houseman.
19. Despite his legendary palate, Ricardo and Georgie were famous for their pizza, and their impromptu 3AM pizza parties. Among the regular guests: the Rickles, the Newharts, and Anthony Quinn and his then wife Yolanda.
20. Despite his physical limitations, he was a pretty good tennis player. In the 70′s and 80′s he regularly played doubles with Johnny Carson and singles with legendary jockey Billy Shoemaker.
21. As a child he wanted to be a bullfighter. “In all honesty, I don’t have the courage,” Montalbán once said.
22. His career regret: “I never had a great role with depth.”
23. He never complained about it and never ever took medication for it, but because of his various spinal problems, he was in pain every single day of his life.
24. His acting idol was Spencer Tracy. As a teenager, Montalbán would sneak onto the MGM lot to watch him work. “His inventiveness made every take different and truthful,” he said.
25. He owned several Jaguars, but during the height of his Fantasy Island fame, he drove a $30,000 custom-built Cordoba, which among other features was upholstered in soft, Corinthian leather.
By Oliver Jones, who is a staff writer for People Magazine. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Clementine.