Rest In Peace, Ricardo Montalbán

January 14, 2009

Sad news from Los Angeles today: actor Ricardo Montalbán has died.

Some of you might wonder why we'd mention that at you younger folks, who only knew him from Fantasy Island re-reruns and the occasional TCM screening of Madame X. But for a generation of Americans, Montalbán was the voice of Chrysler and its Cordoba.

Fate was not kind to the Cordoba--a nearly two-ton tank that launched in 1975, on the cusp of the energy crisis of the late 1970s. And although sales started out strong, they fell sharply after a year or two. The model was retired less than a decade later, in 1983, a casualty of poor timing.

But for those first glorious years, Montalbán was synonymous with the brand, and he made it look damn good, with its cushy interior and "soft Corinthian leather". (A phrase eventually popularized--probably on Saturday Night Live--as "rich Corinthian leather".)

No word on the cause of death yet, but Montalbán and his late wife, Georgiana Young, had  four children together. The obituary from the New York Times is linked in below, as is one of Montalbán's most memorable Cordoba ads.

So long, Ricardo. We can only hope that you and Herve are sipping mai tais with a battalion of hula girls in the sky...

--Richard Read


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