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Fantasy Island Star Ricardo Montalban Dead

Jan. 15 2009, Published 12:36 p.m. ET

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Fantasy Island star Ricardo Montalban died today at 6:30 a.m. has learned. He passed away at his home, lovingly referred to as "Casa Montalban" by his family, in Los Angeles.

Emmy winner Montalban, 88, who retained his Mexican citizenship throughout his nearly 60 years of stardom, passed peacefully away from "natural causes" with his daughter and nurses with him, Gilbert Smith, Montalban's son in law, told His wife of 63 years, Georgiana Young, preceded him in death last year.

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Montalban lived in severe pain for many years, due to a spinal injury cause from a fall from a horse in 1951 while filming the Western The Wide Missouri. Despite surgery, the agony stayed with him and largely confined him to a wheelchair in the latter years of his life.

His son-in-law Gilbert told "He was at peace when he died. His suffering had ended. He was very conscious of his own mortality and he knew death was coming. He knew it was his time.

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"His religion and his moral backbone carried him through the tough times."

Montalban performed in 61 movies, including Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and most recently provided voice for The Ant Bully and, on television, the voice for a Family Guy episode. In all, he was in 35 television shows, including the long-running "Fantasy Island." He was a pop culture icon in the 1970s, propelled to that status by his TV commercial for the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba. Watch the video for that commercial here, with Montalban delivering the immortal phrase "soft Corinthian leather" in his signature manner.




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