The Corner

Re: Ricardo Montalban

Jonah, I’m with you on Ricardo Montalban. He was one of a select group of actors who could redeem almost any nonsense. My memory of the Dynasty spin-off, The Colbys, is that he was cast as a guy called “Zach Powers” but played him as his usual Latin charmer anyway. I loved the way, romancing Stephanie Beacham’s Sable Colby, he used to call her “Sabella”, purring over every syllable. As far as I know, she’s the only character in the history of primetime TV to be fought over by two National Review readers (aside from her old flame Ricardo, her husband on the show was Charlton Heston).

Let us also not forget Ricardo Montalban’s magnificent contribution to the clash of civilizations. You’ll recall Sayyib Qutb, the middle-class Egyptian who many decades ago paid a visit to the United States and was so disgusted by what he saw that he returned to the Middle East, became the intellectual heavyweight of the Muslim Brotherhood, and set off a chain that led from Zawahiri to bin Laden to Afghanistan and around the world. As I wrote here:

[Qutb] had the misfortune to be invited to a dance one weekend and was horrified at what he witnessed:

’The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . .’

Where was this den of debauchery? Studio 54 in the 1970s? Haight-Ashbury in the summer of love? No, the throbbing pulsating sewer of sin was Greeley, Colorado, in 1949. As it happens, Greeley, Colorado, in 1949 was a dry town. The dance was a church social. And the feverish music was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” written by Frank Loesser and sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in the film “Neptune’s Daughter.”

Why do they hate us? Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban. A great man (and still terrifically stylish as the grampa in the Spy Kids movies just a couple of years back). You can see Ricardo putting the moves on Esther here (with a switcheroo in the latter half of the number).

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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