Between movie and TV roles, Montalban was active in the theater. He starred on Broadway in the 1957 musical ``Jamaica'' opposite Lena Horne, picking up a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical.
Montalban also toured in Shaw's ``Don Juan in Hell,'' playing Don Juan, a performance critic John Simon later recalled as ``irresistible.'' In 1965 he appeared on tour in the Yul Brynner role in ``The King and I.''
``Fantasy Island'' received high ratings for most of its run on ABC, and still appears in reruns. Mr. Roarke and his sidekick, Tattoo, played by the 3-foot, 11-inch Herve Villechaize, reached the state of TV icons. Villechaize died in 1993.
In a 1978 interview, Montalban analyzed the ethereal quality of his character: ``Was he a magician? A hypnotist? Did he use hallucinogenic drugs? I finally came across a character that works for me. He has the essence of mystery, but I need a point of view so that my performance is consistent. I now play him 95 percent believable and 5 percent mystery. He doesn't have to behave mysteriously; only what he does is mysterious.''
In 1970, Montalban organized fellow Latino actors into an organization called Nosotros (``We''), and he became the first president. Their aim: to improve the image of Spanish-speaking U.S.-Americans on the screen; to assure that Latin-American actors were not discriminated against; to stimulate Latino actors to study their profession.
Montalban commented in a 1970 interview:
``The Spanish-speaking American boy sees Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid wipe out a regiment of Bolivian soldiers. He sees `The Wild Bunch' annihilate the Mexican army. It's only natural for him to say, `Gee, I wish I were an Anglo.'''
Montalban was no stranger to prejudice. He was born Nov. 25, 1920, in Mexico City, the son of parents who had emigrated from Spain. The boy was brought up to speak the Castilian Spanish of his forebears. To Mexican ears that sounded strange and effeminate, and young Ricardo was jeered by his schoolmates.
His mother also dressed him with old-country formality, and he wore lace collars and short pants ``long after my legs had grown long and hairy,'' he wrote in his 1980 autobiography, ``Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds.''
``It is not easy to grow up in a country that has different customs from your own family's.''
While driving through Texas with his brother, Montalban recalled seeing a sign on a diner: ``No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.'' In Los Angeles, where he attended Fairfax High School, he and a friend were refused entrance to a dance hall because they were Mexican.
Rather than seek a career in Hollywood, Montalban played summer stock in New York. He returned to Mexico City and played leading roles in movies from 1941 to 1945. That led to an MGM contract.
``Movies were never kind to me; I had to fight for every inch of film,'' he reflected in 1970. ``Usually my best scenes would end up on the cutting-room floor.''
Montalban had better luck after leaving MGM in 1953, though he was usually cast in ethnic roles. He appeared as a Japanese kabuki actor in ``Sayonara'' and an Indian in ``Cheyenne Autumn.'' His other films included ``Madame X,'' ``The Singing Nun,'' ``Sweet Charity,'' ``Escape from the Planet of the Apes'' and ``Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.''
Montalban was sometimes said to be the source of Billy Crystal's ``you look MAHvelous'' character on ``Saturday Night Live,'' though the inspiration was really Argentinian-born actor Fernando Lamas.
In 1944, Montalban married Georgiana Young, actress and model and younger sister of actress Loretta Young. Both Roman Catholics, they remained one of Hollywood's most devoted couples. She died in 2007. They had four children: Laura, Mark, Anita, and Victor.
Montalban suffered a spinal injury in a horse fall while making a 1951 Clark Gable Western, ``Across the Wide Missouri,'' and thereafter walked with a limp he managed to mask during his performances.
Despite the constant pain that grew worse as the decades wore on, the actor was able to take a role in an Aaron Spelling TV series, ``Heaven Help Us.'' Twice a month in 1994, he flew to San Antonio for two or three days of filming as an angel who watched over a young couple.
And when asked to play the grandfather in ``Spy Kids 2'' and ``Spy Kids 3,'' Montalban told filmmaker Robert Rodríguez in his self-effacing way: ``I'm old. I'm in a wheelchair. And I have a Mexican accent. Three strikes and you're out,'' recalled Joel Brokaw, another of the actor's spokesmen.
``But Robert Rodríguez idolized Ricardo, and came up to his home in the Hollywood Hills to convince him to do the role,'' Brokaw said. He did, and despite his obvious pain while waiting to do a scene, ``something miraculous would happen,'' Brokaw said. ``As soon as Rodríguez said 'Action,' his pain would completely disappear, time and time again. I asked him about this. He smiled and said, 'It's impossible for my mind to do two things at once.'''
Montalban is survived by daughters Laura and Anita, sons Victor and Mark, and six grandchildren.
AP entertainment writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this story.