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Hallmark Hall of Fame: “The Fantasticks”

Five actors posing on a theater stage.
May 22, 2022 - 1:30 pm
intro by Professor Chon Noriega, UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television.

Newly preserved from original 2 in. videotape!

Hallmark Hall of Fame: “The Fantasticks”

U.S., 10/18/1964

Born in Mexico City in 1920, actor and activist Ricardo Montalbán’s pioneering career began with a dozen successful Spanish-language films in his native country, followed by innumerous starring roles in Hollywood ranging from stereotypical to groundbreaking. By 1971, after decades of often being relegated to “Latin lover” parts (or cast to portray races and ethnicities different from his own), Montalbán co-founded Nosotros, an advocacy organization to advance equality for Latina/o/x performers. While Montalbán’s activism would cost him work in the industry, his most iconic roles still lay ahead, from the mysterious “Mr. Roarke” of ABC’s long-running hit series Fantasy Island (1977-1984) to his reprisal of the eponymous superhuman villain in the blockbuster feature Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Demand for the gifted actor continued in the ensuing decades, with Montalbán working steadily until his death of natural causes at age 88 in 2009.

As one of Hollywood’s first Latino leading men, Montalbán brought vital representation to film and television at a time when people of color were mostly rendered invisible by the industry. One such notable instance is the actor's leading role as "El Gallo'' in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of the off-Broadway play, The Fantasticks (1964). Produced and directed on videotape by George Schaefer, the innovatively-mounted color telecast showcases Montalbán’s wry sensibilities as the cynical but charming narrator that drives the play's action. Joined by an all-star cast that includes Bert Lahr, Stanley Holloway, Susan Watson and John Davidson, Montalbán lends his indelible grace to the musical that the New York Times declared "an unalloyed delight—an interlude of melodic innocence amid all of the brittle news bulletins and mechanized show business." Viewed today, the teleplay is dated in many respects while still illuminating the timeless talent of its evergreen star, Ricardo Montalbán.

—Mark Quigley

DCP, color and b&w, 60 min. NBC. Production: A Compass Production; Hallmark Cards, Inc. Producer: George Schaefer. Director: George Schaefer. Writers: Tom Jones, Harvey Schmidt. Based on Les Romanesques by Edmond Rostand. Adapted for television by Robert Hartung. With: Ricardo Montalbán, Bert Lahr, Stanley Holloway, Susan Watson, John Davidson.

Preservation funding provided by the John H. Mitchell Television Preservation Endowment. Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from an original 2 in. videotape. Video transfer at DC Video. Engineering services by David Crosthwait. B&w sections digitally preserved by the Archive from original 16mm composite elements.