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Fantasy Island Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

With the new "Fantasy Island" revival underway on Fox, it's a good time to take another look at the original series, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1984. The series was created by writer/director Gene Levitt and produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, whose long list of credits included "Beverly Hills 90210," "Charlie's Angels," "Charmed," and "The Love Boat," which aired before "Fantasy Island" on Saturday evenings. 

The series starred veteran Hollywood actor Ricardo Montalban as the island's enigmatic proprietor, Mr. Roarke, who could grant guests' most fervent desires and dreams. Actor Herve VIllechaize was cast as Roarke's sidekick, Tattoo; actress Wendy Schaal briefly joined the cast in 1981 as Roarke's goddaughter, Julie, and Christopher Hewett of "Mr. Belvedere" fame replaced Villechaize for the show's final season.

The small cast of series regulars and anthology-style format of the episodes required guest stars to fill out the roles of the island's clients and those they encountered in their fantasies. Many of the actors who appeared on "Fantasy Island" enjoyed more than one visit to Roarke's mysterious vacation spot, and continue to work in features and on television to this day. Given that the show's final episode aired nearly four decades ago, many "Fantasy Island" guests have also died. Following is a list of "Fantasy Island" actors you may not know passed away.

Spoilers may follow.

Angel? Devil? Ricardo Montalban's Roarke was a bit of both

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation in 2002, Emmy-winning actor Ricardo Montalban said that he played Mr. Roarke, the host of Fantasy Island, as a fallen angel sent to Earth for the sin of pride. That interpretation certainly tracks with Montalban's performance, which veers at various times from charming and genial to something approaching sinister.

That's certainly the vibe one gets from watching the actor in the "Fantasy Island" pilot movies, where his Roarke is more puppet master than master of ceremonies. Mr. Roarke's dark side receded in later seasons, though he could certainly summon it when warning guests about the island's hidden repository of horrors: vampires, ghosts, monsters, and more.

A major star in Hollywood dating back to the mid-1940s, and one of the first Mexican actors to achieve stardom in America, Montalban brought both power and grace to countless roles, including numerous action-adventure films, thrillers, romances and musicals. He was best known to modern moviegoers as Khan in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and Grandpa Valentin in "Spy Kids 2" and "Spy Kids 3-D," while also appearing in "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" and two of the original "Planet of the Apes" movies. Montalban was also a vocal supporter of Latino actors, creating the Nosotros Foundation in 1970 to advocate for better film and television roles. The 88-year-old actor died of congestive heart failure at his Los Angeles home on January 14, 2009.

Herve Villechaize achieved fame but not happiness as Tattoo

Herve Villiechaize's first love was painting, but he fell into acting after moving from his home in Paris, France to New York City in 1964. Roles in Off-Broadway plays and experimental films led to his breakout role as Knick Knack, assistant to Christopher Lee's Scaramanga in "The Man with the Golden Gun." The success of that James Bond adventure led to his most widely known and seen role — as Tattoo, the mischievous right hand man to Mr. Roarke on "Fantasy Island."

Villechaize was given the lion's share of comic lines on the series, as well as its most enduring pop culture sound bite — his cry of "De plane! De plane!" as the latest batch of vacationers arrived on the island. Off-camera, Villechaize earned a reputation for harassing women on the set and battling with producers. When he demanded a pay raise equal to Montalban's salary in 1983, Villechaize was dismissed from the series.

The actor never found a subsequent role that brought the same degree of fame as Tattoo. Struggles with physical and mental health led to Villechaize committing suicide on the morning of September 4, 1993. His tumultuous life was later the subject of a TV-movie, "My Dinner with Herve," with Emmy winner Peter Dinklage as Villechaize.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Christopher Hewett: Once a TV butler...

After Herve Villechaize's departure from "Fantasy Island" prior to its seventh season in 1983, the producers introduced Lawrence, a proper English butler who announced guests' arrivals on the island with the push of a button to ring the bell. Lawrence offered a change of pace from the energetic Villechaize, but his debut season was also the series' last: the original iteration of "Fantasy Island" left the airwaves in May of 1984.

British actor Christopher Hewett, who played Lawrence on the final season of "Fantasy Island," was a Broadway and television veteran for decades prior to his stint on the ABC series. Hewett was probably best known as the astonishingly untalented director Roger De Bris in Mel Brooks' original feature film version of "The Producers." One year after "Fantasy Island" was canceled, Hewett scored the title role in the ABC sitcom "Mr. Belvedere," about a butler who worked for an American family in suburban Pittsburgh. "Belvedere" was Hewett's last significant screen project; he died of complications from diabetes at the age of 80 on August 3, 2001.

Carol Lynley made 11 visits to Fantasy Island

Two-time Golden Globe nominee Carol Lynley made 11 appearances on "Fantasy Island" between its first and final seasons, include the pilot episode, which was much darker in tone than the actual series. Lynley appeared in some of the most unusual episodes in the series' history, including Season 4's "The Devil and Mandy Breem/Instant Millionaire," in which she turns to Roarke to save her soul after selling it to the Devil (Roddy McDowall) in exchange for the life of her ailing husband (Adam West)!

Lynley also played a lovelorn woman who wants to meet Cyrano de Bergerac (played by John Saxon) in Season 5 's "Cyrano/The Magician," and a wife pursued by the Angel of Death (Gary Collins) in Season 6's "The Angel's Triangle/Natchez Bound."

A major star in the 1960s and early 1970s thanks to films like "Return to Peyton Place" and "The Poseidon Adventure," Lynley's career was in decline during the time of her first "Fantasy Island" appearance in 1977. She spent much of the ensuing decades on episodic TV and low-budget features until her final screen appearance in the short "Vic," directed by Sylvester Stallone's son Sage. Lynley died of a heart attack at the age of 77 on September 3, 2019.

Dack Rambo: guest, prince, and ghost

A leading man from the late '60s through the early '90s, Dack Rambo also turned up in six episodes of "Fantasy Island" between 1978 and 1984. His appearance in Season 1's "The Prince/The Sheriff" epitomized his "Island" roles: he plays a royal who wants to live as an average citizen, which connects him with not only his subjects but also a romance with Lisa Hartman. Rambo also played a ghost who fell for Tanya Roberts on Season 5's "A Ghost's Story/The Spoilers," and turned up in two of the more outrageous episodes: Season 3's "Tattoo: The Love God/Magnolia Blossoms" and Season 5's "The Devil and Mr. Roarke/Ziegfield Girls/Kid Corey Rides Again," with Roddy McDowall reprising his turn as Satan.

Rambo — whose real name was Norman Rambo — and his identical twin brother, Dirk (real name: Orman) began appearing on television in the early 1960s. Dirk Rambo died in a road accident in 1967, but Dack continued to work on TV, most notably in the TV Western "The Guns of Will Sonnett," and as Jack Ewing on "Dallas."

While appearing on "Another World" in 1990, Rambo learned that he was HIV-positive. Rambo made his health status and bisexuality public in 1991, and advocated for AIDS education and research until his death at age 52 on March 21, 1994.

Cowboy actor Alex Cord got scary on Fantasy Island

Shortly before landing his role as Archangel on "Airwolf" in 1984, actor Alex Cord's busy schedule of TV guest appearances include five episodes of "Fantasy Island" between 1980 and 1984. Several of these fall under the show's forays into supernatural or horror territory: Season 4's "With Affection, Jack the Ripper" featured a search for the infamous London murderer, while "Delphine/The Unkillable" (from the same season) pitted Cord's scientist against a cave-dwelling monster. Cord would later play a Roman soldier guarding the Fountain of Youth in "Eternal Flame/A Date with Burt" in Season 6.

Cord, who began his career in TV and feature Westerns, was himself in something of a horror and fantasy stage during the late 1970s and early '80s: he appeared in several fright films, including "Chosen Survivors" and the Australian chiller "Inn of the Damned," and starred in "Genesis II," an unsold pilot from "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry.

"Airwolf" raised his profile in the late '80s, and he enjoyed steady work as a guest star on various series until the late 1990s. He later devoted his energies to writing novels and supporting a number of charities. Cord, who lived in Texas, died at his home there on August 9, 2021 at the age of 88.

Roddy McDowall bedeviled Fantasy Island twice

A prolific and versatile actor in features and on television for nearly his entire life, Emmy winner Roddy McDowall was one of the few guest stars on "Fantasy Island" to enjoy a recurring role. He played Mephistopheles — the Devil himself — on Season 4's "The Devil and Mandy Breem/Instant Millionaire," and reprised the Prince of Darkness for Season 5's "The Devil and Mr. Roarke/Ziegfield Girls/Kid Corey Rides Again," for which he battles the "Fantasy Island" host for his soul.

McDowall also turned up in Season 2's "Bowling/Command Performance" as a bitter ex-circus performer, and in a romantic turn opposite Donna Mills in Season 3's "The Chain Gang/The Boss."

The actor, whose long career encompassed such pop culture touchstones as "Planet of the Apes," "The Poseidon Adventure," "Fright Night," "The Black Hole," and "A Bug's Life," was also a celebrated photographer and founding member of the National Film Preservation Board. After completing four projects in 1998, including voicing Mr. Soil in "A Bug's Life," the 70-year-old McDowall died of pancreatic cancer at his Los Angeles home on October 3, 1998.

Carolyn Jones haunted four Fantasy Island episodes

Though she was best known as Morticia on "The Addams Family" TV series, Golden Globe winner Carolyn Jones had a long screen career in features and on television before and after the program, which ran from 1964 to 1966. Jones' features included 1957's "Bachelor Party," for which she received an Oscar nomination, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much," and the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," while her TV career included "Batman" (as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds), "Wonder Woman" (as Queen Hippolyta) and four episodes of "Fantasy Island."

Jones, who was married to "Fantasy Island" co-producer Aaron Spelling from 1953 to 1965, essayed character roles on her four appearances. Some were offbeat: she was the manipulative mother of country singer Audrey Landers in Season 3's "The Handyman/Tattoo's Romance," and the matriarch of a moonshine-making family in Season 4's "The Chateau/White Lightning." Others were sympathetic, like her turn in Season 5's "Daddy's Little Girl/The Whistle" as the mother of a woman (Genie Francis) searching for her birth father.

Diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in 1981, Jones kept working, most notably on the daytime soap "Capitol," and married her fourth husband, actor Peter Bailey-Britton, in 1982. Jones died of complications from the disease at the age of 53 on August 3, 1983.

B-movie and Western vet Cameron Mitchell rode the Fantasy Island range

The 1970s and '80s were a busy period for character actor Cameron Mitchell, but he found time to make four appearances on episodes of "Fantasy Island." He appeared as a resident of Fantasy Island on the second pilot film, "Return to Fantasy Island," in 1978, and later made three appearances on the series, including Season 5's "The Devil and Mr. Roarke/Ziegfield Girls/Kid Corey Rides Again," which cast him in a familiar role: an Old West lawman.

Mitchell rose to fame on Broadway in "Death of a Salesman" and studio A-pictures like "How to Marry a Millionaire" during the 1950s. He was later a staple of movie and TV Westerns throughout his career, including the long-running "High Chaparral' series from 1967 to 1971. Financial troubles forced Mitchell to work almost ceaselessly in the 1970s; in 1979, the year he appeared in Season 3's "The Chain Gang/The Boss," Mitchell was also featured on "Hawaii Five-O," the forgotten TV series "Matt and Jenny," an Americanized version of an Italian horror film ("Island of the Fishmen"), an Spanish superhero fantasy ("Supersonic Man"), and two Stateside chillers ("The Silent Scream" and "The Demon").

That mix of low-budget drive-in fare and TV appearances summed up Mitchell's acting career until 1994, when he died of lung cancer at the age of 75. However, footage of him filmed between 1970 and 1974 was later included in the 2018 release of Orson Welles' long-gestating final feature, "The Other Side of the Wind."

Mabel King was happening on three episodes of Fantasy Island

When Broadway star Mabel King ended her two-season tenure on the sitcom "What's Happening!!" in 1978, she found steady work in features, on stage and on television. The former included supporting roles in "The Jerk" and a reprise of her award-winning turn as Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in a screen adaptation of "The Wiz." The latter included appearances on series like "Barney Miller" and three guest shots on "Fantasy Island."

King's first "Island" role on Season 1's "Bet a Million/Mr. Irresistible" was little more than a cameo — she's one of several women who falls for John Schuck after he fantasizes about being desired by every female he meets. She later played a poker dealer for John Rubinstein's fantasy of becoming a card champ on Season 2's "Photographs/Royal Flush," and showed off her vocal talents as a New Orleans jazz singer on Season 4's "Basin Street/The Devil's Triangle."

Complications from diabetes cut short King's career in the late 1980s and eventually required the amputation of both legs. King's health further declined after a stroke in 1990, and she died on November 9, 1999 at the age of 66.

Before he was Captain Spaulding, Sid Haig visited Fantasy Island

Cult favorite and OG movie bad guy Sid Haig did what he did best — lend memorable and menacing support — on three episodes of "Fantasy Island." Haig is a henchman to girls' school teacher turned would-be sheik Arte Johnson (and yes, that is as icky as it sounds) on Season 2's "Homecoming/The Sheikh" and lends imposing support to Cesar Romero on Season 6's "The Tallowed Image/Room and Bard," which also features Robert Reed ("The Brady Bunch") as William Shakespeare.

By the time of his final "Fantasy Island" appearance, Haig had been playing thugs, weirdos, and tough guys in films and on television for more than two decades. Despite steady work on "Star Trek: The Original Series," "Batman," and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" — as well as psychotronic features like "Spider Baby" and "Coffy" — Haig was tired of being typecast and briefly retired in the early 1990s.

The combined efforts of two dedicated fans — Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie — brought Haig back in the late '90s thanks to roles in the former's "Jackie Brown" and the latter's "House of 1000 Corpses." His reprisal of his outrageous "Corpses" villain, Captain Spaulding, in "The Devil's Rejects" led to a second run at stardom as the lead in countless horror and indie features, including "Kill Bill," the harrowing "Bone Tomahawk," and Zombie's "3 from Hell." Haig died at the age of 80 on September 21, 2019.

David Cassidy showed his acting skills on two Fantasy Island episodes

Though best known as a pop singer and teen idol, David Cassidy was also a capable actor, with a wealth of television credits and an Emmy nomination for a 1973 appearance on "Police Story," which led to his own short-lived cop series, "David Cassidy – Man Undercover." Most of Cassidy's TV assignments were lightweight material, including his star-making turn on "The Partridge Family."

On occasion, he was given some dramatic substance, like the Season 6 "Fantasy Island" episode "The Songwriter/Queen of Soaps." The episode — his second for the series — cast him as a Depression Era songwriter whose grandson ("Happy Days" star Anson Williams) travels back in time to uncover his never-published songs.

Cassidy bounced between pop music and acting throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as well as several successful residencies in Las Vegas. His TV roles included an appearance as Mirror Master on the '90s-era "The Flash" and a run as a faded pop star on the ABC Family sitcom "Ruby and the Rockits." Cassidy also struggled publicly with alcoholism, which by the late 2010s had severely impacted his health and finances. Liver and kidney failure left him critically ill in 2017, which resulted in his death at the age of 67 on November 21 of that year.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tough guy William Smith was a tender monster on Fantasy Island

Burly, gravel-voiced actor William Smith played very different roles on his pair of "Fantasy Island" appearances. Smith was the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on Season 1's "The Funny Girl/Butch and Sundance," and then essayed the Frankenstein Monster in Season 5's "The Last Cowboy/The Lady and the Monster," which imagined a descendent of Victor Frankenstein encountering his manmade creation.

Smith's granite-like features and physique made him a go-to for action roles throughout his five-decade career: he battled Clint Eastwood in "Any Which Way You Can," played Conan's father in 1982's "Conan the Barbarian," and made use of his past as a Russian translator in the Korean War to play a Soviet general in "Red Dawn." Smith also menaced numerous movie tough guys, including Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke in "Rumble Fish," Kurt Russell in "The Mean Season," and Roddy Piper in "Hell Comes to Frogtown."

Smith retired from acting in 2014 but made a final screen appearance in the 2020 Steve Carell comedy "Irresistible." He died the following year of unspecified causes at the age of 88.

Tanya Roberts took on a ghost for her Fantasy Island sojourn

As previously noted, "Fantasy Island" featured a surprising amount of monsters and supernatural creatures, including vampires (Season 2's "Vampire"), werewolves (Season 4's "Man-Beast"), zombies (Season 6's "Island of Horrors"), and even the aforementioned Frankenstein Monster in Season 5's "The Lady and the Monster." A host of restless ghosts also populated various episodes, including Season 5's "A Ghost's Story," which featured "Charlie's Angels" star Tanya Roberts.

The scares in "A Ghost's Story" are mild, and the spirit in question, played by Dack Rambo, is a bit of a wimp. But Roberts asserted herself well in the segment, which would be her last network assignment for more than a decade. Roberts moved into features soon after, though the results were mixed: she was a capable Bond girl in "A View to a Kill," but found herself stranded in late-night cable thrillers which relied largely on her appearance.

Roberts' career rebounded in the late '90s as the daffy but kind-hearted Midge Pinciotti on "That '70s Show." Her return to acting was short-lived: Roberts retired shortly before the 2006 death of her husband, Barry Roberts, and focused on animal rights. On January 4, 2020, the 65-year-old Roberts died from a urinary tract infection that resulted in multi-organ failure.