Henry Darrow, the pride of Puerto Rico who starred as the charming Manolito Montoya, the son of a wealthy Mexican land baron, on the 1967-71 NBC Western The High Chaparral, has died. He was 87.
Darrow died Sunday of natural causes at his home in Wilmington, North Carolina, his former publicist, Michael B. Druxman, announced.
The actor also played San Diego police detective Manny Quinlan alongside David Janssen in the first season of the 1974-76 ABC series Harry O and received a Daytime Emmy in 1990 for his turn as Rafael Castillo, the father of A Martinez’s character, on the NBC daytime serial Santa Barbara.
For the 1981 CBS animated series The New Adventures of Zorro, Darrow provided the voice of the masked swordsman, then portrayed an elderly Don Diego de la Vega on the 1983 CBS series Zorro and Son and the father of a new Zorro (replacing Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) on a 1990-93 Family Channel show that starred Duncan Regehr.
Darrow was appearing on stage in a Los Angeles production of Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit opposite F. Murray Abraham when he was spotted by producer David Dortort, who had created Bonanza and was now casting The High Chaparral.
“I said I’d like to speak in Spanish and that I would learn Indian sign language,” he recalled in a 2015 interview for Richard Armstrong’s Classic Film & TV Café website. “I said, ‘I’m ready to read for the part.’ And David Dortort replied: ‘You don’t have to. You’ve got it. You talked us into it.”
He played the son of Mexican rancher Don Sebastián Montoya (Frank Silvera) and brother of Linda Cristal‘s Victoria Cannon, wife of Leif Erickson’s Big John Cannon, on 97 episodes of the series, which featured a Latino family on an equal level with an Anglo clan, a rarity for its time.
Darrow said he “styled [Manolito] after two Shakespearean characters I played: Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet, which added a comedic touch, and Iago from Othello, which mixed a little darkness to the character,” he said. “He was a free spirit!”
Wrote Lisa McKenzie on a website dedicated to High Chaparral: “Whether playing poker in a saloon, wooing a potential conquest, breaking a political prisoner out of jail, cradling a lost child in his arms or waxing philosophical beneath the stars, there is nothing simple about Manolito Montoya.
“He stands tall with the rest of the Cannons; formidable, discerning and loyal, yet restless, self-indulgent and ever searching — a collection of contradictions hidden by a pair of warm brown eyes and a roguish smile.”
Darrow was born Enrique Tomás Delgado Jr. in Manhattan on Sept. 15, 1933. His parents, Gloria and Enrique, ran an inn/restaurant in nearby Bedford Village frequented by the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Tallulah Bankhead. When he was 13, his parents brought the family to their native Puerto Rico.
He studied political science and acting at the University of Puerto Rico, then won a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse in 1954. He acted in plays and took music, dance, tap, fencing and phonetic classes before graduating two years later (his classmates included future Laugh-In star Ruth Buzzi).
In 1957, he auditioned for the lead in the Disney-ABC series Zorro. He didn’t get the part — Guy Williams did — but said he benefited from the experience.
“I overacted, and I remember the director walking away and then announcing to the rest of the cast and crew, ‘It looks like we have a Spanish Barrymore on our hands,'” he said in a 2016 interview. “I thought, ‘Oh boy!’ I wrote my mother and she replied, ‘Honey, I thought [Lionel] Barrymore was a ham.’ So, I learned to do less.”
In one of his first movies, he played a villain in Revenge of the Virgins (1959), written by Ed Wood.
He went onto portray a drug kingpin in Badge 373 (1973), starring Robert Duvall, while also appearing in other films like Summer and Smoke (1961), The Glass Cage (1964), St. Helens (1981), The Hitcher (1986), Runaway Jury (2003) and Soda Springs (2012).
Darrow did loads of television, working as a regular on The Bold and the Beautiful and showing up on episodes of Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Outer Limits, Mod Squad, Kojak, Baretta, Hawaii Five-O, The Waltons, Dallas, Benson, T.J. Hooker and Star Trek: Voyager, among many other shows.
His memoir, Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle, was published in 2012. That year, he also received the Ricardo Montalban Lifetime Achievement Award at the ALMA Awards. He had helped Montalban launch the Nosotros Organization, which aims to assist Latinos in the entertainment industry, in 1970.
Survivors include his second wife, Lauren, whom he married in 1982, daughter Denise and brother Dennis.