The “High Chaparral” star passed away Sunday at age 87.
The C&I crew respectfully bids hail and farewell to Henry Darrow, the veteran actor who earned his place in the pantheon of TV western stars with his charismatic portrayal of the roguish Manolito Montoya on the 1967-71 NBC series The High Chaparral. He was 87 when he passed away Sunday at his home in Wilmington, N.C.
Throughout his run on the weekly drama, Darrow remained one of the audience favorites in a cast that also included Leif Erickson as Arizona Territory rancher Big John Cannon; Linda Cristal as Victoria, Cannon’s wife and Manolito’s brother; Cameron Mitchell as Buck, Cannon’s boisterous brother, and Mark Slade as Billy Blue, Cannon’s brooding son.
In a 2012 Los Angeles Times interview, Darrow cheerfully acknowledged that, as a result of The High Chaparral, he became something of a teen idol, often appearing in the pages of 16 and Tiger Beat magazines. “I appealed to the more mature 12- to 14-year-olds,” he joked, adding that co-star Slade “appealed to the 9- to 11-year-olds.”
On a slightly more serious note, Darrow told the Los Angeles Times that he did not fully appreciate the series’ international appeal — and the size of his own fan base — until he made a publicity tour of Sweden.
“I got together a guitarist and worked on a 25-minute act,” he said. “I learned a few phrases in Swedish. I had about 17,200 people on closing night — more than Sammy Davis Jr. had. I thought this was incredible!”
Born Enrique Tomás Delgado in New York City on September 15, 1933, the first son of Puerto Rico immigrants, Darrow appeared in episodes of such TV series as Wagon Train, Stoney Burke, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Wild West before being cast in his breakthrough role as Manolito Montoya. He later appeared as Lt. Manuel “Manny” Quinlan, a San Diego cop who served as foil and friend for private detective Harry Orwell (David Janssen) during the first season of Harry O (1974-76). Darrow’s character was written out of the show when the location was moved to Los Angeles, but he returned for a dramatically potent episode in which Quinlan was murdered and the normally easygoing Orwell angrily hunted his friend’s killer.
In 1990, Darrow won a Daytime Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rafael Castillo in the NBC soap opera Santa Barbara. That same year, A Martinez (who would later play Cheyenne businessman Jacob Nighthorse on TV’s Longmire) won the Best Actor award for playing Cruz Catillo, the son of Darrow’s character.
Martinez told the Los Angeles Times in 2012 that Darrow’s “energy and insight helped to open up my work in ways that were not previously imagined. He not only showed up every morning with the script mastered but often with a tasty chunk of ideas for improvement as well.”
Darrow also had a continuing role on the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful (1998-2001), and was a guest star on such series as Bearcats!, Kung Fu, Magnum P.I., T.J. Hooker, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Babylon 5, Family Law and One Tree Hill. His movie credits include the 1983 comedy Losin’ It (in which appeared opposite a newcomer named Tom Cruise) and the 1986 thriller The Hitcher.
He made his mark as the first Latino actor ever to play Zorro on television in the 1983 sitcom Zorro and Son, and also provided the voice for the masked swashbuckler in the animated series The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour (1980) and The New Adventures of Zorro (1981). Years later, he made history again as the only actor ever to have played both Don Diego (a.k.a. Zorro) and his father, Don Alejandro, when he assumed the latter role in the 1990-93 TV series Zorro featuring Duncan Regehr as the title hero.