The Mark of Zorro (1920 film)
The Mark of Zorro is a 1920 silent adventure romance film starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery Sr.. This genre-defining swashbuckler adventure was the first movie version of The Mark of Zorro. Based on the 1919 story The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro, the screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks (as "Elton Thomas") and Eugene Miller.
|The Mark of Zorro|
|Directed by||Fred Niblo|
|Produced by||Douglas Fairbanks|
|Written by||Johnston McCulley (story)|
Eugene Miller (scenario)
Douglas Fairbanks (scenario)
Marguerite De La Motte
|Music by||Mortimer Wilson|
|Cinematography||William C. McGann |
|Edited by||William Nolan|
Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|November 27, 1920|
|Language||Silent (English intertitles)|
The film was produced by Fairbanks for his own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation, and was the first film released through United Artists, the company formed by Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith.
Noah Beery Jr. makes his first of many dozens of screen appearance spanning six decades. He portrayed a young child; his father began sporadically billing himself as Noah Beery Sr. as a result.
The film has been remade twice, once in 1940 (starring Tyrone Power) and again in 1974 (starring Frank Langella). In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The Mark of Zorro tells the story of Don Diego Vega, the outwardly foppish son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro in the old Spanish California of the early 19th century. Seeing the mistreatment of the peons by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego, who is not as effete as he pretends, has taken the identity of the masked Robin Hood-like rogue Señor Zorro ("Mr. Fox"), champion of the people, who appears out of nowhere to protect them from the corrupt administration of Governor Alvarado, his henchman the villainous Captain Juan Ramon and the brutish Sergeant Pedro Gonzales (Noah Beery, Wallace Beery's older half-brother). With his sword flashing and an athletic sense of humor, Zorro scars the faces of evildoers with his mark, "Z".
When not in the disguise of Zorro, dueling and rescuing peons, Don Diego courts the beautiful Lolita Pulido with bad magic tricks and worse manners. She cannot stand him. Lolita is also courted by Captain Ramon; and by the dashing Zorro, whom she likes.
In the end, when Lolita's family is jailed, Don Diego throws off his masquerade, whips out his sword, wins over the soldiers to his side, forces Governor Alvarado to abdicate, and wins the hand of Lolita, who is delighted to discover that her effeminate suitor, Diego, is actually the dashing hero.
- Douglas Fairbanks as Don Diego Vega/Señor Zorro
- Marguerite De La Motte as Lolita Pulido
- Noah Beery Sr. as Sergeant Pedro Gonzales
- Charles Hill Mailes as Don Carlos Pulido
- Claire McDowell as Doña Catalina Pulido
- Robert McKim as Captain Juan Ramon
- George Periolat as Governor Alvarado
- Walt Whitman as Father Felipe
- Sidney De Gray as Don Alejandro Vega
- Tote Du Crow as Bernardo, Don Diego's mute servant
- Noah Beery Jr. as Boy
- Charles Stevens as Peon beaten by Sergeant Gonzales
- Milton Berle (uncredited child)
Reception and impact
The New York Times gave The Mark of Zorro a mixed review.
Fairbanks biographer Jeffrey Vance, assessing the film's legacy in 2008, writes: "The Mark of Zorro is a landmark, not only in the career of Douglas Fairbanks, but also in the development of the action-adventure film. With this, his thirtieth motion picture, Fairbanks was transitioning from comedies to the costume films for which he is best remembered. Instead of reflecting the times,The Mark of Zorro offers an infusion of the romantic past with a contemporary flair….Beyond reenergizing his career and redefining a genre, Fairbanks’s The Mark of Zorro helped popularize one of the enduring creations of twentieth-century American fiction, a character who was the prototype for comic book heroes such as Batman."
In the DC Comics continuity, it is established that The Mark of Zorro was the film that the young Bruce Wayne had seen with his parents at a movie theater, moments before they were killed in front of his eyes by an armed thug. Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce's childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona. There are discrepancies regarding which version Bruce saw: The Dark Knight Returns claims it was the Tyrone Power version, whereas a story by Alan Grant claimed it to be the silent 1920 original. Bill Finger was himself inspired by Fairbanks' Zorro, including similarities in costumes, the "Bat Cave" and Zorro's cave, and unexpected secret identities, especially since the Batman character predates the Tyrone Power remake by a year. The posters for 1940's The Mark of Zorro and the 1981 film Excalibur were used for a scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, a flashback of the fateful night establishes that for DCAU continuity Bruce and his parents were attending The Mark of Zorro but does not indicate which version. In earlier episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, the fictional character the Gray Ghost, a pulp fiction hero inspired by The Shadow, is the inspiration to young Bruce Wayne.
In the Season 5 episode “Ace Chemicals” of Gotham, the villain Jeremiah Valeska films his own version of the film as a way of taunting Bruce Wayne. The credits for his own version begin with the title credits that acknowledge it as Douglas Fairbanks' version.
Despite copyright dates, both Zorro and Batman have been litigated with regard to whether the original material has passed into the public domain. Zorro remains very unclear and in the courts.
- Mike Barnes (December 16, 2015). "'Ghostbusters,' 'Top Gun,' 'Shawshank' Enter National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- "The Screen" (PDF), The New York Times, New York, NY, U.S.A.: The New York Times Company, November 29, 1920, ISSN 0362-4331, OCLC 1645522, archived from the original on August 30, 2007, retrieved June 2, 2015,
All of which may mean that "The Mark of Zorro" is more enjoyable than "The Curse of Capistrano" could ever hope to be.
- Vance, Jeffrey (2008). Douglas Fairbanks. Berkeley: University of California Press Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. p. 93. ISBN 9780520256675. OCLC 804906297.
- Ching, Albert (2014-11-12). ""Batman v Superman" Set Pic Sets Stage for Wayne Murders". CBR. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
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- The Mark of Zorro is available for free download at the Internet Archive
- The Mark of Zorro on IMDb
- The Mark of Zorro at AllMovie
- AFI entry for The Mark of Zorro
- "That Carver of Z's": The Mark of Zorro (1920) at the Wayback Machine (archived April 18, 2003) at The Film Tribune
- The Mark of Zorro at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Mark of Zorro (1920) A Silent Film Review at Movies Silently, with stills