Zorro's Fighting Legion

Zorro's Fighting Legion is a 1939 Republic Pictures film serial consisting of twelve chapters starring Reed Hadley as Zorro and directed by William Witney and John English. The plot revolves around his alter-ego Don Diego's fight against the evil Don Del Oro.

Zorro's Fighting Legion
Directed byWilliam Witney
John English
Produced byHiram S. Brown Jr
Written byRonald Davidson
Franklin Adreon
Morgan Cox
Sol Shor
Barney A. Sarecky
Johnston McCulley (Original Zorro Novel)
StarringReed Hadley
Sheila Darcy
William Corson
Leander De Cordova
Edmund Cobb
John Merton
C. Montague Shaw
CinematographyReggie Lanning
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • December 16, 1939 (1939-12-16)
[1]
Running time
12 chapters (211 minutes) (serial)[2]
6 26½-minute episodes (TV)[2]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$137,826 (negative cost: $144,419)[2]

The serial is unusual in featuring a real historical personage, Mexican President Benito Juárez, as a minor character. It is the second in a series of five Zorro serials: Zorro Rides Again (1937), Zorro's Black Whip (1944), Son of Zorro (1947) and Ghost of Zorro (1949).

Plot

The mysterious Don Del Oro ("Lord of Gold"), an idol of the Yaqui, emerges and attacks the gold trade of the Republic of Mexico, intent on becoming Emperor. A man named Francisco is put in charge of a fighting legion to combat the Yaqui tribe and protect the gold; he is attacked by men working for Don Del Oro. Francisco's partner recognizes Zorro as the hidalgo Don Diego Vega. Francisco asks Diego, as Zorro, to take over the fighting legion and defeat Don Del Oro.

Cast

Though there were numerous Zorro serials, Hadley was the only actor to play the original Zorro in any of them.[3]

Production

Zorro's Fighting Legion was budgeted at $137,826, although the final negative cost was $144,419 (a $6,593, or 4.8%, overspend).[2] It was filmed between 15 September and 14 October 1939 under the working title Return of Zorro.[2] The serial's production number was 898.[2]

This film was shot in Simi Hills and Chatsworth, Los Angeles.

Stunts

Release

Theatrical

Zorro's Fighting Legion's official release date is 16 December 1939, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to film exchanges.[2] The serial was re-released on 24 March 1958, making it the last serial released by Republic, which re-released serials for several years following the release of their final serial King of the Carnival in 1955.[2]

Television

In the early 1950s, Zorro's Fighting Legion was one of fourteen Republic serials edited into a television series. It was broadcast in six 26½-minute episodes.[2]

Chapter titles

  1. The Golden God (27 min 38s)
  2. The Flaming "Z" (16 min 41s)
  3. Descending Doom (16 min 41s)
  4. The Bridge of Peril (16 min 40s)
  5. The Decoy (16 min 39s)
  6. Zorro to the Rescue (16 min 40s)
  7. The Fugitive (16 min 41s)
  8. Flowing Death (16 min 41s)
  9. The Golden Arrow (16 min 39s) Re-Cap Chapter
  10. Mystery Wagon (16 min 40s)
  11. Face to Face (16 min 40s)
  12. Unmasked (16 min 41s)

Source:[2][4]

Differences from the Zorro canon

The story takes a few liberties with Zorro's official timeline: it takes place in Mexico instead of Alta California; Zorro wears a masquerade mask, rather than the traditional bandana; the characters Don Alejandro Vega (Don Diego's father) and Bernardo are absent; and Zorro's horse, Tornado, was changed to white (much like Kaiketsu Zorro). However, this story is presented as a further adventure of Zorro, a sequel to the traditional "Mark of Zorro" origin story originally starring Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery Sr., which would be remade the year after Zorro's Fighting Legion with Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone: Don Diego is said to be visiting from Los Angeles, and the serial intentionally did not remake the Zorro story; instead, it shows Zorro visiting Mexico because his help is needed there. The people of Mexico immediately recognize Zorro when he first appears, strongly suggesting that Zorro is a well-known hero.

The date given for the movie is 1824, which in and of itself establishes that it takes place well after Zorro's California adventures: Zorro opposed a corrupt Spanish Colonial government in his canon tales, and California ceased being a Spanish Colony in 1821.

References

  1. Mayer, Geoff (2017). Encyclopedia of American Film Serials. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-7864-7762-3.
  2. Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 42–43. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  3. Cline, William C. (1984). "5. A Cheer for the Champions (The Heroes and Heroines)". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 76. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  4. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 226. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.

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