Monday, March 7, 2011

The Mark of Zorro (1920).

The Mark of Zorro (1920). Silent film. Cast: Douglas Fairbanks and Noah Beery. This 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 film has been remade twice, once in 1940, starring Tyrone Power and again in 1974, starring Frank Langella.

The Mark of Zorro, is story of Don Diego Vega, the very awkward son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro, in the old Spanish California. Seeing the mistreatment of the poor people by the colonial government, Don Diego, takes on the identity of the masked Zorro, who appears out of nowhere to protect them. Armed only with his sword and his sense of humor, Zorro scars the faces of the bad guys with his mark, "Z."

When not in the disguise of Zorro, Don Diego tries to court Lolita Pulido, but.. she cannot stand him. Lolita, is also courted by Captain Ramon and by the dashing Zorro, who she is in love with.

When Lolita's family is jailed, Don Diego without his mask, whips out his sword. Will he be able to force Governor Alvarado, to give in and win the hand of Lolita?

Fun Facts:

Film debut of Noah Beery Jr..

The Zorro costume of black clothes, black mask, and round black hat that audiences know today was introduced in this film. Also, Fairbanks had a huge influence on actor, Burt Lancaster.

The Mark of Zorro, inspired comic book artist Bob Kane when he and Bill Finger created the Batman character in 1939. This inspiration has been worked into the comics themselves, establishing that The Mark of Zorro (either this version or the 1940 remake starring Tyrone Power) was the film which the young Bruce Wayne watched with his parents at the cinema the night he witnessed their murders. Zorro, was Bruce's childhood hero.

I thought this was a very entertaining silent film, which provides Douglas Fairbanks a nice showcase. While other versions of the Zorro legends maybe more familiar, this one is one of my favorites... along with the 1940 version with Tyrone Power.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films such as: The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro.

Fairbanks, signed a contract with Triangle Pictures in 1915 and began working under the supervision of D.W. Griffith. His first film was, The Lamb. He soon the caught the attention of Anita Loos and John Emerson, who directed many of his early romantic comedies. In 1916, Fairbanks established his own company, the Douglas Fairbanks Film Corporation and worked for Paramount. By 1918, Fairbanks was Hollywood's most popular actor.

Fairbanks met actress Mary Pickford, at a party in 1916 and they fell in love. In 1917, the couple joined Fairbanks' friend Charlie Chaplin selling war bonds by train across the U.S.

To avoid being controlled by the studios, Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith formed United Artists in 1919, which created their own distributorships and gave them complete artistic control over their films.

Fairbanks and Pickford married on March 28, 1920, divorced 1936. They were greeted by large crowds in London and Paris during their European honeymoon, becoming Hollywood's first celebrity couple.

By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films, which showcased his athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of a new type of adventure-costume film, The Mark of Zorro. For the remainder of his career in silent films, he continued to perform in the costume films: The Three Musketeers (1921), Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate (1926, the first full-length Technicolor film), and The Gaucho (1927).

Fairbanks and Pickford placed their hand and foot prints in wet cement at the newly opened Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 30, 1927. Fairbanks was elected first President of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences that same year, and he presented the first Academy Awards at the Roosevelt Hotel.

His last silent film was, The Iron Mask (1929). His athletic abilities and general health began to decline. He and Pickford chose to make their first talkie as a joint venture, playing Petruchio and Kate in Shakespeare's, The Taming of the Shrew (1929). The last film he acted in was the, The Private Life of Don Juan (1934).

Marguerite De La Motte (June 22, 1902 – March 10, 1950), began her entertainment career studying ballet under Anna Pavlova. In 1919 she became the dance star of Sid Grauman's theater. In 1918, at the age of 16, she made her screen debut in the Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. film, Arizona. That same year she lost both of her parents in an automobile accident and film producer J.L. Frothingham assumed guardianship of her and her younger sister.

De La Motte spent the 1920s performing in films, often cast by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. to play opposite him in the adventure films, The Mark of Zorro(1920) and The Three Musketeers. She developed a close friendship with Fairbanks and his wife, actress Mary Pickford.

De La Motte's career as an actress slowed dramatically at the end of the silent film era of the 1920s. She did continue acting in bit parts through the sound era and made her final performance in the film, Overland Mail(1942).

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