By Christina Pappous, Walt Disney Archives
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the 20th Century Fox film The Mark of Zorro (1940), directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Tyrone Power as Don Diego Vega and his masked alter ego, El Zorro! Set during the days of Spanish California, The Mark of Zorro tells the story of the title character’s fight against the tyranny of the corrupt local alcalde Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg) in service of the common people while romancing Quintero’s beautiful niece, Lolita (Linda Darnell). Often cited as one of the defining precursors to the modern superhero, the character of Zorro first appeared in the story “The Curse of Capistrano,” written by author Johnston McCulley and published in 1919. Swashbuckling star of the silent screen Douglas Fairbanks was the first to portray the character in the 1920 film The Mark of Zorro (Fred Niblo, 1920, USA), produced by Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation and distributed by United Artists.
Originally titled to The Californian differentiate itself from the 1920 film, the creative team behind the 1940 film conducted rigorous preproduction research about early California history, from government structures to architectural styles and clothing. Interestingly, there was a concurrent revival of the “Mission” style architecture happening in California, as the state sought to establish a sanitized understanding of its colonial past. The film was a great success and 20th Century Fox had the film dubbed into different Spanish dialects to better capture the markets of Spanish-speaking countries. The Mark of Zorro inspired later adaptations, including Walt Disney’s Zorro television series starring Disney Legend Guy Williams. Slash a “Z” and look below to enjoy a selection of The Mark of Zorro images from our Photo Library!