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The Mark Of Zorro – Rouben Mamoulian

Submitted by on January 12, 2011 – 4:58 pmNo Comment

The Mark of Zorro was one of the hits of 1940 and remains one of the half dozen most durable and satisfying of all swashbucklers. Children frustrated their parents by slashing “Z’s” in the family furniture. Though Bosley Crowther and a few other critics preferred Douglas Fairbanks, who performed more acrobatic stunts than Power, Power was younger (twenty-six to Fairbanks’ thirty-seven), handsomer, more plausible, a better swordsman, and a skilled light comedian. Fairbanks’ version leaned more heavily upon slapstick humor; the 1940 film is more sophisticated. Crowther objected to “a note of seriousness, as though Mamoulian or some one were sincerely concerned about the poor oppressed peons,” but such an objection is supercilious. Even in a romance, there must be some awareness of man’s inhumanity to man or the conflict has no foundation, and some genuine sympathy for the downtrodden peasants was by no means amiss in a year when The Grapes of Wrath was filmed.

Rouben Mamoulian,-the distinguished director of such films as Applause (1929) and Golden Boy (1939), directed with a fine flair for action, comedy, and visual effects. Together with the eminent cinematographer Arthur Miller, he reconstructed the look of Spanish California. Alfred Newman contributed one of his most stirring scores. The cast was first-rate, with Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Montagu Love (all three borrowed from The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938), Gale Sondergaard, and J. Edward Bromberg lending Power able support. In her second year of filmmaking, nineteen-year-old Linda Darnell played the third of her four romantic roles opposite Power. She was decorative and showed the touch of the comic skill which she contributed to her best roles in the late 1940’s.

After the 1940 The Mark of Zorro, the story again declined into two more Republic serials, Zorro’s Black Whip (1944) and The Ghost of Zorro (1949, starring Clayton Moore, who later became successful as The Lone Ranger on television). In the 1950’s, Walt Disney ran a Zorro series on television starring Guy Williams, and later released an edited version as a feature film. Other Zorro films include The Sign of Zorro-(1962, with Errol Flynn’s son Sean), Frank Latimore in Shadow of Zorro (1962), the Italian Zorro the Avenger (1963), Pierre Brice in Zorro versus Maciste (1963), George Ardisson in Zorro at the Court of Spain (1963), Gordon Scott in Zorro and the Three Musketeers (1963), a pornographic The Erotic Adventures of Zorro (1972), and Alain Delon in Zorro (1974). Most of these were cheap potboilers that took considerable liberties with the story. A fairly authentic remake was done for television in 1974 on ABC’s “Movie of the Week,” with Frank Langella as Don Diego and Ricardo Montalban as Captain Pasquale. This version borrowed Alfred Newman’s score from the 1940 film and followed that script closely, though with some condensation. Langella was fine as the fop but not very dashing as the masked adventurer. The two memorable versions remain those of 1920 and 1940. At any rate, Zorro has entered modern mythology; his name has become symbolic of the dashing swordsman par excellence

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