Film

The Mark of Zorro

Zorro needs no introduction. Though Douglas Fairbanks, the first Zorro, might.

The Mark of Zorro was made in 1920, one year after the publication of The Curse of Capistrano, the original short story from which it was based. Douglas Fairbanks was at that time one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood. He made the move from Vaudeville to film in 1915, with a series of comedies that highlighted his acrobatics and athleticism.

While his comedies stood out for his upbeat humor and unrestrained athleticism (he enjoyed jumping through windows), they were, in the end, fairly generic 1910s comedies.  It was only with the Mark of Zorro, and the series of adventure movies that followed, that he found a real unique voice for his signature talents.

These talents, built in the demanding world of Vaudeville, are really quite amazing. The closest equivalent to a modern actor I could imagine (both in humor and athleticism) would be Jackie Chan, but Douglas Fairbanks stands alone for the sheer pointless joy of his athletics.

This was the film that started the genre of quick witted and quick moving action heroes, and, while the plots are similar and the setting less exotic, in many ways this film stands above the rest. It focuses simply on a hero who can do things that other men can’t. Everything else is superfluous.

(Douglas Fairbank’s most famous stunt, and one-handed hand spring from The Three Musketeers, can be seen at around 9:45 in this video)

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