Monday, May 4, 2009

Latino Images in Film ~ The Mark of Zorro (1920)

In The Mark of Zorro (1920), Douglas Fairbanks Sr. plays the title role of Zorro, a masked crusader out to defend and fight for the interests of the oppressed. In his world, this is everyone who is subject to the law (governor, soldiers, sargeants, etc) which is corrupt. By day, he is a soft, jaded rich boy with a delicate education from Spain, the motherland, but whenever the oppressed people of his community needs him, he transforms into the masked Zorro, a genuine hero full of masculine bravado and good intent. No one knows Zorro's true identity, not even his love interest Lolita who he is wooing as both versions of himself. Can he save his townspeople from oppresion and win the heart of Lolita? Zorro can do anything!

This silent classic was produced by Douglas Fairnbanks' production company and was the first feature film release of United Artists, which Fairbanks started with Chaplin and his wife Pickford among others. This was the first in a series of swashbuckling movies that Fairbanks did, which made him vastly popular. Fans of his son Douglas Fairbanks Jr. might remember him mocking his father's performance in the film Our Dancing Daughters. In the cast is also Noah Beery, brother of Wallace Beery and Walt Whitman, although no relation to the poet (darn!).

I thoroughly enjoyed this silent film. Fairbanks was quite acrobatic and his stunts were enjoyable to watch. The representation of Mexican/Spanish people in the film I thought was done very respectfully. What I found interesting is that although the main division is between the townspeople and the law, there is a cultural division between the light-skinned noble Spanish blood which is higher in ranking than the dark-skinned natives. As I am fascinated with early Dominican culture, these kind of cultural divisions always fascinate me.

Level of Brown Face: 2 out of 5 shades

Oh my! Those pants are rather tight, aren't they Mr. Fairbanks?

TCM Latino Images in Film Line-Up for Tuesday May 5th

Ramona (1910)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
Old San Francisco (1927)
Big Stakes (1922)
In Old Arizona (1929)
The Gay Desperado (1936)


  1. Good review. Walt Whitman also played Nell Shipman's father "Skipper" in "The Grub Stake," one of her films Eberle & I scored. That name in the credits always catches folks' attention.

  2. I've been bad about TCM's schedule lately--- I used to know every months and the following one like the back of my hand--- but my DVR hasn't been working perfectly and it's quite devastating.

  3. The Mark of Zorro is one of my favourite silent films. I'd be interested to hear what you think of the talkie version with Tyrone Power too!

  4. I dug Doug's laid-back attitude in his civilian identity, particularly the way he'd offer to show people magic tricks with something like the enthusiasm of a somnambulist. It made the contrast with Zorro more dramatic.

  5. Oh, I found this film on a Region 1 DVD in an obscure little record store here in Sweden, I was so happy! Fairbanks is just lovely.

  6. Raquelle, Ahhh I haven't seen this one either! But since I'm a fan of Doug in extra tight pants naturally I will... Maybe I'll go to that shop Lolita was mentioning...

  7. I was fortunate enough to see this at the Tampa Theater accompanied by live organ music. The film is a lot of fun, very enjoyable. If you ever get the chance to see a silent film with live music do it! It's a great experience.

  8. John - Thanks! I got all excited only to find out it wasn't who I thought it was. Oh well.

    Ryan - I hope your DVR feels better soon.

    Mercurie - Tyrone Power version? I'll have to check it out. Question - Does he wear tight pants? That's very important.

    Samuel - "enthusiasm of a sonambulist" I'm stealing that one. That's money!

    Lolita - Yay!

    Jonas - I hope Lolita didn't get the last one.

    John - You have just described my dream!

  9. Yes, I think Tyrone Power wears tight pants. I think it is a prerequisite for playing Zorro! LOL

  10. The Tyrone Power version of ZORRO is up there in my Top 20 (or so) Favorite Movies. :) Wonderful film -- the perfect match of actor and role with a superb supporting cast.

    Fun trivia: when my mother was little her family had a weekend cabin in the area of Twin Peaks, CA, near Lake Arrowhead. Johnston McCulley, author of THE CURSE OF CAPISTRANO which inspired the ZORRO films, had a cabin nearby.

    I enjoyed your post on the Fairbanks ZORRO film very much. I've never seen it and have taped it although it's going to be a while before I have time to watch it, as we're leaving on vacation in a few days. :) I'll be watching for more of your posts in this series.

    Best wishes,


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