Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread! We all love film — new and old, on streaming and produced by Disney or released on Netflix. We live in a rapidly changing movie world, and so much is available a our fingertips. Are there classics that you would recommend? New releases that are better than the critics would admit to? Come chime in in our excellent comments section!
This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of a film that has had more of a cultural impact that we give it credit for: The Mark of Zorro. Based on the 1919 story The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, the film starred Douglas Fairbanks as our iconic swashbuckling hero. It was the first film released through United Artists, a company formed by artists who were trying to control their own interests rather than through commercial studios.
The Mark of Zorro transformed the whole field of action-adventure in film. The film would be remade twice in 1940 and 1974. Most importantly, it was a huge influence on a character that would define the whole billionaire-who-is-secretly-a-vigilante role… Moon Knight. Wait, I mean Batman.
Douglas Fairbanks really sells the dual identity well through body language alone. He’s languid and aloof as Don Diego. He seemed bored with his aristocratic life.
However, he come alive as the energetic and mischievous as Zorro. (And in a totally non-Batman movie, a hopeless romantic.) Frankly, I buy that his villains can’t figure out the two people are one and the same. Sure he’s got the same chin, but that layabout Don Diego is the laughing daredevil of the night, Zorro? Absurd!
There’s also the third personality: when Zorro comes home and confides with his mute servant, Bernardo, he becomes steely and serious about his mission. He’s no longer the idle rich or the laughing swashbuckler. He’s the hardened warrior. It’s like none of the personalities are real… except all three are real. They are all Zorro/Don Diego, just compartmentalized.
Today’s prompt: What’s your favorite film where one actor portrays two or more different personalities?
Fun fact: in colorized images for the lobby cards and movie posters, it looks like Zorro was supposed to be regaled in red. He had a red do-rag and, depending on who was coloring things, a red sash around his belt or an all-red Daredevil-like costume. (Watching the film, it’s pretty clear that Zorro’s outfit isn’t black. There’s a lighter tinge to it, especially compared the mask which is black.) It makes sense, given that “Zorro” means “fox”. He’s a red fox! You can’t tell that from the movie, though, where he’s a swashbuckling adventure in all black. The all-black look was codified in the Tyrone Power film. It’s one of the most recognizable looks in film.
The Tyrone Power version is also celebrating a milestone this year. It was released 80 years ago. Happy birthday, Zorros!
Bonus bonus prompt: What is your favorite Zorro movie?