Sunday, March 6, 2011

'The Mask of Zorro' on Sunday, March 27

I'm looking forward to doing music for 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) at the end of this month, but it would be even more exciting if we could decorate the theater as extensively as this house in Washington, D.C. at the time of the film's original release. Click on this photo to enlarge it and you'll see a rather bored-looking Zorro knock-off posing in front of the doors. Not sure if we'd be able to get anyone to play the Masked Avenger outside our theater, and besides, it would probably use up all we take in donations to make bail for him.

One thing to note is that originally we'd hoped to screen both of the Fairbanks 'Zorro' films (the 'Mark' as well as its 1925 sequel, 'Don Q'), but it turned out that this would have run to something like nearly four hours of swashbuckling in Spanish California, which not only wouldn't fit the three-hour window we have, but would have been too much of a marathon even for me.

And that's especially true because I'll be playing this film one day after returning from a trip to the nation of Nepal, where I'm making a ten-day trek off the grid (no roads) into the heart of the Annapurna Sanctuary. I imagine I'll be having Dennis stop the film every 20 minutes so I can go to the bathroom. Just kidding. Maybe.

But here's the press release. I had no idea that the Fairbanks 'Zorro' film was part of the Batman story, but it makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it?

* * *


For more info, contact:
Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 •

Original 'Zorro' to screen with live music in Wilton, N.H. on Sunday, March 27

Silent version starring Douglas Fairbanks inspired DC Comics 'Batman' comic character

WILTON, N.H.—It was the original swashbuckling blockbuster—the film that first brought 'Zorro' to the big screen, and also turned actor Douglas Fairbanks into Hollywood's first-ever action hero. 'The Mark of Zorro' (1920) will be screened with live music on Sunday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre in Wilton, N.H. Admission is free.

'The Mark of Zorro,' a huge hit when first released, tells the story of Don Diego Vega, the outwardly foppish son of a wealthy ranchero Don Alejandro in Spanish California of the early 19th century. Seeing the mistreatment of the poor by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego assumes the identity of "SeƱor Zorro," a masked figure of great cunning and skill, and vows to bring justice to the region. He also woos the beautiful Lolita Pulido, a woman who is distinctly unimpressed with Don Diego, but who is captivated by the masked swordsman.

The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who until 'Zorro' had played traditional all-American leading roles in contemporary romantic comedies. The success of 'Zorro' launched Fairbanks on a series of historical adventure films that ranked among the most popular spectacles of the silent era, including 'The Three Musketeers' (1921), 'Robin Hood' (1922), 'The Thief of Bagdad' (1924), and 'The Black Pirate' (1926). The original 'Zorro' film was so popular it inspired one of Hollywood's first big-budget sequels, 'Don Q, Son of Zorro' (1925), also starring Fairbanks.

Critics have praised 'The Mark of Zorro' for its tight story, fast pace, and many action sequences, which include numerous stunts all performed by Fairbanks himself. Steven D. Greydanus of the Decent Films Guide wrote that the silent Zorro "...contains some of the most jaw-dropping stunts I’ve ever seen this side of Jackie Chan." Film writer Leonard Maltin described 'Zorro' as a "silent classic with Fairbanks as the masked hero...perhaps Doug's best film...nonstop fun!"

This genre-defining swashbuckler was the first movie version of tale. The film was based on the 1919 story "The Curse of Capistrano" by Johnston McCulley, which introduced the masked hero, Zorro. The screenplay was adapted by Fairbanks under the pseudonym "Elton Thomas" and Eugene Miller. The story has since been remade and adapted many times, including in 1940, 1978, and most recently in 1998 as 'The Mask of Zorro' starring Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

'The Mark of Zorro' was the first film released by the newly formed United Artists studio, formed in 1920 by Fairbanks with fellow silent film superstars Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and director D.W. Griffith. The silent version of 'Zorro' also played a key role in the formation of the DC Comics Batman character; in the original 1939 story, a young Bruce Wayne sees 'Zorro' on the same night that his parents are later murdered, which leads him to adopt Zorro's mask, cape, and some of his methods as a basis for his own transformation into 'Batman.'

The March 27 screening of 'The Mark of Zorro' will be accompanied by a score created and performed live by silent film musician Jeff Rapsis. Rapsis achieves a traditional "movie score" sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer that reproduces the texture of the full orchestra.

'The Mark of Zorro' will be screened on Sunday, March 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, in Wilton, N.H. For more information, visit or call (603) 654-3456. The Wilton Town Hall Theatre runs silent film programs with live music each month. See for yourself films that made audiences first fall in love with the movies!

No comments:

Post a Comment