Zorro:  The Legend Through The Years

Journey through the history of Zorro as the different versions of Zorro are compared and contrasted and see how the legend of Zorro has changed and developed throughout over 100 years of cinema, television, and stories.
Zorro and his love interest, Victoria, from the New World Zorro
Left to Right: Douglas Fairbanks, Robert Livingston, John Carroll, Reed Hadley, Tyrone Power, Guy Williams, Frank Langella, Alain Delon, George Hamilton, Henry Darrow, Duncan Regehr, Antonio Banderas, and Christian Meier
The Origin:

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" - 1905

This romantic novel of love, betrayal, and intrigue by the Baroness Orczy was most likely Johnston McCulley's inspiration for Zorro.

The Legend Begins:

"The Curse of Capistrano" - 1919

This serialized story by Johnston McCulley first introduced the character of Zorro.  The story originally appeared as a serialized story in the pulp magazine All-Story Weekly in 1919.  It was later released as a novel under the name The Mark of Zorro.

Read summaries of McCulley's other Zorro stories

The Mark of Zorro - 1920

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. brings fame to McCulley's creation by starring as Don Diego Vega and Zorro in this 1920 movie.  Fairbanks is lauded for his humorous portrayal of the lifeless Don Diego and the playful Zorro.

Douglas Fairbanks stars in 'The Mark of Zorro.'
The Legend of Zorro Continues:

Each subsequent version of the Zorro legend fits into one of two categories.

  • The first type of Zorro story is when the title character is the original Zorro himself and the story is the retelling of or a variation of the original legend.
    The Mark of Zorro - 1920, The Bold Caballero - 1936, Zorro's Fighting Legion - 1939, The Mark of Zorro - 1940, Walt Disney's Zorro television series - 1957 to 1959, the New World Zorro television series - 1990 to 1993, Zorro: La Espada y la Rosa - 2007.
  • The second type of Zorro story is when the title character is either a direct descendant of the original Zorro or is someone who has heard of the legend and takes on the mask of Zorro.
    Don Q, Son of Zorro - 1925, Zorro Rides Again - 1937, Zorro's Black Whip - 1944, Son of Zorro - 1947, Ghost of Zorro - 1949, The Mark of Zorro - 1974, Zorro - 1974, the Zorro and Son television series - 1983, The Mask of Zorro - 1998, The Legend of Zorro - 2005
It is interesting to note that in general, the better, higher quality, and more memorable versions of Zorro are the ones that retell the original legend of Zorro.
Don Q, Son of Zorro - 1925

This film starring Douglas Fairbanks has very little to do with Zorro and was mainly a way to cash in on the success of the 1920 film.  Nevertheless, it is an excellent film and does have several great references to the 1920 Zorro film.

Douglas Fairbanks stars in 'Don Q, Son of Zorro.'
The Bold Caballero - 1936

Robert Livingston stars as the first talking Zorro in this 1936 film.  The story and setting are different from the typical Zorro; the film is set in San Diego where Zorro has been captured and is to be executed.

Robert Livingston stars in 'The Bold Caballero.'
Zorro Rides Again - 1937

This first movie serial stars John Carroll as a singing cowboy Zorro.  This version bills itself as a "modern Zorro" in which Zorro is seen not only in an old west setting but also alongside cars, trains, and skyscrapers in the big city.

John Carroll stars in 'Zorro Rides Again.'
Zorro's Fighting Legion - 1939

Starring in what is considered to be one of the finest movie serials of all time, Reed Hadley plays a confident and decisive Zorro who faces some of the most difficult predicaments that any Zorro ever faces.

Reed Hadley stars in 'Zorro's Fighting Legion.'
The Mark of Zorro - 1940

This film starring Tyrone Power is considered by many critics to be a cinematic masterpiece.  The film expands on McCulley's original Zorro legend and brings greater depth to the character.

Tyrone Power stars in 'The Mark of Zorro.'
Zorro's Black Whip - 1944

Linda Stirling stars as a Zorro-like character in this 1944 release.  Even though the name Zorro appears nowhere but in the title, this serial must be considered a version of Zorro since Johnston McCulley is mentioned in the credits.

Linda Stirling stars in 'Zorro's Black Whip.'
Son of Zorro - 1947

George Turner stars as Jeff Stewart, a descendant of the original Zorro, in this movie serial set in post-Civil War America.  Jeff must fight bandits who have the entire county at their mercy.

George Turner stars in 'Son of Zorro.'
Ghost of Zorro - 1949

Clayton Moore stars as Ken Mason, the grandson of Don Diego Vega, who resurrects Zorro to fight the men who are trying to keep the telegraph out of New Mexico.

Clayton Moore stars in 'Ghost of Zorro.'
Walt Disney's Zorro - 1957 to 1959

Guy Williams creates a new generation of Zorro fans with his memorable portrayal of Don Diego and Zorro in Walt Disney's adaptation of the legendary masked hero.

Guy Williams stars in Walt Disney's Zorro
The Mark of Zorro - 1974

This made-for-television film starring Frank Langella uses much of the same script and music as the 1940 Zorro film with the most obvious difference being that several scenes have been removed.

Frank Langella stars in 'The Mark of Zorro.'
Zorro - 1974

This foreign film starring Alain Delon incorporates several elements of McCulley's original story into a new setting in South America and heralds a return to the more playful aspects of the Zorro legend.

Alain Delon stars in 'Zorro.'
Zorro, The Gay Blade - 1981

This film starring George Hamilton is a satirical and comedic look at the legend of Zorro.  Hamilton plays dual roles as Don Diego and as Don Diego's flamboyantly gay brother Bunny Wigglesworth.

George Hamilton stars in 'Zorro, the Gay Blade.'
Zorro and Son - 1983 television series

This short-lived television series starring Henry Darrow is a situation comedy with rhyming lines and slapstick comedy which continues the new era of playful Zorros.

Henry Darrow stars in 'Zorro and Son.'
The New World Zorro - 1990 to 1993 television series

This adaptation of Zorro has the same general premise as the Disney series except that this Zorro is even more kinder and gentler.  Additionally, the ongoing romance plays a very important role in the overall premise.

Duncan Regehr stars in 'Zorro.'
The Mask of Zorro - 1998

Antonio Banderas plays Alejandro Murrieta who takes on the mask of Zorro as he helps Don Diego de la Vega seek his revenge for the loss of his wife and daughter many years ago.

Antonio Banderas stars in 'The Mask of Zorro.'
The Legend of Zorro - 2005

Antonio Banderas reprises his role as Don Alejandro and Zorro in this sequel to the 1998 film.  Zorro faces the loss of his family as a group of religious fanatics threaten the statehood of California.

Antonio Banderas stars in 'The Legend of Zorro.'
Zorro:  La espada y la rosa - 2007

Christian Meier stars in this Spanish telenovela which aired on the Telemundo network.  This story bends history and creates a fantasy setting in which anything can happen.

Christian Meier stars in 'La espada y la rosa.'
The Development of Zorro

The changes occurring in the legend of Zorro between 1919 and 1993 are summarized.

Related Zorro links
Site last updated February 17, 2023.
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