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1958 New York Times Article On Walt Disney Zorro
title originally donated by Joanne Slappo

From The New York Times -- Sunday 12 October 1958 edition
Zorro – TV Cut-Up -- Guy Williams Wields Sword For Third Generation of Adventurer’s Fans
By Gay Talese

Much of the cutting-up being done on television these days is the work of a sword-swinging actor named Guy Williams. As Zorro, he has cut-up thirty-five candles, smashed seven windows, sliced through two bookcases and has generally made a bloody mess of numerous minor characters who have been dueling against him on Thursday nights in the last year on American Broadcasting Company TV.

The swashbuckling "Zorro" show, begun last October by the Walt Disney Studios, has become a smashing success with youngsters. It has inspired more than a million of them to buy toy swords with which to scratch Z’s across walls, fences and, among other things, a yellow Cadillac owned by Guy Williams. (The large "Z" was actually done with an ice pick, costing Zorro a new paint job.)

A Zorro press agent, who regards ThurZday as "Z" night and likes to say, "zee you zoon," explained the other day that this television adventure show deals with California during the Eighteen Twenties, when that land was under Spanish rule. Zorro, a fictional hero first popularized in 1919 by the writer Johston McCulley, is a friend of the poor; a defender against evil; a kind of Spanish Sam Spade.

In the television script, Zorro usually lets the villains have some sinister fun for a while, but, by the second commercial, Zorro is generally fed up with the inhumanity of it all. So he puts on his black mask and cape, jumps on his horse and begins to swish away at villains with his cutting edge. Naturally there are dramatic duels for a while (up and down staircases; on the edge of cliffs or atop Spanish refectory tables) until, finally, Zorro punctures the bad men and proceeds to scratch Z’s all over the place.

Guy Williams, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 29-year-old New Yorker, believes that Zorro has clicked on television because "the show combines some of the elements of a Western (horsemanship, action, suspense, etc.) with that glamorous weapon—the sword." The popularity of Zorro’s sword, in fact, has appealed to three generations. Mr. Williams is the third Zorro.

The first Zorro was Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who portrayed the role in the movies in the Nineteen Twenties. Then, in 1940, Tyrone Power starred in the movie, "The Mark of Zorro." Mr. Williams, who had seen Mr. Power’s movie version three times, became the TV Zorro after a screen test in 1957 with Disney Studios. Prior to that, Mr. Williams had been a model, a worker in the Garment Center and a soda jerk.

Messrs. Fairbanks, Power and Williams, while stylistically different swordsmen, all were excellent fencing students, having all been taught by one man, a superb Belgian fencing master named Fred Cavens. Mr. Cavens first staged movie duels in Hollywood for "The Three Musketeers." Since then he has trained a variety of musketeers, knights, Don Juans and pirates to be swashbuckling men.

Of the three Zorros, Mr. Cavens said that Mr. Fairbanks was the most spectacular to see in action, because he turned handsprings, flipped about like an acrobat and hurled himself through the air to stab a man on the ground.

Mr. Williams’ modeling career was not particularly spectacular—although he did marry a Powers model—so he tried Hollywood. In 1952, after a screen test, he was signed by Universal-International Studios, but when he was never given a major role, and after he fell off a horse, he decided to give up the movies for a while.

He did not try Hollywood again until 1957, when, after signing with Disney Studios, he won the Zorro role. His tall, dark good looks, and his ability to use the sword, were instrumental in his winning the job.

For the Zorro role, Williams grew a mustache and sideburns, took guitar lessons from Vincente Gomez and received additional fencing training from Cavens. He also learned how to ride Tornado, the 7-year-old black quarter horse, and to stay on it.

Mr. Williams lives with his wife and their two children close to Sunset Strip in a "two-story Spanish-type apartment—in a house that originally was built by Norma Talmadge. He lives a relatively quiet life, loves to read and play chess. He doesn’t like much noise around, and has warned his eldest son, Steven, 6, that "If I find any Z’s around this house, I’m going to put a Z on you."

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