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1990 Disney Press Release regarding Guy Williams' Career
Originally donated by Marian Robinson.
"Lost in Space "19651968 (nonDisney)
Guy Williams, A Far
"Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes the horseman known as Zorro "
On any given morning, a tall distinguished looking American in his late fifties leaves his apartment in Buenos Aires, walks to a nearby restaurant, orders a light breakfast and reads the daily paper. He enjoys walking, so after a leisurely breakfast, he sets out on a stroll. There are beautiful parks and pleasant places to walk in Buenos Aires, and as he makes his way about the city, passers-by occasionally nod and smile at him. They have recognized Guy Williams, who has become almost a folk hero in South American for his portrayal of Walt Disneys durable TV hero, "Zorro."
Williams played Zorro, the masked swordsman of Spanish California from 1957 to 1961. He appeared in 78 episodes of the half hour series and four hour-long shows on "Walt Disney Presents." Some of the programs were recut into two theatrical features, "The Sign of Zorro" and "Zorro the Avenger." In the swashbuckling role of a fearless night rider who champions the poor, Williams rocketed to stardom along Disneys other TV sensation, Fess ("Davy Crockett") Parker.
Like Parker, Williams was a modestly successful actor when Disney chose him for a teleseries. He was born Armando Catalano, of Italian parents who had immigrated to New York. He turned to acting after attending Peekskill Military Academy, and in 1952 was signed to a one-year contract by Universal-International Studios. Nothing came of it, so he returned to New York and continued acting there until he decided to tackle Hollywood again in 1957. This time he landed a screen test at Disney which brought him the coveted role of Zorro, one of the most popular characters of film and fiction.
Zorro, known the world over as the Robin Hood of Old California, was created by novelist Johnston McCulley in 1919. The following year, Douglas Fairbanks played the masked caballero in a silent movie, "The Mark of Zorro," which opened the gates to a flood of successors. At least 20 versions reached the screen, starring such disparate actors as Tyrone Power, Guy Stockwell, George Hamilton, Alain Delon and Errol Flynns son Sean in the role of "the bold renegade who cares a Z with his blade a Z that stands for Zorro."
These films were released world-wide and found a particularly enthusiastic audience in South America. The Disney programs were dubbed in Spanish for television there; they swept the continent and continued to run year after year. By the time Guy Williams paid his first visit to Argentina in 1978 at the invitation of Channel 13, which was carrying the "Zorro" series nationally, he was an eagerlyawaited celebrity.
"We were driven in separate cars from the airport into Buenos Aires," says a friend who accompanied him. "Its a long way, about 30 miles, and people lined the entire length of the road. I asked the driver what all those people where there for and he said, "Why they are there to see Zorro, Amazing."
Williams, an expert fencer took the city by storm when he staged a public exhibition with Argentinas fencing champion. He attracted crowds and applause everywhere he went; there was even a half-serious "Zorro for President" rally. He traveled on to charm the populace throughout South American, speaking English, Spanish and Italian the continents second language and when the tour ended, Williams was an idol. He had shown his public that an actor can be as dashing off screen as on.
"He liked the acclaim and the life of style," his friend says. "He went back to Buenos Aires a year later and took a furnished apartment there. He now has business arrangements and has established residence in Argentina. He returns to Los Angeles on alternate years. He is still a celebrity in South American, and living exactly as he wishes."
On Thursday, April 18, 1957, a tall handsome young man visited the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, to make a screen test. The test turned out to be the most important even in this actors career.
A few weeks later, Guy Williams signed an exclusive contract with the Disney Studios to star in the ABCTV adventure series "Zorro."
In placing the six-foot three-inch New York actor under contract, Disney felt he had discovered one of the great new personalities of the entertainment world a romantic, dashing all around athlete and excellent actor.
In "The Sign of Zorro," romantic adventure theatrical feature, Guy fully confirms his star calibre.
Stepping into a role made famous in motion pictures originally by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and later by Tyrone Power, Williams faced and made good in the greatest challenge of his life.
Apart from his magnetic personality and his acting ability, Williams had one other great asset for his staring role in "The Sign of Zorro." He is one of the expert fencers of movie town and has crossed swords with many of the worlds great fencing masters.
Williams is the son of the late Attilio Catalano, New York insurance broker, and Claire Catalano, an Italian couple who came to America several years before Guy was born.
The Catalanos sought to give Guy the best education possible. He attended grade school in New York and later he went to George Washington High School. He received his advanced education at Peekskill Military Academy.
"Im afraid I was a pretty indifferent student though," says Williams. "The only subject I excelled in was mathematics. I imagine my folks welcomed their privacy when I was sent to the Academy too!"
Guy earned his first dollars when he was still attending high school, working occasional hours in a soda fountain.
His schooling completed, Guy decided to tackle modeling in New York City. His father wanted him to pursue a brokerage career, but Guy had other ideas.
He met his future wife, the lovely Powers model Janice Cooper, on a modeling assignment.
"We had to look like we were going skiing and the big action of the ad came when I had to tighten my ski boots. The photographer shot this sequence about 50 times, and by the time he had finished, I had got to know Janice pretty well!"
After a whirlwind sixcity courtship, Guy and Janice were married in New York, and as Guy puts it, "we consolidated our finances."
In 1952, Guy was interviewed in New York by Hollywood coach Sophie Rosenstein. Sophie tested him in New York and returned to Hollywood to recommend that Universal-International Studios place him under contract. Before coming to the coast and signing his U-I contract, Williams managed to find regular acting work in New Yorks Neighborhood Playhouse and in such television productions as Studio One.
He remained under his Universal contract for a year, but wasnt given any major assignment there. Shortly before winding up his work at U-I, he was badly injured in a fall from a horse. He bears a long scar on his left shoulder as a remembrance of the accident.
Somewhat discouraged by his first movie experience, Williams returned to New York to continue acting there, and do occasional modeling. It wasnt until early 1957 that he decided to try again in Hollywood. This time, he brought with him another member of the family: Steve, a curly-haired blond, born in 1952. (The Williams have since welcomed daughter Toni, born 1958.)
His second visit to Hollywood led to his Big Break, when he was given the golden opportunity to test for "Zorro." This time he made no mistake, and was a unanimous choice at the Disney Studios for the highly-coveted role.
Guy resides in a three-level Spanish-type "hacienda" close to Hollywood Boulevard. The 15room home, built in the movie towns "golden era," has been modernized throughout. A swimming pool adds the latter-day California touch.
Despite his protestations of being an indifferent school student, Guy is extremely well-read and can hold his own in any discussion on ancient history or theology.
Williams is also one of the countrys better chess players, having competed in tournaments against several of Americas top chessmen.
A better-than-average cook, Guys specialty is an Italian dish named risotto a la milanaise, but he admits that Janice can prepare it better than anybody he knows.
For his role in "The Sign of Zorro" Williams took pre-filming guitar lessons from Vicente Gomez, who has tutored many Hollywood stars on the instrument. He also received additional fencing training from the famed Fred Cavens, who has taught many of Hollywoods greats in the art of blade.
Original concept, graphics and design by l.l. hodges design © 1998 - 2005.