Zorro, a centenary in good shape

His name, in the current vocabulary, refers to the one who stands against injustice: born August 9, 1919 under the pen of Johnston Mc Culley, Zorro has become a major cultural icon, just like Tarzan or Superman.
A close to this first adventure, “The scourge of Capistrano”, serialized in a California pulp magazine, Mc Culley will write about sixty others, making Zorro one of the first heroes of American literature.

Before Zorro

Mc Culley was inspired by a Mexican, half-patriot, half-highwayman, living in California in the nineteenth century, at the time of the Gold Rush: Joaquin Murieta was spent defending Native American miners against the gringos. The Chilean Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda, dedicated this popular hero to his only play.

Other figures gave ideas to Mc Culley as “the red crimson”, the English vigilante acting during the French Revolution, invented by the British of Hungarian origin, Emmuska Orczy, at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The pitch

Don Diego de la Vega, a young aristocrat of Spanish descent, apparently a harmless student, is revolted by the powerful notables, corrupt and cruel, of Los Angeles and his region.

When it comes to defending the poor and the oppressed, he turns into Zorro (“fox” in Spanish), all dressed in black, hiding his face, except his fine mustache, behind a wolf fabric not to be recognized .

He can count on his faithful servant Bernardo, mute and pretending to be deaf to better play the spies, and on Tornado, his intelligent black horse. Another recurring character is Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia, a drunken belly drinker, ridiculed, but more friendly than nasty.

“It’s a mix of Robin Hood, Peter Pan and Che Guevara, without the tragedies,” wrote the Chilean novelist, Isabel Allende, in her novel “Zorro” (2005).

A mythical series

The TV series Walt Disney (78 episodes shot from 1957 to 1961) has known, and still knows, immense international popularity. His credits are famous: “A horseman, who emerges out of the night / Short to galloping adventure / His name, he signs at the tip of the sword / A Z which means Zorro”.

It is Guy Williams – 1m 90 and a true talent of fencer – who plays the vigilante Hispanic of this series, colorized in 1992. He executes without lining all the duels while the point of the swords was not mottled. “Friday was the day of the fighting. That way, in case of a glitch, I had a few days to either recover or stitch, “he had to say.

In Colombia and the Philippines, Zorro TV shows were recently filmed, with 112 episodes (2007, sold in 97 countries) and 98 (2009), respectively.

The cinema loves it

There are more than fifty “Zorro” in the cinema (including parody and erotic versions). The most famous have been played by Douglas Fairbanks (1920), Tyrone Power (1940), Alain Delon (1975) and Antonio Banderas (in two films in 1998 and 2005).

Batman’s creator, Bob Kane, said he was very influenced by the silent movie “The Zorro Sign,” with Fairbanks, to invent his superhero in the black cape, and even by the Tornado to imagine his Batmobile.

A project, with the Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal, is in preparation in Hollywood.

Comics, songs and video games have also copiously exploited the image of Zorro, like the Frenchman Henri Salvador, who sang in 1964: “Eh, eh, Zorro arrived / Without hurrying / The big Zorro, the beautiful Zorro / With his horse and his big hat / With his gun and his big lasso … ยป.

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