“Zorro” was an American action-adventure western series produced by Walt Disney Productions and starring Guy Williams. Based on the Zorro character created by Johnston McCulley, the series premiered on October 10, 1957 on ABC. The final network broadcast was July 2, 1959. Seventy-eight episodes were produced, and four hour-long specials were aired on the Walt Disney anthology, “Disneyland” series between October 30, 1960, and April 2, 1961.For most of its brief run, the episodes were part of continuing story arcs, each about thirteen episodes long, which made it almost like a serial. Guy Williams played Don Diego de la Vega, the foppish dandy by day, and Zorro, the masked swordsman who slashed Zs everywhere by night.
Don Deigo was depicted as a former University student, newly recalled by his father from Spain to his home outside of what was later called Los Angeles. Just before reaching California, Diego learned of the tyranny of Captain Monastario, and realized that his father, Don Alejandro, summoned him to help fight this injustice. Although he won medals for his fencing back in Spain, Diego decided that his best course of action was to conceal his ability with a sword, and to affect the demeanor of a milquetoast intellectual rather than a decisive man of action. His alter ego, Zorro operated primarily at night, taking the direct action that Diego could not. Diego relied heavily on his wits, both with and without the mask on. Later in the series, Diego emerged as a respected figure in his own right, a clever thinker and loyal friend who just happens to be hopeless at swordplay.
Bernardo (pantomimist Gene Sheldon) was Diego’s manservant, confidant, and co-conspirator, the only person at first to know Diego’s secret identity. Unable to speak, Bernardo used gestures to communicate. He also pretended to be deaf as well as mute, the better to overhear the plans of Zorro’s enemies. He also played the fool, adopting clownish behavior so as to seem harmless.
Sergeant Demetrio López García (Henry Calvin) was fat, superstitious, and overly fond of drink, but he was also kind-hearted, brave, and loyal. Sergeant García believed that he must obey orders from his commanding officers, however cruel or unjust they might have been. Although García seldom departed from his sworn duty, he developed considerable respect for Zorro and later in the series was openly glad when Zorro escaped capture. Nevertheless, García dreamed of catching Zorro himself to collect the reward money, a dream that Diego encouraged from time to time.
Despite good ratings, the series ended after two seasons due to a financial dispute between Disney and the ABC network over ownership of “Zorro,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” and the Disneyland anthology television series. During the legal battle, however, Disney kept the franchise going for a few years in the form of four new hour-long “Zorro” adventures that aired on the anthology series. Guy Williams was kept on full salary during this period, but by the time Disney and ABC resolved their differences, Walt Disney decided that public interest in the character had flagged.
I remember as a kid that I really loved watching “Zorro.”