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'Zorro' Makes Its Mark : Popular '50s ABC Series Still Cuts a Dashing Figure on Disney Channel


The Lone Ranger wasn't the only masked man on television in the '50s who saved the day in the Old West. There also was Don Diego de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro.

The Zorro legend had long been popular in films. Matinee idols Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Tyrone Power both starred in classic "Zorro" feature films. The television series was produced by none other than Walt Disney. Currently in repeats on the Disney Channel, "Zorro" originally aired on ABC from October, 1957, through September, 1959.

Set in 1820s Spanish California, the action series followed the adventures of Don Diego (Guy Williams), the charming only son of the wealthy Don Alejandro (George J. Lewis). Diego had returned home from Spain after the evil army officer Captain Monastario (Britt Lomond) took over the Fortress de los Angeles and began a reign of tyranny over the local dons and their peons.

Don Diego pretended by be foppish and lazy, much to his father's dismay. The authorities believed he was no threat. But Don Diego turned out to be their worst nightmare. Disguised entirely in black, complete with a black mask, Zorro would thwart the diabolical schemes of Monastario and his men. Zorro would always leave his calling card--the sign of a "Z," which he would cut with his sword. Tornado and Phantom were Zorro's trusty black and white stallions.

Williams, who later starred as Prof. John Robinson on "Lost in Space," was a charming, handsome and athletic hero. Disney veteran Gene Sheldon co-starred as Bernardo, Don Diego's loyal, mute manservant, and Henry Calvin played Monastario's rotund, dim henchmen, Sgt. Garcia.

During its second season, Jolene Brand joined the cast as Anna Maria Verdugo, Zorro's love interest. "Mickey Mouse Club" star Annette Funicello was a frequent guest-star as senorita Anita Cabrillo. Walt Disney gave her the role in the series as a birthday present. As Anita, Funicello was given the opportunity to sing several songs.

Though the series never cracked the Top 25, the "Theme From Zorro" --"Zorro--the Fox so cunning and free! Zorro--make the sign of the Z!"--was a big hit. The title tune was first recorded by co-star Calvin. The Chordettes' version, though, reached No. 17 on the pop charts.

And Zorro has proved to be popular with contemporary TV audiences. "The New Zorro," starring Duncan Regehr, is currently in its fourth season on The Family Channel.

"Zorro" airs Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m on The Disney Channel; "The New Zorro" airs weekdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on The Family Channel.

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