It wasn’t Fantastic Four #1, but when I found Chasing After Zorro by Britt Lomond at a local church’s local book sale last month, I did find something special. This is an actor’s recollections of his time on the 1950s Disney TV Show Zorro. Lomond played the bad guy in the first couple of seasons of this show. (Although I learned that Walt Disney had wanted to cast him as the hero originally.)
Disney+ just put this Zorro show up on their streaming service, and you know what? It’s pretty good! To celebrate this, I excerpted a few chapters of the book in last week’s columns. And as it turns out – it’s very difficult to find a copy of this book. Collectors have seemingly paid several hundred dollars to get their hands on a copy.
So in response to fan requests (I think from fans who have been looking for this book for a while), I wanted to excerpt a little more of Chasing After Zorro. Here’s Lomond’s thoughts on episode #2, entitled “Zorro’s Secret Passage”. It’s kind of the story about how Zorro sets up his version of the Batcave:
Now that the main character of the Zorro series had been intruded in the first episode, the story lines of each segment could now be emphasized. However, perfection being one of Walt Disney’s trademarks, numerous script revisions seemed to be the norm as the series moved into each succeeding episode. There were many sound reasons for this, as I shall explain.
When we started filming the second episode of the series, there were twelve pages of the original script that had to be revised. This was a very unusual amount of the revisions for the studio to make at this very early stage of filming. However, we had many scenes that were filmed on the location at the Mission of San Louise Rey, and many minor adjustments had to be made in the shooting schedule and script dialog to fit this location. The writers had no idea where we were going to film their episodes, so they wrote the action not knowing how many changes were going to be made due to these locations that were selected for filming.
The Mission of the San Louis Rey was one of the many original Spanish missions built in a long chain stretching from Mexico to Northern California, in the late 1700’s and middle 1800’s. The San Louis Rey Mission was located just outside Oceanside, about a twenty-minute drive up the coast from San Diego. It had been painstakingly restored to its original splendor, so it was perfect for several Zorro episodes.
Norman Foster, our director, along with the location manager and the production manager, looked at half a dozen missions all over California before selecting the San Luis Rey Mission. When Norman saw this mission, he remarked happily, “Now, this really looks like an old Spanish mission you might visualize when you imagine one.”
“The opening scene of the second episode shows sergeant Garcia supervising the placement of a poster on a wall at the Plaza de Los Angeles. These posters proclaimed, “A reward of 500 pesos for information on the whereabouts of Ignasio Torres.” Also on the poster was an additional offer, “A reward of 100 pesos for the capture, dead or alive, of the bandit known as Zorro.” When Norman was setting up this scene in rehearsal, I was watching and casually asked him about the amount of pesos in the posters.
From my own study of early California Spanish history, I knew that the amount of pesos was quite large and not really historically correct.
I suggested to Norman that he might think about making the rewards for one hundred fifty pesos or even as low as fifty pesos. Smiling, Norman answered, “You may be historically correct, Britt, but look how dramatic these two figures of five hundred and a thousand pesos look on the poster!”
John Ford, the highly acclaimed Western director, made a wonderful statement once to a reporter when asked about some of the historical influences in his films, saying bluntly, “When history and legend conflict, tell the legend!”
I was also impressed by Lomond’s knowledge of the previous Zorro iterations. And here, he talks about a scene that’s become a bit of a trope. I remember laughing at this more than once when Mel Brooks decided to have fun with this type of scene.
In the scene where Diego and Monastario have a sword fight and the Commandante cuts a candle on the table, I added a couple of clever touches. When Diego thinks the Capitan has missed the candle, the Commandante lifts up the cut half of the candle and smiles. I suggested this action to the director, because I thought it might make an interesting piece of business. It was right out of the original Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone “Mark of Zorro” film. It worked very well then, and I thought it would be great to use it again. Norman loved it and we kept it in the scene. In the same fencing sequence, Diego was supposed to disarm me, but I suggested he break my sword in half instead. A better piece of action because it left in question who was really the better swordsman for future fencing scenes in the series.
I know I was sticking my nose into places where usually actors do not tread, but action, especially fencing, was my area of expertise and I did make suggestions when I thought it might help the episode.
Ok, that’s it for now. Time to sharpen my foil and sip a bit of tequila. Viva el Zorro!
* * *
One more quick one – I just received Zorro: the Daring Escapades, published by Bold Venture Press. It’s a collection of short stories from favorite authors, like Will Murray, with illustrations from talented folks, like Pepe Poplaski. I haven’t jumped into it yet, but it looks like fun!
Zorro: The Daring Escapades
Edited by Audrey Parente & Daryl McCollough
Paperback : 414 pages
ISBN-13 : 979-8637608508