Tag Archives: Rouben Mamoulian

Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, Fred Caverns and The Mark of Zorro

 

Robin Hood found it’s way on to the list twice and now Zorro has it’s second slot as well. The Mark of Zorro features a climactic duel between Zorro and Pasquale. Basil Rathbone was known already in Hollywood as an outstanding classical fencer, but Tyrone Power’s own excellent skills are displayed here for the first time. The duel is ornate and full of subtlety, as opposed to Rathbone’s duel with Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, and the duel in The Mark of Zorro (1940) is considered by many movie buffs to be the finest swordfight in cinema.zorro-1940

Staged by Hollywood’s resident fencing master Fred Cavens and atmospherically shot by cinematographer Arthur Miller and director Rouben Mamoulian, the scene takes place in a single room and forces actors to fight rather than jump around in the scenery. In key shots, Cavens’ son, Albert, doubles for Power (such as the shot where he plunges his saber through the bookcase). Scenes of fast fencing were undercranked to 18-20 frames per second, requiring that all the sound for the scene be post-synchronized. Rathbone suffered two scratches on his forehead during its filming, and later said of Power, “He could fence Errol Flynn into a cocked hat.”

I had mentioned before about the Batman connection with the Mark of Zorro. In the DC Comics continuity it is established that The Mark of Zorro was the film which the young Bruce Wayne had seen with his parents at the cinema, moments before they were killed in front of his eyes by an armed thug. Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce’s childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona. There are discrepancies regarding which version Bruce saw: The Dark Knight Returns claims it was the Tyrone Power version, whereas a story by Alan Grant claimed it to be the silent Douglas Fairbanks original. Bob Kane was himself inspired by Fairbanks’ Zorro, including similarities in costumes, the “Bat Cave” and Zorro’s cave, and unexpected secret identities.mark zorro

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page):

Glossary of stunt terms as defined by the Wikipedia – Fencing: Which is also known as Olympic fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is an activity using bladed weapons. The sport of fencing is divided into three weapons: foil, sabre and épée.

Fencing is one of five sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games, the other four being Athletics, Cycling, Swimming, and Gymnastics.

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