This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "The Mark of Zorro" 1940 film – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (July 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
The Mark of Zorro
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRouben Mamoulian
Screenplay byJohn Taintor Foote
Story byGarrett Fort
Bess Meredyth
Based onThe Curse of Capistrano
1919 serial story in All-Story Weekly
by Johnston McCulley
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
StarringTyrone Power
Linda Darnell
Basil Rathbone
CinematographyArthur C. Miller
Edited byRobert Bischoff
Music byAlfred Newman
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
  • November 8, 1940 (1940-11-08)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]
Box office$2 million (rentals)[2]

The Mark of Zorro is a 1940 American black-and-white swashbuckling film released by 20th Century-Fox, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, and starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, and Basil Rathbone. The supporting cast features Eugene Pallette, Gale Sondergaard, and Robert Lowery (the second actor to portray Batman on film). The film is based on the novel The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, originally published in 1919 in five serialized installments in All-Story Weekly,[3] which introduced the masked hero Zorro; the story is set in Southern California during the early 19th century. After the enormous success of the silent 1920 film adaptation, the novel was republished under that name by Grosset & Dunlap. The Mark of Zorro was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score. The film was named to the National Film Registry in 2009 by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant", and to be preserved for all time.[4]


Don Diego Vega is urgently called home by his father. To all outward appearances, he is the foppish son of a wealthy ranchero, the former alcalde Don Alejandro Vega, having returned to Alta California after his military education in Spain.

Don Diego is horrified at the way the common people are now mistreated by the corrupt new alcalde, Luis Quintero. Don Diego quickly adopts the guise of El Zorro ("The Fox"), a masked outlaw dressed entirely in black, who becomes the defender of the common people and a champion for justice against the uncaring Quintero and his garrison of brutish soldiers.

In the meantime, he romances the alcalde's beautiful and innocent niece, Lolita, whom he grows to love. As part of his plan, Don Diego simultaneously flirts with the alcalde's wife Inez, filling her head with tales of fashion and culture while nurturing her desire to finally get rid of her cruel husband.

In both his guises, Don Diego must always contend with the governor's most capable henchman, the malevolent and deadly Captain Esteban Pasquale. When the current situation comes to a head, he eventually dispatches the captain during a fast-moving rapier duel-to-the-death, as the alcalde looks on in astonishment. This action leads to a forced regime change with the help of the people of Los Angeles, the other landowners, and his father, and though Quintero is defeated, Zorro continues to fight for justice and the common people against the greedy and wicked.


Lobby card

Remake, music score, and sequel

The Mark of Zorro (1974) is a made-for-television remake film starring Frank Langella and co-starring Ricardo Montalbán in the roles played by Power and Rathbone in the original. It reuses Alfred Newman's original film score, along with new incidental music composed by Dominic Frontiere.

Portions of Newman's original music score were reused by composer Ian Fraser for the George Hamilton swashbuckling comedy film Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981). The film's storyline is a tongue-in-cheek sequel to the original 1940 film.

1920 silent version

“Power was the most agile man with a sword I’ve ever faced before a camera. Tyrone could have fenced Errol Flynn into a cocked hat.” – Basil Rathbone from his 1962 memoir In and Out of Character.[5]

The Mark of Zorro is a sound remake of the lavish 1920 smash-hit silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks as Zorro and Noah Beery Sr. as Sergeant Gonzales. This film depiction includes Don Diego's mother, Isabella, but it omits Bernardo (Don Diego's mute servant). That 1920 feature introduced Zorro's iconic all-black costume, subsequently incorporated into Johnston McCulley's later Zorro stories in his original fiction series upon which Fairbanks' film had been based. The 1920 film was the first in a popular array of swashbuckler action features starring the acrobatic Fairbanks, who had previously appeared mainly in comedies. Clips from the film were incorporated into The Artist nine decades later.

Acknowledging that director Mamoulian's 1940 version is a remake of the Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 swashbuckler, film critic Todd Wiener observes:

“Critics inevitably, and often unfavorably, compare the film to the earlier successful [silent] version, but Mamoulian’s interpretation of the Zorro myth stands on its own merits. Tyrone Power’s performance is especially spirited, displaying a range and wry sardonic charm not always evident in his other forays into this genre.[6]

Batman connection

In the DC Comics continuity, The Mark of Zorro was established as the film that the eight-year-old Bruce Wayne had seen with his parents, Thomas and Martha, at a movie theater, only moments before they were killed in front of him by an armed thug (later retconned to be Joe Chill). Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce's childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona. Discrepancies exist 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. Bill Finger was himself inspired by Fairbanks' Zorro, including similarities in costumes, the "Bat Cave" and Zorro's cave, and unexpected secret identities, especially since the Batman character antedates the Tyrone Power remake by a year. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (set in the DCEU continuity), Bruce and his parents leave a screening of 1940's The Mark of Zorro the night of their murder.[7]

In the animated series Justice League Unlimited, a flashback of the fateful night establishes that for DCAU continuity, Bruce and his parents were attending The Mark of Zorro, but does not indicate which version. In earlier episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, the fictional character the Gray Ghost, a pulp-fiction hero inspired by The Shadow, is the inspiration to young Bruce Wayne.

In Todd Phillips' 2019 film Joker, the marquee above the theater young Bruce and his parents exit shows the 1981 films Blow Out and Zorro, the Gay Blade as playing.

Home media

The Mark of Zorro has been released twice on DVD. The first was on October 7, 2003, and featured the film in its original black-and-white, as part of 20th Century Fox Studio Classics Collection. The second was released on October 18, 2005, as a Special Edition, featuring both a newly restored black-and-white version and a colorized version, prepared by Legend Films. Both contain the short film "Tyrone Power: The Last Idol" as seen on Biography on the A&E Network, with a commentary by film critic Richard Schickel. Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray in 2016.[8]


  1. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 240
  2. ^ Solomon 1989, p. 219
  3. ^ All-Story Weekly vol. 100 #2 (August 9, 1919) – vol. 101 #2 (September 6, 1919)
  4. ^ "2009 Selections to the National Film Registry Announced". News Releases. The Library of Congress. December 30, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Wiener 2004
  6. ^ Wiener 2004
  7. ^ Ching, Albert (November 12, 2014). "'Batman v Superman' Set Pic Sets Stage for Wayne Murders". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved October 16, 2022.
  8. ^ The Mark of Zorro Blu-ray, retrieved November 17, 2022