Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

March 28, 2013

See the one that started it all

Original silent 'Zorro' to screen at Merrimack College

It was the original swashbuckling blockbuster — a film that turned actor Douglas Fairbanks into Hollywood’s first-ever action hero. Now, people can see the silent film just as audiences did back in 1920, on the big screen and with live music to accompany it.

“The Mark of Zorro” will once again fill the silver screen next Wednesday night, April 3 at the Rogers Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Merrimack College, on the Andover-North Andover line.

The screening, the latest in the Rogers Center’s silent film series, will feature live accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a composer who specializes in creating scores for silent films. Rapsis says he achieves a traditional movie score sound for silent film screenings by using a digital synthesizer to reproduce the texture of the full orchestra.

Admission is free and open to the public.

The program will be proceeded by a discussion of the film by noted author and historian Christopher DiGrazia that will start at 6:30 p.m.

“The Mark of Zorro,” a major hit when first released, tells the story of young Don Diego Vega, the son of a wealthy ranch owner in Spanish California of the early 19th century. Witnessing the mistreatment of the poor by rich landowners and the oppressive colonial government, Don Diego assumes the identity of “Señor Zorro,” a masked figure of great cunning and skill, and vows to bring justice to the region.

The film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr., who until “Zorro” had focused on playing traditional all-American leading roles in romantic comedies. The film launched Fairbanks on a series of historical adventure films that went on to rank among the most popular spectacles of the silent era, including “The Three Musketeers”(1921) and “Robin Hood” (1922). The original Zorro film was so popular it inspired one of Hollywood’s first big-budget sequels, “Don Q, Son of Zorro” (1925), also starring Fairbanks.

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