The Mark of Zorro (1940)

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*. “What men call gallantry, and gods adultery, is much more common where the climate’s sultry.” It’s hard to imagine how such a sly and knowing movie as this got made in 1940. Adultery is frankly discussed and winkingly acknowledged throughout, with Quintero playing the part of the happy if not downright obliging cuckold.
*. Throw in the delightful scene in the church between Power and Darnell, and his later visit to her bedroom where he is discovered and identified by her uncle as a randy suitor, and the  whole thing starts to take on the air of Restoration comedy. Just look at Power in the dinner scene digging at Rathbone for his liking to “poke” things. And then his sly glance at Dona Inez after Quintero tells him that “Esteban is forever thrusting at this and that.”
*. Richard Schickel in his commentary is right to be impressed at how this slipped by the censors, but I don’t see how he takes it as a jab at Don Diego’s presumed homosexuality. How so?
*. Certainly there is a lot of “gay blade” stuff as Power queens it up as the California cockerel, or fey and foppish popinjay. And Power is perfect in the part, his good looks made to seem slightly off-center by a ball-point nose and a moustache that looks like penciled-on eyebrows.
*. But was Power, as Schickel casually asserts, bisexual in real life? I’ve read some rumours, but I’m not aware of any direct evidence. What evidence we do have of his love life seems to paint him as a raving heterosexual. It also seems unlikely (to me) that a closeted gay man (as gay men pretty much all were in Hollywood at the time) would want to play a role like this. Hell, Schickel even gives us this at another point: “I wonder if today you could adopt that disguise [that is, of a homosexual] in a popular movie, I have a feeling it would be objectionable to a certain percentage of the audience.”

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*. I couldn’t find any explanation of the horse stunt. Old Hollywood is full of stories, and you would think someone would have a good one about that. But fairs did have shows featuring horses jumping from heights, and perhaps the leap from the bridge wasn’t as difficult as it looks.
*. A movie that does a bunch of different things lightly and well: romance, comedy, and action. Everything works: the score is lively, the screenplay smart, the direction creative and quick, the actors perfect in their parts. It’s one of the great entertainments of this period, and barely shows its age.

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