In past issues, The Western Horseman has carried stories on horsemen of early California. To go along with that theme, this month's Filmland Horsemen column profiles one of these Californians, perhaps by legend and film, the most famous of them all.... Zorro. Created for TV by Walt Disney from the character made famous on the screen by Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., and later Tyrone Power, Zorro has become one of the most dashing horsemen ever to ride across the TV tubes of the world. Guy Williams, the young man who plays this part so well, is the subject of this month's story. Guy, whose real names is Armando Catalano, was born in New York City.

Diego and Tornado

Guy Williams

He went to grade school in New York, attended George Washington High, and finished at Peekskill Military School. (Note: This is inaccurate, Guy attended Peekskill when he was a small child). His was the typical life of any boy, and becoming one of the nation's most widely recognized personalities never entered the mind of young Armando as he grew up. However, he did a couple of things that were quite unusual for a boy in New York. He became an expert with a dueling sword, and developed into a good horseman on the bridle paths of America's largest metropolis, both of which were to stand him in good stead when testing for the coveted role of Zorro. Guy's father wanted him to enter the brokerage business, but he decided to try modeling for advertisements instead. The pay was good, and it could lead to something better. He met his wife, Janice, on a modeling assignment and they were married in December, 1948.

Both of them were working, so Guy decided to enroll in the famed Neighborhood Playhouse under the guidance of Sandy Meisner. Several of our previous Filmland Horsemen, including Richard Boone and Steve McQueen, attended the same school. While at the Playhouse, Guy started working in TV shows in the New York area, and also did some summer stock. In 1952, a talent scout from Universal-International saw Guy and got him a contract. But as so often happens with young contract players, the work he was given did not give him a chance to prove himself, and so he left the studio when his term was up. Just before his contract expired, Guy and a friend were riding their horses on the backlot at U-I, and decided to race. Guy was riding bareback, and when he turned his horse suddenly, he was thrown on his left shoulder, smashing it badly. This accident kept him laid up for a year. In 1955, his doctor pronounced him fit to work again and he began to reconstruct his career.

Zorro atop Phantom

During the next months, he took just about every job that came his way so that the family could keep eating. It was hard for awhile, but the break finally came. In the spring of 1957, his agent found out that Walt Disney was going to do the Zorro series and Guy was tested for the part. The studio had him return for many more interviews and the situation was touch and go for several months. Ten other actors were tested for the part before Guy was signed. Soon after Zorro went on the air, it started to climb in the ratings and it wasn't long before kids all over America were emulating Guy in making the "sign of the Z." They had their own Zorro swords, capes, masks, hats, and the whole works! Guy became a "national hero" and offers began pouring into the Disney studio wanting Zorro for personal appearances.

Disney felt that a man like the legendary Zorro would ride only the best, so he began to look for the finest picture-horse he could find for the show. A beautiful, black, registered Morgan was spotted at the Cow Palace in San Francisco during a stock horse contest. Disney was called, and went to see the horse work. This gelding, Diamond Decorator, had won many Pacific Coast Championship cups and it wasn't long before he became the property of the Disney studio. Guy rides this horse, call Tornado, in the series and on many of his personal appearances. He also uses a new white stallion in the series occasionally. If you saw Guy in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Year's Day, you saw him riding Glenn Randall's black stallion, Rex. To keep his fencing up to par, Guy works out with Fred Cavens, who has tutored many of Hollywood's swashbuckling heroes, including the two original Zorros, Fairbanks and Power. In addition to riding and fencing, Guy is also a boat enthusiast and his keeps his 37-footer moored at San Pedro. The Williams and their two children, Steve and Toni, spend many a warm weekend on the ocean, and Guy has to have entered his craft in some of this year's boat races.

The Williams have been living in a two-story, Spanish type apartment, but are now nearly ready to move into a house in the suburbs. Five years ago, Guy and Jan saw the house, and by coincidence, happened to meet the owner. They had always planned to have one like it, and were recently able to buy this very same place. In addition to the Zorro series, Guy has plans for feature pictures that will give him a chance to get away from the type of things he has been doing for awhile. All good actors want to remain creative and Guy is no exception.

The Western Horseman Magazine