When Walt Disney was looking for someone to play Zorro a couple of years ago, he interviewed both actors and fencers. Fencing instructors around Hollywood were booked up for weeks by actors who wanted to learn to fence in ten easy lessons. But the plum role went, after a year's search, to an actor who could already fence. Tall, dark and handsome Guy Williams. As Disney discovered, as soon as the new show went out on ABC-TV, he had a smash hit on his hands. Kids all over the country began dressing up in black capes and masks and brandishing plastic swords, and a big black "Z" could be seen on almost every fence.
Last season, in spite of its success, Disney decided to discontinue Zorro, but the cries that came from the young-young set, could be heard even within the air-conditioned offices on the Disney lot, so this year, Zorro is back, and so is Guy. (To attract slightly older viewers, teenage favorites Annette Funicello and Mark Damon have been added to the cast.) The adventure shows will be seen as part of Walt Disney Presents.
The man who plays the title role in the series was born in New York City on January 14th, 1924. Of Italian descent, his real name is Armand Catalano. His father, who died in 1951, was an insurance broker; his mother, an executive with the American branch of a foreign film producing company. Guy went to school in New York and to Peekskill Military Academy. He had an appointment to West Point on his mind, but when it failed to come through, he tried his hand at various jobs before he discovered that, with his looks, he could make more money more easily by modeling. From that to acting was both easy and natural and, after some summer theatre work and some New York television, he was tapped for Hollywood. He had spent a year there without getting any major assignments when he was badly hurt in a fall from a horse. It was to regain the use of his left arm, injured in the fall, that he took up fencing.
Meantime, discouraged, he returned to New York, and it wasn't until 1957 that he determined to have another try at Hollywood. He heard about the Zorro role, grew a small mustache so he'd look more like Douglas Fairbanks, who had played it in an early-day movie, and a few weeks after his test, on April 18th, he had the job.
It was on a modeling assignment, in 1948, that he met Janice Cooper. Posing as a newly married couple, they went through their kissing scene some fifty times, and felt so well acquainted at the end of the session that they were married not much later, on December 4th. They have two children, a son, Stevie, born in 1952, and a daughter, Toni, who arrived on Mother's Day in 1958.
Besides being an enthusiastic fencer, Guy has a lot of other interests. He's become a proficient guitarist, and does his own fencing and guitar playing in the series. He has also learned to stay on his horse, Tornado. He is a chess player, an expert on tropical fish, a better than average cook, and an amateur astronomer. He likes to read and listen to music, but his favorite pastime these days is sailing his 40-foot sloop. "Acting is what I do for a living," he says, "but what I'd like to do more than anything else in the world is sail my boat to Tahiti."
Six-feet three and weighing 185 lbs, Guy has dark brown hair and gray-green eyes. Even when he's standing still, he is poised on the balls of his feet, seemingly tensed for action and ready to explode. When he walks, he swaggers, and when he enters a room, he seems to leap in, just as Zorro leaps onto his horse and rides off on his next adventure.
His son, Stevie, Guy says, never paid much attention to him on television until his schoolmates found out he was Zorro. Then Stevie began making all sorts of deals. Getting candy, permission to raise the flag, and other such privileges, in exchange for autographs. In the current season, there's a whole new batch of kids watching television. Chances are, there'll be a new rash of capes and masks and big "Z's" on the fences.
TV's Top Stars Magazine