It all began in 1972. Channel 13 had been showing Zorro since 1/2/68 with an incredible demand. The series was a favorite of children, and beginning in 1970 merchandise began to be strongly advertised at toy stores and kioscs. It occurred to constitution channel to bring Guy Williams to Argentina with the idea of a special program reporting on him, and that he would also participate on various children's shows on that channel. Zorro had partly retired from his artistic activities and accepted. His arrival at Ezeia airport 4/5/73 was apocalyptic. Hundreds of children and their parents greeted the actor, who could not believe what he saw. The visit was a success and Guy, who had not previously agreed to it, was willing to disguise himself as his celebrated persona on several programs on channel 13 and to make a small fencing exhibition on Teleshow. The partner contending with Williams was then the national fencing champion, Fernando Lupiz who was then just 20 years old and so Lupiz entered Guy's life.
The visit was profitable and pleasant for all. Each program in which he appeared got 40+ ratings, so in the same year more opportunities appeared. On Saturday 7/14/73 on Pan Am flight 201 Guy Williams returned to the country, this time with his wife Janice and Henry Calvin, Sergeant Demetrio Lopez Garcia. Channel 13 sent 20 minivans to receive them, leaving from Cochabamba Ave. During this stay, Zorro fought a duel in the magic circus of Carlitos bala and was seen for the first time on the Mirtha Legrand show, which he would repeat frequently over the years. Legrand was one of the celebrities who would assist with his services in 1989.
In 1979 Guy Williams returned to Buenos Aires, not on contract to channel 13, but to put on shows himself. His new partner now was Lupiz, dressed up like a Capitan Monastario. Although he did have a mustache, he was very young for the role. In order to promote the spectacle, Zorro appeared on Pantalonia and Capitan Piluso's program. Guy presented his show over two months in the countryside to excellent reviews.
The show was part of numerous circuses and the grand finale was destined to be the person all the Argentine children wanted to see in person. The same joined them in the ring where the chief of the ring announced him with pomp. He made turns on his black horse, saluting them with his right hand raised high. After a few words, Monastario appeared on the scene, starting the fight, which lasted several minutes, with the expected victory to Williams. Zorro's participation was brief, about 15 minutes, but everyone who was lucky enough to be present marveled to see our hero. A giant sign with the silhouette of our idol with the lettering characteristic of the series was put up on Sarmiento Ave. In 1977, the producers Carlos Montero and Enrique Gargia Fuertes announced the project "Zorro and Son", a film starring Williams and Lupiz. During this, the producer Carlos Patino entered negotiations and decided to hire Zorro for the Circus Real Madrid of the Seguras Brothers, a spectacle that we were accustomed to see many famous celebrities. So Guy returned to Argentina. The Real Madrid was the major draw in Mar del Plata during 77-78. From December through March, 250,000 people applauded Zorro in person.
The Zorro fever of the Argentine people never left, and Guy benefited. He began to make Argentinean friends, he was enchanted with the country and its women and also by the enormous reception he received wherever he went. The film project had taken form and became Guy's obsession. It had started as an unenthusiastic project, but for Williams, it was the key to bring the light backs on him and resuscitates his career. He started working on the script and the scenery. His intention was to use real natural Argentine settings. The provisional title of the story was Zorro. Dead or alive, the project that Guy envisioned was very ambitious. Estimated at 2 million dollars, very expensive for the weak Argentine economy of the time, but he was insistent that someone had to back a Zorro film, and that it would be seen around the world in 65 countries at once.
The only one prepared to finance the film was Palito Ortega who was then a prolific movie director and producer. This second version was called "The King". He made a lot of changes in the script and location made by Guy. Ortega demanded that Carlitos Bala fill the role of Bernardo. For Guy, this was too much. Not because the didn't want Bala, but because he couldn't see his idea, his work of three years disappear due to the wishes of the director, so he renounced any further work on his project. Sometime later, he heard the role of Capitan Monastario was to go to Alfredo Alcon. The script is reportedly in the film museum.
Without the film, Zorro had nothing to do in Buenos Aires and returned to California around the middle of 1980. He had to return to the city that had opened its arms to him and had adopted him like an idol. In his last step of residence in Buenos Aires, Guy cultivated a low profile, abandoned the media. Only rarely was there a note in radiolandia that El Zorro lived among us. He loved to take coffee in la Biela, in Recoleta, reading the Buenos Aires Herald. He continued to make Argentine friends.
The first of May, 1989 he had a "pressure" attack, the first was in 1983 in the U.S. It caught him when he was alone in his apartment at 1964 Ayachuco St., and he could not resist. Thanks to the efforts of his friend, Fernando Lupiz, his remains rested for a time in the pantheon of the Argentine actors association, overriding the rule that it was only for Argentineans. Two years later, his son Steve received his ashes in the U.S, and obeyed his father's wishes to be scattered over the California mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
We would like to believe that we have Zorro here, all around. Guy Williams, Don Diego, a bon vivant, loved Argentina and he was converted into a legend. It hurts to think he was so young, that he never got to see his movie completed. It hurts that he is not here to see him walking from the Hotel Alvear to the building he lived at so many years and we feel the need to give thanks for our good luck. Wherever he is, in rural mar de plata and even in a restaurant, we have a little bit of consolation, but very little. To think that we always have him so in 1973 Leo Gleizer was a newsman with the news division of channel 13. He was in charge of going to look for Guy Williams in the US and bring him for the first time to Argentina. Leo told us the story of finding him and what happened afterward.
"When I arrived in New York, it was very difficult to establish Guy's whereabouts. After several failed investigations, it occurred to me to check telephone books. I had a great surprise to confirm that my Guy Williams lived in California . I called and a woman answered, Janice, Guy's wife. I talked with him, telling him that I came from Argentina to find him and that I believed he would find it a good thing. I had made the trip to NY to work out an agreement. He told me to come to his house. He insisted, saying I was mandating a trip for him, so I eventually agreed. I was looking for him at the airport.
When I saw him without a mustache, I took the opportunity to suggest that it be allowed to grow. Just 15 days after my first call, we arrived in Buenos Aires, and became great friends."
1. Mr. Williams, when did you become Zorro?
It was 1957 and I was trying to make inroads into the movies, but the truth was, I was not having good luck. During that year, a friend with whom I practiced fencing informed me that the Disney studios were having screen tests looking for an actor who personified Zorro, for a TV series. Incredibly, Zorro had been my idol when I was a boy. My friend had to insist, until he finally convinced me that I had the Latin physical presence, fenced well and could ride a horse. I decided I had nothing to lose with the attempt and I presented myself to the studio. When I arrived, I found myself part of a group of 50 actors who were all hopeful for the same thing. Some had come costumed as Zorro, one even had a horse. At the beginning I wanted to try, but felt somewhat intimidated to make myself part of that carnival. but the power in interpreting this person beloved by me gave me the strength to undergo this series of tests. After a couple months of riding in procession, fencing and doing acrobatics, we were left with 4 finalists and Walt Disney himself viewed the screen tests and.... I got it! It was one of the happiest days of my life.
2. What was it like working with Walt Disney?
Very interesting. Disney was a perfectionist, a person who lived for his work and loved children. He had a very strong character. Creatively and professionally he was unique. He was involved with every detail of his productions, so much so that I was ordered to take guitar lessons from a master, which I didn't understand. He wanted me to be an authentic Zorro.
3. When did they begin filming the series?
The second half of '57. There I found two great friends. Henry Calvin, who played Sergeant Garcia, and the beautiful horse who was my companion the first year, the first Tornado, who had a tragic ending. That marvelous animal was startled by a gunshot during filming and fell over a precipice, had multiple fractures and had to be sacrificed. I believe that was the only sad memory from the series. We continued filming in '58 and '59, and who knows how many more years if it hadn't have stopped because of the disagreement between Disney and ABC.
4. How many Tornados were there?
Actually there were four horses. After the accident with the first, we worked with two Tornados. One was fantastic in the running scenes but didn't want to jump. He also didn't like to do closeups and Zorro was talking to Sgt. Garcia, Tornado would bend down and hide his head, then we would employ the other Tornado. There was also a white horse, Phantom, because the director thought he would film better in night scenes, but he didn't last long and Tornado returned.
5. In the physical scenes, did you have doubles?
Of course. When I had to jump or fall off horses, I had to have a double because injury to me could hold up production. It also made it possible for me to be filming in the studios and my double to be filming scenes of Zorro riding, etc., saving a lot of time, but I know well how to handle the sword, do jumps and wasn't afraid of the physically demanding action.
6. Why did they stop filming the series?
I had a firm contract with Walt Disney for five years. The producer presented the series over two seasons; there were 78 episodes, but when we were going to start the third season, Disney tried to change channels. Filming was halted because of the disagreement over that change. Disney told me at that time not to worry, to take a trip around the world with my wife, and charge it to him, until the work resumed. One day Disney mentioned to me, "you deserve a paid vacation. Remember that time during a sword fight you were wounded in the shoulder, and the next day you were back in the studio, bandaged up." So I passed two years, I collected money without working. When Disney was developing other projects, it apparently was not a good time for Zorro to return. Lamentably there was no further filming of the series. The truth is that never have I done something with such dedication and joy. That's why I love Zorro so much. I'm thrilled to mount the horse, with the mask and hat and cape, to make children happy reviving a romantic idol, defender of justice, without the violence and cruelty that proliferates so on TV today.
7. After that series, what other work did you do?
I did some film; some were shown here in Argentina. Two were filmed in Italy; Damon and Pythias and Captain Sindbad. Then there was Zorro, the movie and with Walt Disney, we went to England for Prince and the Pauper. I also did several episodes of Bonanza, playing a cousin of the Cartwright family. During three seasons, I was Professor Robinson, a protagonist of the TV series Lost in Space, which arrived here in 1968.
8. To what do you attribute Zorro's success in Latin America?
I believe that here in Latin America, the series is loved in part because of the weight of social justice in his person. Truly, Zorro is a revolutionary who wouldn't let his land be a foreign colony. But I also believe his great public are the children and those that enjoy the action.
It's not his leaps, nor his cape, nor hat, nor mask. Not his elegance, nor is it the form with which he handles the sword.
It's his smile that is the secret of his enchantment, of our fascination. Here is the secret of your memories, of our memories. When he tricked Monastario, when he escaped Garcia, when he celebrated an act of justice, or saluting a child walking on the street. Those who know him can confirm it. Guy Williams' smile is the best thrust of his sword. It goes directly to the heart.