Colorado-Bred Swashbuckler

“Want something snappy, exciting, romantic, full of tense action, bubbling over with romance and glamor [sic]? Well, here it is!” Douglas Fairbanks in the The Mark of Zorro.”1

16616vOn Dec 5, 1920, The Mark of Zorro premiered. However, it didn’t begin making the rounds throughout Colorado until 1921. Unlike now, in the early days of  movies copies were typically purchased by an individual who traveled from town to town showing the movie in local theaters, community centers or churches (in fact, my grandmother used to play the piano during the silent movies when they came through Manassa).2 What was special about The Mark of Zorro was that it starred a Coloradan: Mr. Douglas Fairbanks, who grew up in Denver. 

Fairbanks’ real name is actually Douglas Elton Ulman. His love of acting appears to have started as a young boy. He began performing in summer stock plays at the Elitch Theater in Elitch Gardens. By his teenage years, he notoriously loved doing stunts. It gained him quite the reputation at East High School, as well as cost him his job at Morey Mercantile where he worked with his brother Jack. Fairbanks was known to slide down the elevator cable instead of taking the stairs in the five floor building. While Fairbanks was asked to leave, Jack stayed with the company for over twenty years and it was frequently visited by Fairbanks on his visits to Denver.

Fairbanks’ love of histrionics served him well, however, once he reached Hollywood in 1915. He landed many romantic leading roles and by 1918 he was the “King of Hollywood.” Wanting to revive the costumed adventure movie, Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro. It proved tremendously successful and spawned numerous swashbuckling type films (a truer inception of the “action-adventure” genre), such as Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers.

Still from “Mark of Zorro”

Here in Colorado, it was a big hit!

“Fairbanks has excelled any of his previous performances. This is due to some extent to the ingenious story and the opportunities afforded “Doug” to make the greatest use of his athletic ability.”  -Record Journal of Douglas3

“Never before has Douglas Fairbanks waxed so enthusiastic over the success and admiration of a picture than he has over ‘The Mark of Zorro’… –Summit County Journal4

“‘The Mark of Zorro’ a dandy picture–see it.”- Aspen Democrat-Times5

Believe it or not, the film is actually one of the rare films still available to watch today. For free!


Arian Osborne
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