Behind the Mask and Mystique of Zorro

by Carol Sanderson

Part One: Namesake

 

The three contestants have reached the final category on the game show Jeopardy.

Alex Trebec reads, "He attacks those who prey on the weak; he is of noble birth; he maintains a dual identity in order to mete out his own brand of justice and elude his captors."

"Who is Robin Hood?" scribbles Julie, the accountant from Fresno.

"Who is The Scarlet Pimpernel?" pens Pete, the junior college instructor from Seattle.

"Who is Zorro?" writes Linc, the Navy ensign from Norfolk.

Three different tentative answers posed as questions, yet all conceivably correct.

Robin of Locksley. Sir Percy Blakeney. Don Diego de la Vega. Such names reflected the noble origins of the bandits and highwaymen known as Robin Hood, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Zorro to readers of fictional heroes from three very different eras and regions of the world. Because Zorro owes his creation to a later era than Robin Hood or the Scarlet Pimpernel, his story invites an inevitable question of origin: Did his creator fashion the character from fictional heroes of the past or did he base "the fox" on a very real Mexican bandit?

With the debut of his first installment about the hero of the citizens of early Los Angeles in the pulp fiction journal All-Story Weekly, Johnston McCulley had no way of knowing that Zorro would become a phenomenon to the genre of romantic heroes, one that would be revived in the medium of film and television every decade of this century.

Published in 1919, McCulley's story, The Curse of Capistrano, introduced readers to a masked man in sombrero and cape who is as equally skilled with a whip as he is with a sword. Despite his sinister appearance, Zorro immediately proves he is a protector of the oppressed. Besting one of the governor's soldiers in swordplay, he leaves the cruel Sgt. Gonzales unmarked but not without a humiliating slap, to punish him for brutally beating a native of the pueblo of Los Angeles.

Like the fox, Zorro prefers the darkness of night for his raids. His entrances into strongholds by secret passages as well as hasty exits from two-story windows onto the back of his stallion underscore the cunning and quickness associated with that elusive predator.

Zorro's true identity remains safely disguised in the role reversal he perfects as Don Diego Vega, the son of wealthy widower, Don Alejandro Vega. Even to his father, Diego successfully feigns a distaste for vigorous pursuits like fencing or riding, a boredom with the persecution dealt the natives and the church by the Spanish government, and a preference for the more refined activities such as balls and banquets. He escapes being truly insipid because of a charming wit and a skill with sleight-of-hand that surfaces at such social events.

McCulley's Zorro captured the imagination of working-class Americans and teenagers who made his one of the most popular serials ever published in All-Story Weekly. Despite the fact that Zorro gained icon status over the next several decades, thanks largely to films and television series, critics of McCulley generally denigrate his writing as hack literary fare. Between 1919 and 1959, besides 64 Zorro stories, McCulley authored fifty novels under various pseudonyms, illustrating that tales incorporating drama, adventure and romance need not be critically acclaimed to be successful.

Moreover, historical accuracy wasn't critical to the success of McCulley's Zorro. Although he strove to include detail that defined early nineteenth-century California, as in his depiction of a tallow and hide trade rife with fraud, McCulley often manipulated the setting to suit his plot. Close examination of The Curse of Capistrano and subsequent adventures of Zorro reveals McCulley's digression from historical accuracy by the combining of characteristics of two distinct but separate periods in Californian history: The period of 1782-1822, when Spain ruled California as a colony and life revolved around the missions, and the turbulent period that followed under Mexican rule (1822-1848), when the new government challenged the Church's authority and much of the land previously claimed by the missions was divided into ranches among a wealthy few.

Was McCulley's creation a success because it satisfied a need for escapism among Americans who had survived the horrors of World War I and the devastating flu epidemic of 1918? This may explain the initial response of the readers of pulp fiction, but the character's enduring popularity beyond the WWI generation undoubtedly stems from Zorro's leap to a new medium, beginning with Douglas Fairbanks' portrayal of the lead in the 1920 silent film The Mark of Zorro.

Very likely, it is the combination of the classic tale of good overcoming evil as well as the romantic setting of California during the days of missions, presidios, and pueblos that accounts for the ongoing popularity of Zorro. Arguably, the landscape of nineteenth-century California was as integral as the characters were to the popularity of Zorro. The role of landscape in McCulley's original concept of Zorro as well as in the later films The Mark of Zorro (1940) and The Mask of Zorro (1998) will be discussed in greater detail in Part Two of this article.

But the question remains, was the character of Zorro modeled after legend or true-life outlaws of nineteenth-century California?

In Zorro Unmasked, a book that chronicles seven decades of Zorro as depicted in film and television, Sandra Curtis presents evidence that the masked hero of Californian peasants may have been modeled after one or more of several colorful bandits from California's gold rush era. She contends that during the violent period resulting from the clash of Hispanic and Anglo culture after Mexico ceded California to the U.S. in 1848, the exploits of two outlaws, Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murieta, bear consideration as possible inspiration for McCulley's character.

Like Don Diego, Tiburcio Vasquez was born into an aristocratic family, with deep roots in California history. His great-grandfather helped found San Francisco and his grandfather was the first alcalde (equivalent of mayor) of San Jose. At the pivotal age of seventeen, Vasquez was implicated in the death of a constable who tried to break up a fight between Vasquez, two companions, and some Anglos. Rather than stand trial, Vasquez went into hiding, subsequently insuring an outlaw existence for the rest of his life. Though he robbed stagecoaches and was imprisoned in San Quentin twice over the next decade for various crimes, including horse stealing and cattle rustling, Vasquez found a measure of popularity and even protection among the locals because he targeted the much-despised Anglos.

Robert Kirsch and William S. Murphy summarize the bandit's more well-known exploits in West of the West, which also includes a first-person account of his final capture and death by hanging. According to the witness, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, Vasquez displayed a kind of repentance and loyalty to his family that moved all who saw him during his last hours. Vasquez's charisma established him as a cult hero well into the twentieth century. Even Douglas Fairbanks perpetuated the bandit's notoriety as he wined and dined guests on his California ranch in caves believed to be hideouts of Vasquez.

Of equal stature in Californian legend but lacking a traceable origin is the outlaw Joaquin Murieta. In the 1850s, Anglos migrating to California were subject to attacks from Californios (descendents of Spanish, Mexican and/or Indian settlers of 1770s California) who felt threatened financially and culturally by the migration. Newspaper accounts often identified the leader of such attacks simply as Joaquin, a common Mexican name, for lack of a verifiable identity. Often when reporters approached locals as witnesses to the attacks, they received little or no cooperation from people who supported any act that inconvenienced the interloping Anglos they called Yankees. As a result, similar incidents that occurred almost simultaneously but were reported in areas more than a day's ride apart were often attributed to the same bandit "Joaquin."

During the 1850s, California legislators authorized a company of rangers led by a transplanted Texan named Harry Love to hunt down the notorious bandit Joaquin. The promise of a thousand-dollar reward for Joaquin's capture or death, if accomplished within ninety days, produced a dramatic result: Shortly before the 90-day deadline, Captain Love's rangers provoked a party of Mexicans around a campfire, killing the leader who they claimed to be Joaquin, along with a more readily identifiable thief named Manuel Garcia, commonly known as "Three-Fingered Jack." The rangers severed and pickled Joaquin's head and the Garcia's mutilated hand to present them as evidence to the authorities in Sacramento and thereby collect the reward.

Joaquin's legendary status mushroomed with the publication of John Rollin Ridge's Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit in 1854. According to the author of the introduction to Ridge's narrative, Joseph Henry Jackson, there is evidence that an impoverished miner by the name of Murieta met with some of the injustices Ridge presents in his highly romanticized biography of the outlaw. However, the "adventures" Ridge attributes to Murieta are frequently hearsay, with no documentation to support the bulk of the book. Just as McCulley's Zorro is probably an amalgamation of several fiction and true-life figures, so is the character of Joaquin Murieta. Even the severed head obtained by Love's rangers was destroyed while on display in a museum exhibition during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Whether it was Ridge's book or other accounts of the Murieta legend that influenced McCulley's creation is open for speculation. The strongest link between Murieta and Zorro to date exists in the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro. According to Zorro aficionado Curtis, the script for the film evolved over a period of three years, from a traditional rendering of the McCulley hero who is motivated by social and political injustice to a story of personal revenge. In the story that ultimately reached the screen in 1998, the Murieta beheading certainly propels the central theme of personal revenge. The character of Joaquin Murieta, however, is merely a catalyst for the metamorphosis of an entirely fictional but major character, Alejandro Murieta. In his quest to avenge his brother's death, Alejandro becomes the aging Zorro's reluctant successor, a plot twist that freshens the Zorro legend while emphasizing a bitter irony: Alejandro views his masquerade as a defender of the oppressed as a means to an end, one that will grant him access to his nemesis, Captain Love.

As in most fiction that draws upon historical events with the ultimate goal to entertain, The Mask of Zorro vaguely refers to dates and specific political events. The opening scene infers the era of change from Spanish to Mexican rule (c. 1822), with the dictatorial Spanish Governor Montero making hasty preparations to leave the country after he is warned of the impending Mexican takeover at the seat of government in California. The elements that define California's pastoral period (1770s to 1840s) are there for students of that state's history, albeit subtle: The power of the dons, represented by the conspiracy they enter into with Montero, the feudal society, marked by the powerless working class of peasants dependent upon the dons for their livelihood, and even the film's recreation of a massive hydraulic gold mining operation reflect extensive research on the part of the writers and production assistants.

While the set detail deserves praise for accuracy, as well as the work of superb trainers for horsemanship and fencing scenes, the film's greatest achievement lies in the character development of Zorro. Previous depictions of the hero with the dual personality have dwelled on external forces as the motivation for Diego's risk-taking transformation into Zorro. The Mask of Zorro takes a more internal approach by giving the audience two Zorros, representing two generations, who are motivated by personal revenge.

In the role of the older Zorro, Anthony Hopkins portrays the respected Don Diego de la Vega at a crossroads in his life; after years of donning the disguise of Zorro to strike out against the oppressive Spanish government, his narrow escape from a trap set by Montero makes him question his physical capabilities to continue such strikes. Additionally, his love for his young wife and infant daughter makes him question his responsibility for their safety, should he be caught or killed. On the eve that Diego decides to retire, the governor confronts him with the knowledge of his "crimes" as Zorro and in the act of arresting Diego, one of Montero's soldiers accidentally kills Diego's wife. The governor, who loved Diego's wife but was spurned by her, has Diego carted off to prison but not before he burns down Diego's hacienda and kidnaps the infant daughter, Elena, to raise in Spain as his own. That Diego survives the next twenty years in a prison of immense filth and misery is a testament to his desire for revenge; he lives for the day he can escape to kill Montero and be reunited with Elena.

On a parallel course, two orphans who saved Zorro's life the day Montero tried to trap him grow up to become desperados, emulating Zorro in punitive raids on government soldiers. Joaquin and his younger brother Alejandro travel with a con artist known as Three-Fingered Jack until they are ambushed by Captain Love. Jack is shot, as is Joaquin when he and Alejandro make a run for it; the dying Joaquin urges his brother to keep running but Alejandro turns around in time to see Captain Love behead his brother. Just as Diego escapes from prison and plots his revenge against Montero, who has returned to California to unite the dons in a scheme of greed as well as rebellion, his path crosses with Alejandro's once more. The drunken Murieta, trying to drown his grief over Joaquin's murder, doesn't recognize the white-haired man dressed like a peasant at the outdoor cantina. But as Alejandro tries to pay for a beer with a silver amulet his brother wore, Diego recognizes it as the medallion he gave Joaquin twenty years earlier in gratitude for saving his life. At this moment, Captain Love leads a garrison past the cantina, oblivious to the presence of their quarry, Alejandro. In a drunken rage, Alejandro leaps up to challenge the Captain but is detained by Diego, who reveals his true identity to Alejandro and convinces him there are better times and better ways for revenge.

The next generation of Zorro is thus initiated.

The rest of the film follows the predictable plot of the action-adventure-romance genre; young hero in the making (Alejandro) is tutored by wise older hero (Diego); young hero falls in love with older hero's daughter (Elena); in a life and death scenario, Elena must choose between the father who raised her (Montero) and her real father (Diego). Add superb fencing sequences that include Alejandro training with Diego, Alejandro (as Zorro) fighting Captain Love in the Montero hacienda, Alejandro (as Zorro) sparring with Elena, and a grand finale that pits Diego against Montero and Alejandro against Capt. Love simultaneously. Throw in a spectacular horseback sequence, with Love's men chasing Zorro through a forest of Sherwood proportions, and the formulaic swashbuckler is revived once again.

In spite of radical plot alterations and a major shift from emphasis on the hero who is motivated by social injustice to one who is driven by personal revenge, The Mask of Zorro shares one essential ingredient for success with McCulley's Curse of Capistrano: The film is one of best of its kind for pure escapist entertainment. History lesson aside, it is well worth a two-hour commitment. From the humor between Hopkins and Banderas as tutor and student to the chemistry between Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elena), casting is surprisingly good. The villains receive more superficial treatment than the other principles, but this is to be expected in a film that attempts as many plot twists and covers such a span of time.

No less entertaining than The Mask of Zorro, one of its Hollywood predecessors, The Mark of Zorro, deserves mention for its use of satire. Released in 1940, just two years after the classic Adventures of Robin Hood, the film reinforces an earlier association with Zorro as "the Robin Hood of California." Though both films star two of the most handsome leading men of that era, and both contain the formula for a typical swashbuckler (period piece, swordplay, damsel in distress, etc.), The Mark of Zorro engages the audience on a level not attempted in Errol Flynn's portrayal of Robin Hood. In the lead role, Tyrone Power is more than convincing as he shifts from the languid, handkerchief-fluttering Diego to the driven, superbly athletic Zorro; prior to his portrayal of the hero with a dual personality, Power was perceived as a matinee idol with adequate, if limited acting ability. His comedic, almost over-the-top take on Diego as a foppish dandy one moment, an accomplished trickster the next, won him respect from critics and fans alike.

The Mark of Zorro shows none of the character analysis or introspection of The Mask of Zorro, yet Diego's mocking mannerisms in the presence of the dim-witted alcalde and his opportunistic wife underscore a very real class distinction of California during the pastoral period. By securing their admiration with his exaggerated aristocratic turn as Diego and robbing them of their jewels behind the mask of Zorro, he delivers an important message to the audience: Hedonistic rule, or the subjugation of a people with no regard for their well-being, can be overcome by those who have the courage and wit to pull it off.

The character of Zorro, whether inspired by Californian bandits, Robin Hood, or the Scarlet Pimpernel, remains one of the most popular folk heroes of the twentieth century. The creator of Batman, Bob Kane, credited his idea of the masked superhero with a dual identity to the influence of Zorro serials he watched as a boy at the Saturday matinee. The list of comic book heroes that have these elements in common with Zorro include Superman, Spiderman, and the Green Hornet. In The American West from Fiction (1823-1976) into Film (1909-1986), author Jim Hitt sums up the contributions of McCulley's Zorro, along with the works of James Fennimore Cooper, Kenneth Roberts, and Walter D. Edmonds thus: "Much of our conception of this period of American history is certainly influenced by these fictional narratives as well as the film adaptations, regardless of whether those adaptations followed the books."

What will the twenty-first century bring as far as the next reincarnation of Zorro? Will he (or she) be the hero of McCulley's stamp, one who risks all to give hope to the oppressed, or will the next generation of movie fans require a darker, more flawed crusader? Whatever the resulting characterization, it will undoubtedly have a link to figures of the past, demanding future probes into the influence of literature and history on film.

Recommended Reading:

Curtis, Sandra. Zorro Unmasked: The Official History. New York: Hyperion, 1998.

Gilmore, N. Ray and Gladys Gilmore, eds. Readings in California History. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1966.

Hitt, Jim. The American West from Fiction (1823-1976) into Film (1909-1986). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1990.

Kirsch, Robert and William S. Murphy. West of the West. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., 1967.

Ridge, John Rollin. The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press (reprint), 1955.

 

Part Two: Landscape

 

The Spanish missions and haciendas of the dons of southern California c. 1820s-1840s have long-since been swallowed, if not obliterated, by the sprawl of twentieth-century Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and their satellite strip malls and suburbs. Even with the backing of a multi-million-dollar budget, any major studio would think twice before trying to recreate the architecture of the early Spanish missions or opulent furnishings of surrounding haciendas in a historically-accurate setting, its vista broken only by natural landmarks such as trees and mountains. The wizardry of computer graphic imagery, such as splicing documentary footage of American presidents with a fictional character like Forrest Gump, leads one to assume that such a studio would opt for computer enhancement over traditional location shooting, to eliminate the complex coordination of crew and cast involved. With approximately eighty percent of its scenes occurring outdoors, landscape figures significantly in the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro. That the executive producer of the film did not resort to digitalized computer backdrops but incorporated location shooting of authentic missions and structures dating back to the seventeenth century prompts a closer study of landscape within this film.

Such dedication to realism should come as no surprise when it is revealed that the executive producer of the film was the same man behind the grimly realistic portrayal of the slave revolt on an 18th-century sailing vessel for Amistad (1997) as well the black and white depiction of the Nazi death camps for Schindler's List (1990). The mention of Steven Spielberg in conjunction with any film today immediately conjures a work of great visual scope, with a varied use of landscape. According to Sandra Curtis, whose Zorro Unmasked chronicles the legendary heros depiction in television and film, Spielbergs set designer began researching architectural and landscape needs two years before filming began on The Mask of Zorro. The results of the research, which drew from paintings of Mexico from the late 1700s to 1860s as well as engravings, lithographs, and photographs, convinced Spielberg that moving the entire production to Mexico City and surrounding towns would provide the most historically-accurate terrain for southern California at a time when Mexican governors ruled the territory.

Since the architecture of some areas of Mexico has remained unchanged since the 1600s, the set designer sanctioned carpenters to give existing structures a facelift rather than total reconstruction, lending further authenticity to the setting. Even the most jaded filmgoers can appreciate the scope of a scene that incorporates dueling on hundred-foot plus catwalks, runaway ore wagons, and the rescue of hundreds of trapped slaves in the midst of dynamite charges being set off, particularly when they realize this climax was pulled off during 110-degree temperatures at the site of a real gold mine.

Though geologists, geographers, historians, and architects often make up the list of consultants for a period film, personal accounts can sometimes provide unusual insight toward landscape. One such anthology of diary entries and essays, Los Angeles: Biography of a City, spans two centuries of the city's history from a social and cultural perspective. In 1776, just five years prior to the founding of the pueblo of Los Angeles, a Catholic priest wrote the following about the region just north of present-day Los Angeles, upon his arrival at Mission San Gabriel. The mission of San Gabriel is situated about eight leagues from the sea in a site of most beautiful qualities, with plentiful water and very fine lands . . . This mission has such fine advantages for crops and such good pastures for cattle and horses that nothing better could be desired . . . In the creek celery and other plants which look like lettuce, and some roots like parsnips, grow naturally . . . And near the site of the old mission, which is distant from this new one about a league to the south, there is grown a great abundance of watercress, of which I ate liberally. In short, this is a country which, as Father Paterna says, looks like the Promised Land . . . (59-62). Though Spielberg bypassed filming in the Los Angeles area for his retelling of the Zorro saga, Walt Disney relied exclusively on the region for the production of his popular 1950s television series, Zorro. To represent Mission San Gabriel in the 1820s, the producer moved the set location to the site of Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. One of the more costly television productions of its day, Disneys series earned a faithful audience for two years before ironically folding because the black-and-white production couldnt compete against series being produced in color.

Previously mentioned in Part One of this article, the 1940 film The Mark of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power as the hero with the dual identity, deserves recognition for its better-than-average historical perspective of Los Angeles and surrounding missions and haciendas. In an era of filmmaking that relied heavily on sound stages and painted backgrounds for outdoor scenery, primarily because location shooting was deemed too expensive, some of Americas finest actors spoke their best lines while literally holding up props that were supposed to pass as landscape. One scene in The Westerner, a highly-romanticized depiction of Judge Roy Bean, places Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan, as the judge, at the site of a cattle drive, the painted sunset behind them as still and unchanging as the boulders they sit on throughout the scene. Despite the distraction of such unrealistic landscape, Walter Brennan dominates the scene with an emotional yet unsentimental portrayal of the judge that earned him an Academy Award for the role.

Compared with other action-adventure films of its era, The Mark of Zorro holds up well in its use of landscape. From his first appearance as the masked caballero, a midday gallop that stirs the sombreroed citizens from their sidewalk siestas, to a moonlit ride during which he uses the rolling hills and shadowed arroyos to his advantage in eluding capture by the alcaldes soldiers, Zorro (or Tyrone Powers stunt man, as the case may be) owed some of his credibility to realistic scenery. As Zorro spurs his stallion past mature palm trees and balconied facades representing early Los Angeles, dusting peasants and burros alike, for a moment it is hard to believe that this is a studio back lot, albeit a southern California back lot. Likewise, the dust stirred by Zorros midnight flight emphasizes the arid conditions that abound in the country surrounding Los Angeles. Though still backgrounds are interspersed throughout the film with live action sequences, such as the scene depicting a company of soldiers riding behind Diego (Tyrone Power) as he drives a buggy toward his fathers hacienda, they are less obtrusive than those used in The Westerner, produced the same year by a rival studio.

Some would argue that the terrain and structures of a period film merely constitute a setting, lacking the visual depth attributed to landscape. Websters Third New International Dictionary defines landscape (n.) as a portion of land or territory that the eye can comprehend in a single view including all the objects so seen (1269). While this definition offers no insight into the effect of the view on the beholder, writers as well as filmmakers have helped broaden this definition by exploring the power geography wields over human nature.

A recent book of essays by Barry Lopez, a winner of the National Book Award, makes an intelligent plea for environmental awareness while subtly underscoring the link between people and landscape. In a chapter entitled The American Geographies from About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory, Lopez offers a grand definition: Geography, the formal way in which we grapple with this areal mystery, is finally knowledge that calls up something in the land we recognize and respond to. It gives us a sense of place and a sense of community. Both are indispensable to a state of well-being, an individuals and a countrys (142). That he is actually talking about landscape is reinforced in the next paragraph by his description of sensory experiences, from trout-fishing in Oregon to watching a November sunrise in the Mojave Desert, analyzing his reactions as being innate. It is through the power of observation, he states, the gifts of eye and ear, tongue and nose and finger, that a place first rises up in our mind; afterward it is memory that carries the place, that allows it to grow in depth and complexity. For as long as our records go back, we have held these two things dear, landscape and memory (142-3).

In a pivotal scene from The Mask of Zorro, Don Montero proves he is a master manipulator, using landscape to his advantage both physically and metaphorically. Upon his return to California from Madrid, how does the former Spanish governor win the trust of the peasants he would have executed indiscriminately in an attempt to capture his enemy, Zorro, twenty years earlier? At a ceremonial beach landing hosted by the dons he made wealthy with land grants during his governorship, he turns from the fawning men of his class to address the sullen peasants gathered in the rocks above the beach. With sparkling waves lapping the shore behind him, a cloudless azure sky above him, and the promise of fertility echoing in the lush hills surrounding them, he secures the peasants undivided attention by saying the unexpected: Spaniards oppressed you, Mexicans ignored you and the dons, well, the dons seemed merely content to cheat and lie to you. A few short exchanges later he rouses the peasants with People of California, the time has come to take our destiny into our own hands, not as Spaniards, not as Mexicans, but as Californians! By appealing to one of the strongest of instincts--territorial--the deposed governor wins the peasants approval, at the expense of the dons embarrassment.

The importance of landscape in reviving interest in a classic story is not lost upon current filmmakers. As a story that has seen almost as many cinematic remakes as Zorro, the most recent version of The Last of the Mohicans (1992), demonstrates the spell a director can weave upon an audience by balancing landscape with historical drama. After an extensive search throughout the East Coast, the films producers settled on the Lake James region of North Carolina for the look of an untouched forest as well as a site that they could reconstruct, board by board, a replica of Fort William Henry. One of the producers, Hunt Lowry, justified the exclusive effort devoted to finding the right landscape thus: Locations are like a character in the movie because they are all tied within the period.

Whether they are called locations, setting, or landscape, the impact of a realistic presentation of geography and architecture within period films cannot be understated. As films become more sophisticated in attention to detail, so do audiences. The bar being raised by studios and producers with multi-million dollar budgets allocated specifically toward set design should whet the appetite of avid students of films that recreate historical figures and events.

 

Works Cited

 

Caughey, John and Laree, eds. Los Angeles: Biography of a City. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

Curtis, Sandra. Zorro Unmasked: The Official History. New York: Hyperion, 1998.

Lopez, Barry. About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.