A handsome masked man appears seemingly from nowhere to help those in distress, and, oddly enough, is never seen at the same time as a wealthy individual living in the same area where the masked crusader performs his derring-do. Sound familiar?
Today, most people think of Batman, a superhero created by Bob Kane and Bill Finder in 1939, but before Batman was Zorro, created by Johnston McCulley in 1919. Spanish for "fox," Zorro fought the oppressive colonial government in Spanish California with a quick sword and wit, making fun of his enemies in the process. Like Bruce Wayne and Batman, Don Diego and Zorro were never seen at the same time.
For one night only, tonight, August 5 at 8:30p.m., East Lynne Theater Company, in partnership with The Cape May Film Festival, presents the silent film classic, THE MARK OF ZORRO with live organ accompaniment provided by Wayne Zimmerman. The location is The First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, 500 Hughes St., where ELTC is in residence. Tickets are only $15, and for reservations and information, contact ELTC at 609-884-5898 or online at www.eastlynnetheater.org.
By the time the star of "The Mark of Zorro," Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) made this film in 1920, he already had twenty-nine films to his credit. Known for his magnetic screen personality, comedic timing, and athletic ability, this was the first time he tackled an adventure-costume epic. The success of "Zorro" turned him into one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood, and he produced and starred in even more elaborate period films such as "The Three Musketeers" and "The Thief of Bagdad."
Although "The Mark of Zorro" is a silent film, this doesn’t mean that there was absolute silence when showing the film. Silent classics were accompanied by an organ, piano, and sometimes a full orchestra: the beginnings of film scoring as we know it. From Charlie Chaplin, who scored his own films, to John Williams and Hans Zimmer of today, the power of music accompanying a silent or a talking film cannot be undervalued. Experienced composers know that music enhances the action and emotion, but never overshadows it.
Providing the musical accompaniment for "Zorro" is Wayne Zimmerman, who played for ELTC's last year's showing of "The Phantom of the Opera." He has played in a variety of venues from coast-to-coast and in Hawaii, regaling audiences with his silent-film accompaniment and concerts. At varying times he’s served as organist at the Lansdowne Theatre in Lansdowne, PA, the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, PA, the Brookline Theatre in Havertown, PA, and the Merlin Theatre in suburban Philadelphia. Currently he is president of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, and accompanist for silent films at the Loew's Jersey Theatre in Jersey City.
Meanwhile, the world premiere of "The Poe Mysteries" plays on the mainstage Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:30p.m. through September 1, and on Sunday, August 12 at 8:30 p.m., ELTC presents "Cape May Opry: Nashville Comes to Cape May."