It’s been more than a century since that dashing masked man became one of the most courageous heroes in American fiction.
Created by Johnston McCulley, a police reporter who wrote pulp fiction stories on the side, the legend of Zorro debuted in “The Curse of Capistrano,” a serialized story set in early 19th-century California, which debuted in the pulp fiction magazine All Story Weekly in 1919. First personified on film by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the 1920 silent movie The Mark of Sorrow, Tyrone Power memorably starred in a successful remake two decades later as the masked avenger.
Walt Disney immortalized Zorro with the introduction of its 1957 television series, producing 78 episodes starring Guy Williams. Disney even built a half-million-dollar “Zorro City” on its back lot.
When it was released in 1998, The Mask of Zorro marked Hollywood’s first major theatrical production of Zorro in over 40 years. Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Russio (Disney’s animated feature Aladdin) and David Ward (The Sting), the TriStar Pictures/Amblin Entertainment film was executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, Walter Parkes, and Laurie MacDonald.
Legendary Hollywood horse trainer the late Corky Randall (The Black Stallion), who had worked start to finish on Disney’s Zorro television series, returned from semiretirement to become livestock coordinator on The Mask of Zorro. Son of Glenn Randall Sr., who trained Roy Rogers’ Trigger, Corky began preparations before casting was finalized. “It was Corky’s last big job and probably my last,” says brother Glenn Randall Jr., second unit director on the film. It was their last together. Corky’s son Bruce, a wrangler on the production, worked closely with actors on their riding.
Corky’s two-man training team of Bobby Lovgren and Gordon Spencer schooled four different horses for the role of Zorro’s equine companion, Tornado. Corky chose the black Friesian horse breed for the role because “they carry themselves like kings and have beautiful manes and tails.”
From that first big training job on The Mask of Zorro, Lovgren would go on to reach the pinnacles of Hollywood horse-trainer fame, with extensive credits including War Horse, The Lone Ranger, Seabiscuit, and Yellowstone. It was a passing of the torch from Glenn Randall Sr., still revered for his extraordinary talents. As Randall Sr.’s final protégé, Lovgren, with The Mask of Zorro, took the torch in the art of Hollywood horse training.
“Working for Glenn Sr. and then with Corky taking me on and getting that experience was a big stepping stone in my career,” Lovgren said. “Corky and Glenn were huge mentors to me. Corky’s my hero. Always was and always will be. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the Randalls.”
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The Mask of Zorro is now available on disc and digital.
Lead Image: THE MASK OF ZORRO © 1998 Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Co. KG. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of Columbia Pictures