Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Fox and The Bat!

As all Batman fans know, young Bruce Wayne was on his way home from the movies with his parents Thomas and Martha when they were set upon by a mugger named Joe Chill. Chill would murder Bruce’s parents, setting in motion the events that would result in the emergence of The Batman. One might say that Chill created Batman…and perhaps there is some truth in this. But Batman had another “father”.


The film that young Bruce saw that night was the classic “Mark Of Zorro”. It was that same film that greatly influenced Batman’s creator Bob Kane. As a young man Kane saw the 1920 version of “The Mark Of Zorro” that starred one of the greatest stars of the silent screen. Douglas Fairbanks.

Fairbanks who also produced the film established virtually all of the devices that Kane would use when he created Batman some eighteen years later. Don Diego, Zorro’s secret identity, is a lay about , somewhat foppish man of wealth. In his alter ego he is a masked avenger striking fear into the hearts of evil doers.

Zorro is described as a “ghost” and “not human” by his foes. Indeed Fairbanks’ Zorro DOES seem to appear out of nowhere. Dressed in black and seemingly everywhere at once, Zorro uses the superstition and ignorance of his enemies just they way Batman does.

Like Batman, Zorro has a secret hideout from which he emerges through a false Grandfather clock. Bruce Wayne had that same entrance to the Batcave throughout the 40’s and 50’s!

Kane would often credit Faribanks and Zorro for being his greatest inspiration. Last week I had the opportunity to see this film at the Lowes in Jersey City. This was an old 1920’s silent movie palace that has been fully restored right down to the great pipe organ. The film was screened as if it were 1920 with live organ music setting the mood throughout. Along with some 1000 other silent film buffs I found myself transported some ninety years into the past, the flickering black and white images of the great Fairbanks swept me up and the film was as fresh and new as it was four generations ago!

After seeing this film as it was meant to be seen, I can well understand how Bob Kane would be so inspired by “The Mark Of Zorro” that he would use the film as the basis for a character whose legend would equal that of “The Fox” himself.

For me it was a great opportunity to rediscover an iconic silent film in it’s natural setting and not just on a DVD.

That’s 30!


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