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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Mark of Zorro: 1921

Mark of Zorro: 1921

1921. Sidney Lust's Leader Theater in Washington, D.C. Now playing: Douglas Fairbanks in "The Mark of Zorro." National Photo glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Arbuckle Short

Looking at the original TIFF for this image, from the Library of Congress, I can barely make out the title of the Arbuckle short as THE COOK, from 1918.


This is one of my all time favorite silent films EVER. It was one of the most exciting films I have ever seen. Thank you SO much for this picture, I love film history!

Two Bits

The inflation calculator says that 25-cent admission would be about $3 today. Still not bad. For a guy with no chin, Fairbanks was a pretty solid action star. It's hard to think of other A-list stars who did action movies at his level.

Amazingly fun advertising

I work at a movie theater and I wish we could advertise like this today! It made everything seem so much more fun and exciting about going to the cinema!

The Batman Connection

From Wikipedia:

In the DC Comics continuity it is established that The Mark of Zorro was the film which the young Bruce Wayne had watched with his parents at the cinema, and after which he witnessed the murder of his parents. Zorro is often portrayed as Bruce's childhood hero and an influence on his Batman persona. There are discrepancies regarding which version Bruce saw, The Dark Knight Returns claims it was the Tyrone Power version whereas a story by Alan Grant claimed it to be the silent Douglas Fairbanks original, though Bob Kane's original basis for the Batman character draws its origins from the silent original.

Deja vu

I think I've seen this theatre before; there's another photo of it somewhere on Shorpy, one with a bunch of kids standing in front.


At some point in DC mythology, this became the movie that young Bruce Wayne and his parents saw on the night they were murdered.

Wonder what's playing?

Wonder what’s playing here. You'd thing they would advertise some or put the title up someplace, give us some clue ...

Movie Memorabilia

I imagine there are some movie memorabilia collectors who would trade their souls to go back to 1921 for a shot at grabbing some of these great promotion displays and running for dear life.


I didn't even see the guy in the Zorro suit in the preview pic. Such a gorgeous picture.

Waxing Enthusiastic

The Washington Post, Feb 6 1921

At the Picture Houses

Leader - Douglas Fairbanks in "The Mark of Zorro."

Never before has Douglas Fairbanks waxed so enthusiastic over the success of a picture as he has over "The Mark of Zorro," his fourth United Artists production, which will be the feature attraction at the Leader theater, beginning today.

The story is an adaptation of Johnston McCulley's novel, "The Curse of Capistrano," which appeared in the All Story Weekly magazine.

Out of Control

The poor guy in the Zorro suit! What a wonderful photo. We don't think of such extensive promo material being used back then. All the Z's and little photos of Fairbanks are a revelation. Although I'm sure this was what we'd call a blockbuster today.

To-Day's the Day

I'm always amazed at the pictures I find on this site, but this one made my day. Thanks for sharing.

I love the Z stickers all over the ticket booth; so subtle!

At The Movies

Some good stuff here. The date for the photo is almost certainly early 1921. The main feature of course is "The Mark Of Zorro" starring Douglas Fairbanks (at a time when no one needed to include Sr.) and Noah Beery (also at a time when no one needed to include Sr.) as Sgt. Gonzales and Marguerite De La Motte as the love interest. It debuted on December 5, 1920.

Also on the bill (in the pictures in the stand to the left of the box office) is a Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle short. Can't read the title even blowing it up using Window's Photo Gallery, but many of Arbuckle's films from 1917 to 1920 co-starred his cousin Al St. John, who was later a sidekick in "B" westerns under the name "Fuzzy" St. John, and Buster Keaton whose fame would soon eclipse Arbuckle's. He was making shorts throughout 1920 and '21 until he was charged with manslaughter after the Labor Day weekend of 1921.

The Pickford movie is "Love Light" with Mary playing a young Italian woman keeping a lighthouse while her brothers are off to war. The film was written and directed by Frances Marion (who was a longtime collaborator of Pickford's) probably most remembered today for her script to "Dinner At Eight." The male lead was Fred Thomson, who was married to Marion. His career was in the ascendant with the advent of talkies until he died suddenly of tetanus in 1928 at age 38. As nearly as I am able to tell, "Love Light" is one of only two of his films to survive. "Love Light" debuted on January 9, 1921.

The fourth movie is "Fighting Bill," starring William Fairbanks. He was no relation to Douglas Fairbanks - his real name was Carl Ullman, the name he worked under until 1920. IMDB has no real information on either "Fighting Bill" or William Fairbanks beyond the fact that he died in 1945 of lobar pneumonia at age 51. "Fighting Bill" debuted sometime in 1921.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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