Johnston MacCulley's 1913 adventure yarn The Curse of Capistrano was given its first filmization in Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 The Mark of Zorro. Fairbanks plays the outwardly foppish Don Diego de la Vega, the son of wealthy Spanish Californian rancher.
In reality, Don Diego is the dashed masked-and-caped Zorro, who wages a one-man war to rescue his fellow citizens from the tyranny Captain Juan Ramon (Robert McKim). The lovely Lolita (Marguerite de la Motte) despises the namby-pamby Don Diego, but loves the devil-may-care Zorro, never dreaming (until the end, of course) that the two men are one.
In turn, Lolita is loved by Captain Ramon, who is as ruthless in his domestic dealings as he is in his political weight-throwing. Noah Beery Sr. plays Sgt. Garcia, a buffoonish minion of Ramon's who eventually casts his lot with Zorro--after being bested time and again by the hero's swordplay.
Best scene: Zorro insouciantly challenging Ramon's soldiers to capture him while he wines and dines at a local cantina. At the time he made Mark of Zorro, Fairbanks was best known for his peppy contemporary comedies.
He hoped that Zorro would be an interesting temporary change of pace for him, never dreaming that the film's popularity would lock him into the swashbuckling mode for the rest of the silent career. In 1925, Fairbanks starred in a sequel, Don Q, Son of Zorro; the original film has, of course, been remade many times since 1920.