Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And on the same subject ...

... Hollywood's greatest real-life fencer, Basil Rathbone, in a much more realistic bout with Tyrone Power in 1940's THE MARK OF ZORRO:

10 comments:

Mrs. R said...

Tyrone Power did not have a fencing stuntman; if he had, he wouldn't have dropped dead of a heart attack in 1958 from consistently lifting a 15 pound sword during a duel with George Sanders' double in Solomon and Sheba.

Rathbone considered Power an expert swordsman and said, "Tyrone Power could duel Errol Flynn into a cocked hat."

wstroby said...

Touche! I have amended.

Jim C. said...

Fencing master to the stars, Ralph Faulkner, called Danny Kaye one of the best swordsmen in Hollywood. He tutored Kaye in his performance in THE COURT JESTER.

wstroby said...

In his 1995 book, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE SWORD, Nick Evangelista rates the MARK OF ZORRO duel as "the finest example of movie swordplay Hollywood has ever produced." But although Rathbone called Power "the most agile man with a sword I've ever faced before a camera," former Olympic fencer Richard Cohen, in his 2002 book BY THE SWORD, says Power was often doubled in ZORRO's fencing scenes by Albert Cavens, the son of Belgian swordmaster Fred Cavens, and he's credited as such in other reference books (and on IMDB), though not in the film itself. Rathbone was 48 at the time the ZORRO duel was filmed, and, according to Cohen, the elder Cavens said of him "I doubt that he would do well in competition, but for picture purposes he is better than the best fencer in the world."

Mrs. R said...

Yes, and all those other ridiculous comments come from the first comment, the Cohen book, which is untrue. If you will look at the reviews on Amazon.com, you will see that Cohen's book is riddled with mistakes, and that's one of them. Cohen's knowledge of Hollywood is terrible. And while these errors are supposed to be corrected in subsequent editions - this from the man himself - there haven't been any other editions that I know of.

Tyrone Power was taught to fence as a child, as his mother ran a drama school.

According to his stand-in, Mike Steckler, whom I just saw at a tribute in Los Angeles, Power always did his own stunts, including swordfights. He dueled in Suez, Mississippi Gambler, Son of Fury, and Solomon and Sheba - you can see his face very clearly.

Had he not done so on the set of Solomon and Sheba (while George Sanders was using a stand-in), he might have lived a bit longer.

Isabel said...

Agreed. In the early days of Tyrone's career, his stand-in was Tommmy Noonan, a friend of my family's. My folks visited the sets Tommy worked on often and actually saw rehearsals for the Zorro swordfight with Rathbone and Power. The gentleman mentioned in the book by Cohen may well have been the coach. It was not Mamoulian.

wstroby said...

I have to say though, fencing aside, my favorite Tyrone Power movie is still NIGHTMARE ALLEY.

DPATSCH said...

Ran my copy of Mark of Zorro duel after reading this. Paused scene immediately after glass in bookcase broken. It is not Tyrone Power's face. Ever thought maybe substitute not because of fencing skill, it takes so much talent to run a sword through a bookcase after putting Rathbone on the defensive, but risk of shards in face and eyes of star. Other scenes from the back are Cavens although I've seen another print that clearly shows Tyrone Power killing Basil Rathbone. Anyway Power clearly demonstrated his mettle in the shots that show him and the other back scenes might have been necessary for visual consistancy.

DPATSCH said...

I would like to clarify my previous statement by saying that noone knows why the substitute of Al Cavens was made but I'm sure Tyrone Power could have done all the scenes and it still would have been the best fencing scene. Now that everyone involved is dead we'll probably never know why it was done.

wstroby said...

I guess the fact the debate continues- about a film that's nearly 70 years old - is a testament to how memorable that scene is, whoever it may be in individual shots.