Guy Williams, `Zorro' of TV Series, Dies at 65

By JOHN H. LEE,
Times Staff Writer

   Guy Williams, the actor who starred in the popular 1950s television series "Zorro," has died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, authorities there said Sunday. He was 65.
  
Williams' body was found by police Saturday in his apartment in the exclusive residential neighborhood of La Recoleta. He apparently suffered a heart attack and died about a week ago, the government news agency Telam reported. An investigation was begun to confirm the exact cause of death.
    The 6-foot, 3-inch second-generation Italian-American, whose real name was Armando Catalano, was chosen by Walt Disney Studios to portray Zorro on the small screen in a role made famous in motion pictures by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and later by Tyrone Power.
    The television series recounted the adventures of Zorro and his alter-identity, Diego de la Vega, a seemingly spoiled son of a Spanish aristocrat.
    De la Vega presented himself, to the chagrin of his father, as a disinterested and apathetic overseer of a ranch in the section of 1820s colonial California that was to become Los Angeles. When confronted with injustice, De la Vega secretly transformed into a Robin Hood-like defender of his countrymen against the abuses of Spanish overlords.
    Zorro identified himself to villains and victims with trademark bullwhip, black mask, cape and perhaps most endearing to audiences - his signature of using his foil to "make the sign of the Z" at the site of an escapade.
    Extensive previous training in fencing helped Williams get the part in the series, which was produced from 1957 to 1959. It continues to run on the Disney Channel.
    Williams also starred as professor John Robinson in the 1965-1968 series "Lost in Space," portraying the patriarch of a futuristic family on a space exploration mission gone awry.
    The series followed the family in their sabotaged spaceship as they tried to find their way home from a neighboring solar system.
    Between the two television series, Williams starred in two movies that won him little attention: "The Prince and the Pauper" in 1962 and "Captain Sinbad" in 1963.
    The son of an insurance broker, Williams grew up in New York City, where he attended public schools. After graduating from high school, he attended a military academy. Williams' father wanted him to pursue an insurance broker
age career, but Williams got into modeling and subsequently acting.
    Williams was a frequent visitor to Buenos Aires and had apparently lived there alone for the last several months.
    Williams had two children with wife Janice Cooper, a former model. A son, Steven, was born in 1952 and a daughter, Toni, was born in 1957.
    There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.

 

Guy Williams as Zorro

Los Angeles Times
May 8, 1989


GUY WILLIAMS - Age 65

   Guy Williams was an actor who played the character of Zorro on TV in the late 1950's. Zorro was a black-masked television hero. Williams died in Buenos Aires, Argentina, of an apparent heart attack.
    Mr. Williams was found by the police on Saturday, April 29, 1989. The police said that he died approximately one week before that.
    Armand Catalano was Guy Williams original name. He was a native of New York. In 1957, Williams was given his screen test for the "Zorro" series by the Walt Disney Studios in 1957. Before this screen test, Guy had worked at a soda fountain, was a garment worker and a model.
    Guy Williams had sideburns and a mustache. He stood at 6'3" and weighed 185 pounds. Mr. Williams was made to order for the role of Diego de la Vega. Diego de la Vega was the aristocrat in early 19th-century Mexico who battled the Spanish to protect his downtrodden countrymen.
    Williams father was the one who interested Guy in the sport of fencing. When Williams was to take over the role of Zorro, playing in "The Mark of Zorro," he took a refresher course with the Belgian fencing master, Fred Cavens. Guy Williams also played in the film "The Sign of Zorro," in 1961.
    "Lost in Space" was a television series in which Williams starred. He was the leader of a family marooned in space.
    Guy Williams liked to visit Buenos Aires. He was said to have lived there alone for several months.

The Big Reel
June 1989