Guy Williams

Guy Williams

Infobox actor
name = Guy Williams

caption = Publicity photo of Guy Williams and June Lockhart from 1965, for the sci-fi TV series "Lost in Space" (note the silver spacesuits & red trim).
ethnicity = Italian - American
birthname = Armando Joseph Catalano
birthdate = birth date|1924|1|14|mf=y
birthplace = New York, New York, USA
deathdate = death date and age|1989|4|30|1924|1|14|mf=n
deathplace = Buenos Aires, Argentina
spouse = Janice Cooper
(1948-his death)
awards =

Guy Williams (born Armand Joseph Catalano) (January 14, 1924 - April 30, 1989)imdb name|0930713] was an American actor and former fashion model, who played swashbuckling action heroes in the 1950s and 1960s, but never quite achieved movie-star status "New York Times", filmography, webpage: [ NYT-76456] ] despite his appearance (including hazel eyes, 6'3" height, and 190 lb. weight) and charisma, which helped launch his early successful photographic modeling career.

Among his most prominent achievements were two memorable TV series: "Zorro" (in black and white -- colorized years later by the Disney enterprise) and "Lost in Space", as the father of the Robinson family. The sci-fi TV program was highly popular, noted for the design of the sleek silver spacesuits, which Guy Williams wore in many publicity photos ("see image at right").

His hobbies included: astronomy, chess, music (mostly classical), fencing, tropical fish, and sailing: he owned a 40-foot (12-m) ketch called The Oceana.

In the 1970s, Guy Williams retired near Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he died of a brain aneurysm.

Early life

Guy Williams was born on January 14, 1924, as Armand Joseph Catalano (nicknamed "Armando" by his family) of Italian parentage, at the Fort George area in New York City. He was the son of Attilio (son of a wealthy timber grower in Messina who purchased land in New Jersey), who was working as insurance broker, and Clare Catalano. His parents, who arrived from Sicily (Italy), were by then living in poverty. He grew up in the Little Italy, Brooklyn neighborhood.

In NYC's P.S. 189, Armand stood out in mathematics. Later he attended George Washington, where he occasionally worked in its soda fountain. He then left to attend the Peekskill Military Academy, where he was an enthusiastic student. His interests included football and chess.

First artist steps

Williams wanted to be an actor, spurred by his good looks and 6'3" height. When Armand decided not to continue studying, his mother (who later became an executive of a foreign film company) was very disappointed because they expected that he continue the traditional insurance broker career.

After working as welder, cost accountant and aircraft-parts inspector during World War II, Armand became a salesman in the luggage department at Wanamakers. While there, he decided to send his photos to an agency to start his modeling career. He quickly found great success in graphic media. Spanning newspapers, billboards, magazines (like "Harper's Bazaar") and book covers, he received good payment and became famous. He then adopted the name "Guy Williams" (1940s).

In 1946, he signed a single-year contract offered by MGM and moved to Hollywood. Guy Williams had a featured role as a pilot in the film "The Beginning or the End" (1947), about the first U.S. deployed atom bomb. He only appeared in a few films and soon moved back to New York.

In 1948, to advertise cigarettes while skiing, Guy Williams did an extensive filming trip accompanied by Janice Cooper, a beautiful John Robert Powers model. During the long photographic sessions they fell in love, marrying on December 8, just after they returned to New York City. Several years later they had two children, Guy Steven Catalano (1952) and Antoinette Toni Catalano (1959), who dabbled in acting.

By 1950, Guy Williams had begun to film some of the pioneering television commercials in USA, so he became very popular. Unfortunately, his father died in 1951, never to witness his son's full rise to fame. Guy Williams then obtained a new one-year contract with Universal-International in 1952, and moved to Hollywood.

Early Hollywood (1952 to 1957)

Guy Williams did small supporting roles in the Universal productions, including:

  • "Bonzo Goes to College" (1952) -- as Ronald Calkins,
  • "The Mississippi Gambler" (1953) -- as Andre,
  • "The Golden Blade" (1953) -- as Baghdad's town crier,
  • "The Man from the Alamo" (1953) -- as a sergeant,
  • "Take Me to Town" (1953) -- as a small hero
  • "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" (1957) -- as police officer.
In 1953, Guy Williams suffered a serious accident when he fell from a horse and was dragged over 200 yards, resulting in a long scar on his left shoulder. Because of this, at some point he even returned to New York (acting and modeling there) and abandoning his career, but in 1953 he left Universal and became a freelancer for movies produced by Allied Artists and Warner Brothers.

Zorro (1957 to 1959)

In 1957 the Walt Disney Company carried out casting for Disney's "Zorro", a new television series based on the character (created by Johnston McCulley) already famous on the silver screen, as performed by Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power.

To play Zorro ("Don Diego de la Vega"), the chosen actor would have to be handsome and have some experience with fencing. Walt Disney himself interviewed Guy Williams, telling him (comically) to start growing a mustache "neither very long or thick". The exclusive contract paid Williams the then very high wage of $2,500 per week, as he had demanded. Williams resumed his professional training of fencing with the Belgian champion Fred Cavens (who also trained Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power), since the show used real epees during filming. He also took guitar lessons with the famous Vicente Gomez.

The series of half-hour episodes finally debuted on the American "ABC" network on October 10 (1957). It was an instant hit in the USA, attaining the highest rating of its era.

The show spanned 78 episodes (two seasons, from 1957 to 1959) and two movies edited from TV episodes - The Sign of Zorro (1958) and Zorro the Avenger (1959) - with its theme-song (composed by Norman Foster and George Bruns) reaching #17 of the Hit Parade, performed by The Mellomen.

The release of this series created an epidemic of "Z" graffitiing on school desks across America. Some examples of this can still be seen on desks from the time.

Mr. Williams also played Sir Mile Hendon in the Walt Disney's"The Prince and the Pauper" in 1962 which was shot in England.

After the finishing of the contract with Disney enterprise, Guy Williams went to Europe to film two movies:
* "Damon and Pythias" (MGM production filmed in Italy in 1962, directed by Curtis Bernhardt), as Damon, classic Greek hero who offers his life as warrant of the word of Pythias, his friend who was condemned to death for political reasons;
* "Captain Sindbad" (MGM super production filmed in Germany in 1962, directed by the American adventures director Byron Haskin, based on the classic tale of the "Arabian Nights"), in the role of Sindbad the Sailor.

Bonanza (1964)

In 1964 Guy Williams returned to Hollywood to resume his career, being added to the cast of the NBC's smash-hit TV series "Bonanza" (1959-1973) as Hispanic cousin Will Cartwright.

Williams found himself unexpectedly forced out of the series by circumstances after only five episodes despite being originally slated to become one of the four permanent leads. Pernell Roberts (Adam Cartwright), who had planned to leave the show at the end of that season while overlapping with Williams, who was essentially going to be Roberts' replacement in the four-Cartwright format, decided late in the season to stay for one more year before departing, so the woman "Adam" was originally going to marry wound up unexpectedly choosing to leave with "Will Cartwright" instead, with Adam's selfless blessing. Williams had lost his berth on the popular series, which ran for nine more years, because of Roberts' decision to remain for one more season.

Lost in Space (1965 to 1968)

In 1965, Guy Williams returned to weekly television in the extremely popular CBS science-fiction family series "Lost In Space".

Guy Williams played Professor John Robinson, expert in astrophysics and geology, who commanded the mission of the Jupiter 2 spaceship, taking his family in a voyage to colonize the Alpha Centauri star system.

After the series, Guy Williams decided to retire in order to better enjoy his wealth, which had been largely generated by investments in several businesses, buying and selling on the stock market.

Retirement in Argentina (1973 to 1989)

When Guy had first visited Argentina in 1973, he was quite taken by the admiration and fascination the Argentine people expressed for him and his character of "El Zorro." In return, Guy fell in love with the culture and people of Argentina. In the 1970s, he retired, except for personal appearances, to Recoleta, an upscale neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

In subsequent years, Guy Williams also brought to Argentina some of the original cast-members of the "Zorro" program, including Henry Calvin — the stout Sergeant Garcia. Williams even formed a circus (Circo Real Madrid), with the local fencing champion Fernando Lupiz, traveling all along South America (1977).

Later in 1989, while spending solitary months in Argentina, Guy Williams (then 65 years old) suddenly disappeared. The local police searched his apartment in La Recoleta on May 7, finding his dead body. He had suffered a brain aneurysm a week before that day. He was still wearing the characteristic Zorro's sideburns and mustache when they found him.

In accordance with his wishes, Guy Williams' ashes were spread over the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California.


# In 2000, Guy Williams was the first local celebrity in the Bronx Walk of Fame, of New York City.
# In 2001, (August 2) Guy Williams was incorporated in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7080 Hollywood Blvd (La Brea's corner), after massive petitions of thousands of manifesting admirers in front of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce (the previous year).
# In 2002, (October) the fans of Guy Williams, with Janice Williams and Guy Williams, Jr in attendance, dedicated to him a bench in New York's Central Park..
# In 2003, (August 2 --also--), Disney enterprise placed a commemorative badge in the mansion of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside, California, where the Zorro series was filmed in 1957.
# The impression of a US Postage Stamp commemorative of Guy Williams is canceled due to the change of the US Postal Service's protocol. Though the fans were in campaign for this since 1998.
# [ Zorro Television Companion.] A meticulously researched book on the making of The Walt Disney Company series. ISBN 0-7864-2058-8
# [ Guy Williams: The Man Behind the Mask.] A thorough bio of the actor. ISBN 1-59393-016-X
# [ Tales of Zorro.] edited by Richard Dean Starr.] The first collection of original Zorro short stories, many written with Guy Williams specifically in mind. Introduction by Guy williams, jr. (with Matthew Baugh). Cover art by Douglas Klauba influenced by Guy Williams. ISBN 978-1933076317


External links

* [ Official Guy Williams Family Page]
* [ Guy's Daughter's Official Website]
* [ Guy Williams Webshrine]
* [ Zorro with Annette Funicello]
* [ Guy Williams in Argentina]
* [ Guy Williams - The Actor; The Man (1924-1989)]

NAME= Williams, Guy
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Catalano, Armando Joseph
DATE OF BIRTH= 1924-1-14
PLACE OF BIRTH= New York, New York, USA
DATE OF DEATH= 1989-4-30
PLACE OF DEATH= Buenos Aires, Argentina

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