Henry Darrow was no stranger to the character of “Zorro.” In 1981, he had voiced the character in an animated series for Filmation called “The New Adventures of Zorro.” That series lasted only 13 episodes on CBS’s Saturday morning lineup. So, when he was given the chance by CBS and Walt Disney to star in a live action Zorro series, he jumped at the offer.
“Zorro and Son” was designed as an action-comedy series. Darrow starred as an older “Don Diego de Vega,” who, twenty-five years after defending the people of California, has fallen a victim of age. The people are still being oppressed, now by “Commandant Paco Pico” (Gregory Sierra) and his aide “Sergeant Sepulveda” (Richard Beauchamp), so Zorro's faithful servant “Bernardo” (Bill Dana) sends for Zorro's son, “Don Carlos de Vega” (Paul Regina) who is living in Spain. The son turns out to be a swinger, always chasing the women, gambling and using modern weapons (guns, gas bombs, etc.) in his war on Pico.
Paul Regina and Henry Darrow in “Zorro and Son”
Disney re-purposed the George Bruns theme song from the original “Zorro” series for this new take-off:
CBS gave the series a try-out in the spring of 1983, premiering it on Wednesday, 6 April 1983 at 8 PM, in place of the cancelled series “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. “Zorro”’s main competition was the NBC reality series “Real People,” which was the #30-ranked series for that season. After five episodes had aired, ratings showed that “Zorro and Son” was the #79-ranked series on television, and no further episodes were produced.
Henry Darrow reunited with his old friend Cameron Mitchell in the action film MISSION KILL. Robert Ginty starred as “J.F. Cooper,” an ex-Marine and demolitions expert who's just arrived in Arizona to visit his old Vietnam buddy “Harry” (Cameron Mitchell). Harry is jumpy and preoccupied, and his young wife (Brooke Bundy) and teenage son (David Kaufman) are concerned. A trucker by day, Harry has a side gig running guns through Mexico to deliver to freedom fighters in the fictional Central American country of Santa Maria. The rebels are waging war on despotic “El Presidente Ariban” (Eduardo Lopez Rojas), and Harry talks Cooper into going on a delivery run with him.
Ginty assumes the identity of a British mercenary/gunrunner named “Ian Kennedy” (Clement St. George) and becomes a significant figure in the revolution against Aliban, with the help of some glowing hype in the press from cynical reporter “Bingo Thomas” (Sandy Baron). Naturally, a furious Ariban and his chief lackey and supporter, wealthy aristocrat “Senor Borghini” (Henry Darrow) use everything at their disposal to stop Cooper/"Kennedy" and quash the rebellion.
David Winters wrote and directed this 1985 production which tried and failed to find an American distributor at that year’s Cannes Film Market. The film finally went directly to video in the States in 1987. Jesse Frederick and Jeff Koz provided the unreleased score.
IN DANGEROUS COMPANY was a thriller in which “Evelyn” (Tracy Scoggins) goes to her former boyfriend “Blake” (Cliff De Young) for protection from someone out to kill her. But Blake soon realizes that all is not as it appears to be, when he discovers that Evelyn is involved in art theft and forgery. Henry Darrow had a supporting role as skilled forgery artist “Alex Aguilar.”
Tracy Scoggins and Henry Darrow in IN DANGEROUS COMPANY
Ruben Preuss, a former director of British television commercials, made his U.S. feature film directorial debut with this film. The picture played in a few theaters before being dumped to video. Berington Van Campen provided the unreleased score.
In L.A. BOUNTY, following a nighttime fundraiser, L.A. mayoral candidate “Mike Rhodes” (Robert Hanley) and his wife, “Kelly” (Lenore Kasdorf), have their home invaded by a quartet of gun-toting assailants in ski masks. Mike ends up being kidnapped and Kelly is nearly killed, but she's saved by the sudden intervention of bounty hunter “Ruger” (Sybil Danning) who kills two of the gang. Ruger has been hot on the trail of “Cavanaugh” (Wings Hauser), a criminal mastermind and amateur painter-philosopher who uses his local store, Exotic Imports, as a cover for drug and weapon smuggling, but has more ambitious plans in store for his new captive. The fact that Cavanaugh was responsible for torturing and killing Ruger's partner back when she was a cop has left her thirsty for payback, so she puts into motion a plan to corner her target once and for all. Henry Darrow plays police “Lt. Chandler” in the film.
Henry Darrow in L.A. BOUNTY
Worth Keeter directed the 1989 made-for-video film. Howard Leese and John Sterling scored the picture.
THE LAST OF THE FINEST was a 1990 crime drama that followed an elite group of vice cops who are fired from the L.A.P.D. for being over-zealous in their war against drugs. Brian Dennehy is "Officer Frank Daly," and he and his fellow officers--"Wayne Gross" (Joe Pantoliano), "Ricky Rodriguez" (Jeff Fahey), and "Howard 'Hojo' Jones" (Bill Paxton)--are up against a drug operation headed by a U.S. Government agent (Guy Boyd). Henry Darrow plays the squad’s LAPD supervisor “Captain Joe Torres,” a longtime friend of Daly’s, but who wants to keep a tight rein on their activities. Torres is forced to suspend the unit after they disobey orders.
John Mackenzie directed the film, which had an unreleased score by Jack Nitzsche and Michael Hoenig.
The original title, “Street Legal,” had to be changed because there was already a popular Canadian television show called “Street Legal.” Orion Pictures was set to release the film under another title, “Point of Impact,” on 20 October 1989, but that title was jettisoned quickly and replaced with the less dynamic THE LAST OF THE FINEST in early November 1989. Orion held up the film for six months, then released it on 9 March 1990 without benefit of press previews. Despite a rave notice in the Los Angeles Times, reviews of the film were mixed. The film faded quickly in theaters and was dubbed a “fast flop” by the 21 March 1990 Variety, grossing just $1.5 million.
Henry Darrow appeared on the NBC soap opera “Santa Barbara” for 92 episodes from 1989-1992. “Cruz Castillo” (A Martinez) is one of the main characters, a detective on the Santa Barbara Police Force. Henry Darrow played “Rafael Castillo,” the father who gave up Cruz, his brother “Ric” (Peter Love), and his wife “Carmen” (Carmen Zapata) years ago, but found his way back to Santa Barbara in the middle of 1989. Keen on making things right with Cruz and Ric, Rafael started a completely different life in Santa Barbara. But Rafael left town after less than a year. In 1991, he again returned to town, this time with a different storyline. Rafael had started a relationship with “Rosa Andrade” (Margarita Cordova), a maid of the wealthy Capwell family. In 1990, Henry Darrow won a Daytime Emmy Award as “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” for his portrayal of “Rafael Castillo.”
Henry Darrow and A Martinez in “Santa Barbara”
A Martinez posted this remembrance of his former on-screen dad: “The actor Henry Darrow crossed over yesterday. … The strength of his work as “Manolito” on High Chaparral captured the hearts of so many around the world. I was among the millions who fell in love with the dude –– irresistible as a role model –– and later, when we met and became friends, Henry mentored me. We worked together in six projects over the years, including three where I played his son. (He was only 15 years older, but with his worldly chops, it always worked.) I won my Emmy in 1990 largely on the strength of an episode of Santa Barbara where the two of us confronted one another –– a father seeking to save his edge of suicidal son –– with mesmerizing rage and tenderness in scenes set in the desert. It’s my recollection that Henry also won that year.
“Couple of takeaways from our friendship: (1) Don’t be an asshole on the set. His scalding stories of actors who had crossed him were legend. (2) He was as generous to me as any good father would be. He came to me one day in Texas as we prepped to play dad and son on “Seguin,” for American Playhouse. ‘I have a gift for you, but you have to give it back when we’re done,’ he said, and then placed a gorgeous, exquisitely finished, formal leather jacket in my hands. It fit me like a glove, and was a great asset in defining my character’s upwardly trending possibilities (Juan Seguin would eventually become the mayor of San Antonio.) Mr. Darrow was a pro’s pro –– a credit to the profession –– and he was also a wonderful man. A career like this one does not happen by accident.”
The 1990 television series "Zorro" is set in early 19th-century Spanish California. When the commandant of Los Angeles, Alcalde "Luis Ramone" (Michael Tylo), terrorizes the people of the pueblo and oppresses them, “Don Alejandro de la Vega" (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) summons home from Spain his son "Diego" (Duncan Regehr) to fight the Alcalde and his men. When Diego arrives, he finds his town in a sorry state, and while pretending to have little interest in anything but books and his experiments, he creates the secret identity of “El Zorro: The Fox.” He and his mute servant, the teenage "Felipe" (Juan Diego Botto), battle the Alcalde's tyranny. James Victor was Sgt. "Jaime Mendoza." Patrice Martinez appeared in the series as cantina-owner (and independent woman far ahead of her time) "Victoria Escalante," who also provided the love interest for Zorro.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. left the series after the first season (25 episodes). He was replaced by Henry Darrow in the role of “Don Alejandro de la Vega,” who played the part for the remaining three seasons (63 episodes).
Henry Darrow in "Zorro"
The series ran on the Family Channel for four seasons (1990-1993) and 88 episodes.
Henry Darrow had a cameo part as a “Riverboat Poker Player” in 1994's MAVERICK. Director Richard Donner used the scene to showcase a number of long-time supporting actors, including Doug McClure, William Smith, Robert Fuller, and William Marshall. Randy Newman's score was issued on a Reprise Records CD at the time of the film's release.
Henry Darrow had a small role as “Sebald” in the 2003 legal thriller RUNAWAY JURY. Gary Fleder directed the film, which was based on a John Grisham novel. Christopher Young's score was released by Varese Sarabande.
Henry Darrow’s final film appearance came in the 2012 made-for-video drama SODA SPRINGS. Having spent eight years in prison on a charge of manslaughter, “Eden Jackson” (Jay Pickett) is released and returns back to his home town of Soda Springs looking to start again. But not only are some of the town's folk not ready to accept Eden back, but things have changed, as his father died, his mother had a breakdown, and his former wife has married a man who wants him gone. Not only does it leave Eden short on friends but also facing some old demons, mostly on his own. Henry Darrow had a supporting role as “El Quijano.”
Henry Darrow in SODA SPRINGS
Michael Feifer directed the film, which has an unreleased score by Steve Fulton.