Apparently, his birth last name means “person from Catalonia.” Which is now in Spain. So while the man born Armand Joseph Catalano was, obviously, of Italian descent, there may have been Spaniards somewhere back in his lineage, which makes him slightly less absurd of a choice to have played Don Diego de la Vega. Though of course Don Diego was probably of pure Spanish blood (there are several plotlines about Spanish supremacy on Zorro, interestingly enough), and I’m never too fussed about Europeans of one nationality playing Europeans of another nationality, and I’m much angrier at the brown- and redface going on with the assorted minor characters.
He does not in any way have the pre-Zorro career of his TV father. Now, part of that is an age difference; while technically a man born in 1924 can have a career dating back to the Silent Era, it’s a bit unlikely, and either way George J. Lewis started acting before Guy Williams was born. But leaving that aside, you know, the thing that you could definitely say of Lewis was that his career was steady. Guy Williams did not have that. He didn’t even have two dozen credits before he was cast.
Now, there’s still some interesting stuff there. Not good, necessarily, but interesting. His first credited role was in Bonzo Goes to College, and if he was credited under Bonzo, well, it only makes sense. Honestly, he was past thirty and still just kind of puttering around, and I can’t help wondering if he was getting a bit frustrated with things. I Was a Teenage Werewolf came out the same year that Zorro debuted, and he’s the penultimate-billed person in that, as “Officer Chris Stanley.” I can’t help thinking that he might have been looking at his acting career and wondering if perhaps Hollywood was not for him.
He auditioned for both Don Diego and Monastario, as did Britt Lomond. The show would have been quite different had the casting gone the other way. But he was Don Diego, and it worked. He was charming and nonthreatening as Diego and charming and dashing as Zorro. He was incredibly skilled with his sword, and he got the chance to sing several times. It was a heck of a role, and if he only had fewer than three dozen credits total over his career, well, 82 episodes of Zorro is itself a worthy career.
He also did 84 episodes of Lost in Space, and I have less to say about that. Which apparently wouldn’t bother him much, as he came to be deeply frustrated with the show. I tried to watch it, a few years ago, and it just didn’t do anything for me. The sillier it got, the less Williams cared for it. And that may have had something to do with why he ended up retiring to a ranch in Argentina. Both he and Lewis retired in the ’60s, and in fact Lewis outlived him by several years. But it seems as though Williams was happy with where his life went, and you can’t ask more than that.