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Updated: July 31, 2023

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 brokerage 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 bornin 1952 and a daughter, Toni, was born in 1957.

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