The story that marked Gene Sheldon, the actor who played the beloved Bernardo in El Zorro

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.
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One of the most popular series of all time is The Fox. It does not go out of style and the rating of The thirteen, which still continues to broadcast chapters on weekends, they prove it. Curiously, it was barely released, back in 1957 in the United States, its popularity was not what it would reap later. Created by Walt disney, is inspired by The Curse of the Capistrano, an adventure novel that was published in 1919 and that did have immediate great acceptance, becoming a bestseller. Due to its high production cost, only three seasons of The Fox. Just with its completion, the repetitions began to gain greater acceptance.

The strip is set in 1820 in California, and tells the story of Diego de la Vega (Guy williams), who after spending three years in Spain to train academically, returns home to Los Angeles. The reason for his return has to do with a request from his father, Don Alejandro (George lewis), concerned about the political and economic situation of the people. However, and beyond his ability and being an expert fencer, he decides to hide that side and present himself to the soldiers and society as passionate about reading.

Camouflaged, De La Vega begins to fight against the oppressors under the identity of The Fox, a masked horseman who appears at night. Of course, like all superheroes, he has at his side. To that faithful person who assists you and is unconditional. Here it appears Bernard, role played by Gene Sheldon, which had a peculiarity: it was mute. Yes I could hear, but no one knew. Everyone in town believed he was deaf and mute. In this way Bernard he would hear the conversations, he would find out what was going to happen, and then he would communicate it to Diego. He was the best spy the vigilante could have. They were a great duo.

Sheldon began in acting doing comedy and had a great knowledge of pantomime, which allowed him not only to stand out but also to make himself understood by his cast mates and by the public, who every day awaited a new chapter. No translation needed. With his body movements he made the message clear and this made him one of the favorites of the producers.

Of course he came from doing similar roles and having great recognition for that. In 1942 this off-road actor made a prominent Broadway magazine theater debut in the play Priorities, playing a comedian who did not speak and who based his passage through the tables on gestures to make himself understood. Wearing even the suit of Harry langdon, one of the most important actors in silent films, won the recognition of theater critics for his work.

The curious thing about Gene’s life is that, despite the solvency with which he played his role as deaf-mute, in the early years of his career he served as an announcer, standing out for a firm and clear voice. His premiere in the North American media, before discovering himself as a talented actor, was doing radio.

Gene Sheldon

Over the years there were not a few who wondered why the assistant of De La Vega could not speak: in the series the origin of his muteness was never revealed. It was said that the previous pattern of Mr. Diego I had cut out his tongue. However, the mystery seems to have been cleared in Fox, the novel by the Chilean writer Isabel Allende, which was released in 2005. There, more details of Bernardo’s childhood and adult life were known.

In one of the chapters of the book it is explained that Bernard he lost his speech after going through a great trauma in his childhood. The novel tells that the farm where he lived with his parents was attacked by pirates who killed his mother. It was a heinous crime that the boy witnessed, and it left him a wound that would cause him to be unable to articulate words for the rest of his life.

His story

Gene Sheldon was born on February 1, 1908, in Columbus, Ohio. From a very young age he began to work with his father, the magician Eart, making his first weapons within the world of acting; precisely, he interpreted his role – already with great aplomb – without uttering a single sentence. It happens that for some numbers his father dressed him as a girl, and asked him not to speak so that people would not notice.

At the age of 17, Sheldon started as a professional when he entered a radio station in Toledo, the Ohio city where he grew up. There he served as a virtuous announcer. He spent several years working in that position, until he gave rise to the facet that launched him to popularity, both on the small screen and in the cinema.

His film debut came in 1934 when, at the age of 26, he stepped into the shoes of a musician in the film Susie’s Affairs. Here he also gave rise to other of his passions: music. He played the banjo, an instrument that he discovered in his teens thanks to his father and which he never abandoned. He accompanied him everywhere, even to the recording sets, to delight his colleagues in their spare time.

The following year Gene was part of the musical Roberta, beside Fred astaire and Ginger rogers. He also used the instrument, and highlighted his qualities as a comedian in various magazines. The theater was its place in the world, where it shone most, even when collective memory inevitably refers us to Bernard and The Fox.

In the 50s, already with a name and recognition, he started working for the chain Walt disney company. It was one of the favorites of the quintessential California-based production company. Sheldon started on the series Golden Horseshoe Saloon and in the movie Where do we go from here?. With his foray into the fantastic world of Disney, he began to work with several of the actors with whom he would later come across in the fiction starring Guy Williams. For example, in the feature film based on Babes in Toyland shared cast with Herny calvin, he Sergeant Garcia in The Fox.

As for her private life, Gene always tried to keep her out of the show. In 1944 he married in Las Vegas with Margaret Mc Cann, a 14 year younger woman whom he met in her native Ohio. Margaret was 22 when they decided to legalize the relationship. As a result of that love, two children were born: David and Tracy. The boy followed in his father’s footsteps when he grew up, and became a film producer.

On May 1, 1982, Gene Sheldon died of an acute myocardial infarction. He was 74 years old and was in Tarzana, a district of Los Angeles. His wife, who died in 2008 at the age of 85, would never have a family again. Following his request, the actor’s remains were cremated.



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