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The nearest I can find is The Mark of Zorro. It shows the villain (played by the wonderful Basil Rathbone) slicing through a candle with rage and then the hero slicing through a candle but seemingly missing. Afterward the villain laughs and then the hero shows how good he really is.

This is the oldest movie I can find that shows this. Are there any older movies?

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Ugh... Lamenting on the fact that i thought it was mask of zorro – Dredd Sep 27 '12 at 17:42
up vote 3 down vote accepted

As noted by the OP, the Basil Rathbone scene from 1940 could well be the earliest example of a sword being sliced in two by a sword purely to showcase his prowess. The 1925 movie, Don Q, Son of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks also features candle slicing, albeit with a whip.

While I have not seen it, this blog notes that the Errol Flynn swashbuckler, The Sea Hawk, also features a scene where "Flynn slices through the candle sticks, quite why I couldn't say for sure, but it looks pretty cool!". The film was released in July, 1940 while The Mark of Zorro was released in November of the same year.

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I finally found a copy of The Sea Hawk to watch and the main character attacks a villain and when the villain ducks the slice goes through three candles instead. It did look cool but not quite the scene I was hoping for. It seems that The Mark of Zorro is the first instance :) – Buildstarted Apr 14 at 6:59

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