I’ve been watching episodes of the old “Lone Ranger” TV show in the last month. It airs on a couple of religious stations that I get on DishNetwork. One channel airs episode weekdays and the other channel puts the show on only during the weekend. It is a good fit for religious stations because of the high morals of the show. The Lone Ranger never shoots to kill, only to disarm the bad guy as painlessly as possible. Also the bad guy is never allowed to get away with his crimes in the end. Although the origin story varied over time. in most stories he was in a group of Texas Rangers that were ambushed. He was thought to be dead but he was found by Tonto, who he had previously known, and nursed back to health. He donned the mask so that he wouldn’t be revealed as the last living Ranger.
The character of the Lone Ranger first appeared on Detroit radio show WXYZ in 1933 and then moved to a national broadcast that lasted until 1956. The line “Hi-Yo Silver” was used to indicate to the radio audience that he and Tonto were riding. The radio series was so popular that novels and a newspaper strip soon followed.
In 1938 Republic Pictures issued the 15 part serial “The Lone Ranger” starring Lee Powell as the Lone Ranger (but voiced by Billy Bletcher) and Chief Thundercloud as Tonto. Then the next year there was another serial; “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” again starring Chief Thundercloud as Tonto but with Robert Livingston as the Lone Ranger.
The classic TV series began in September 1949 and may be the oldest TV series still being shown on TV. One of the reasons that it still around is that it was filmed at a time when most all TV shows were done live. Jay Silverheels played Tonto. He has a Rochester connection. In the 1930s he played indoor lacrosse under the name of Harry Smith with the Rochester “Iroquois” of the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association. Clayton Moore was the Lone Ranger for 76 episodes and then had a contract dispute. He was replaced by John Hart for 52 episodes. Very few of the John Hart episodes are shown on TV after all these years although I have seen about 4 of them in the last month. Moore then returned and filmed another 91 episodes including the last 39 being in color. The channels that I get haven’t aired any of the color episodes.
The TV series was so successful that they made 2 movies starring Moore and Silverheels; The Lone Raneger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958). There were also some comics books of not only the Lone Ranger but also for Tonto and Silver. In the 1960s there were Saturday morning cartoons featuring the Long Ranger.
There was a film going to be released in 1981 and the studio didn’t want Clayton Moore doing appearances so they took his mask away. For a few years he was only able to wear wraparound sunglasses. The movie “The Legend of the Lone Ranger ” starred Michael Horse as Tonto and Klinton Spilsbury as the Lone Ranger. Before the movie could be released, the studio deemed Mr. Spilsbury’s voice not suitable and all of his vocals were overdubbed by James Keach. In my opinion, the movie was awful and others must have had the same opinion as it did poorly at the boxoffice.
In 2003 the WB network aired the TV movie “The Lone Ranger,” starring Chad Michael Murray. It was supposed to be a pilot for a possible series that never went into production. Part of the problem was that they changed the origin story.
There will be another movie released in 2013 simply titled “The Lone Ranger” that will star Armie Hammer as the Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Only time will tell if this will be a hit or a flop.
Some Lone Ranger links:
- The Lone Ranger Fan Club
- Lone Ranger information on Wikipedia
- Lone Ranger radio series; page 1, page 2 & page 3 (mp3 files on Archive.org)
- The Lone Ranger; episode 1 (1serial; 1938) (Archive.org) – with links to all the other episodes
- First 3 episodes of the TV series put together as a movie (Archive.org)
- The Lone Ranger (movie; 1956) (Archive.org)