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Looking back on `The Lone Ranger' TV series as an adult is a strange
experience. Watching episodes through an adult's eyes alerted me to flaws
didn't notice when I was a kid: the acting was sometimes on the B-movie
level. The stories tended to be repetitive and simplistic. The Native
Americans were generally played by Caucasian or Hispanic or
actors. The `outdoor' exteriors in a lot of episodes were obviously
sets. But there is a spirit and an energy to the show that you can't
Most of the credit for the show's success goes to its leads, Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. They became the Lone Ranger and Tonto, lived the roles as no other actors before or since. Moore, in particular, knew the Ranger was presented as a hero and an example to children, and from what I've heard, he tried his best to live up to that. He made the Ranger a fair and just man, someone who didn't judge, who gave people the benefit of the doubt, but acted correctly when the time was right. He used violence only as a last resort. He was a symbol of honor and integrity, the kind of person I wish I could be.
As for Tonto... It occurs to me nowadays how great an actor Jay Silverheels was. Critics of the show always want to use Tonto as the stereotypical ignorant savage, but you have to look at all the things Tonto does. Tonto tracks, takes care of the Ranger when he's wounded, spies out information - you can tell from the expressions on Silverheels' face that there's a lot more going on inside Tonto's head than he lets on. Don't let the broken English fool you!
The thing that really impresses me about `The Lone Ranger' now is how much of a partnership these two characters have. Tonto is not the Ranger's subordinate - they are friends, equals in their adventures. That, as much as any lesson taught in any episode, is what draws me back to the series after so many years: a tried and true friendship.
Oh, if only the Lone Ranger could ride again.
The Lone Ranger appeared on the ABC network on September 15, 1949 in
the first of a three part episode that told the history of the famous
masked man of the West.
Along with William Boyd's Hopalong Cassidy TV series, which was first telecast on NBC on June 24, 1949, it was among the earliest TV western series. Hopalong Cassidy actually debuted in 1948, when Boyd syndicated his films to NBC. (In 1947, Boyd had bought to the rights to his Hoppy films.)
Fran Stiker and George W. Trendle created the Lone Ranger as a local radio program in 1933. It quickly went nationwide and was the cornerstone of the old Mutual Radio network. Ironically, Hopalong Cassidy was also a Mutual radio program.
When The Lone Ranger was brought to TV in 1949, many of the radio plays were adapted to the younger medium. As a consequence, many of the earliest episodes show their radio origins with the use of a narrator who links the different scenes together. The Lone Ranger was the biggest hit on the new ABC network in its early years.
The first three episodes told the the familiar story of how the Lone Ranger came to be, his connection to Tonto, and the origins of his prize horse Silver. Glenn Strange played the villain Butch Cavandish in these episodes.
The Lone Ranger was also one of the earliest shows to film mostly outdoors. Starting in 1956, the Wrather Company began filming the program in color.
The Cisco Kid, starring Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo had been filmed in color since its first aired in 1950. Jack Wrather, however, was more concerned about the competition to his kid's show from the new adult westerns that had began to appear on TV.
When the Lone Ranger appeared, The New York Times critic Jack Gould ripped the show, as "just another Western, and not a notably good one at that." Gould considered the first three episodes manipulative, mostly because of the cliffhanger endings of the first two episodes. The New York Times writer accused everyone associated with the program of keeping children "emotionally hopped upped." As a result of his criticisms, the cliffhanger type endings were never used after the first two episodes. Gould, however, had been suffering from a misunderstanding. The show had never intended to be broadcast as a serial despite the serial background of its star Clayton Moore.
In 1952, B-film actor John Hart replaced Clayton Moore. Moore had threatened to quit after 1950. He was being paid only $500 an episode for his hit show, and wanted a substantial raise. Audiences rejected Hart in the role, and after 36 episodes Moore was back atop Silver.
The Lone Ranger was the first Western Hit on TV.
The series was filmed in both Utah and in California.
Someone once defined what is the definition of AN INTELLECTUAL as
being: "A person who can listen to "The William Tell Overture" without
thinking of the LONE RANGER!" In this, we heartily concur! It surely
would be a tall order to accomplish this, and one that Leopold
Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini or .Leonard Bernstein would all find nigh
well impossible to do.
And in this there is no disgrace. The Radio Series and the Television Series, along with some Movie Serials, Feature Films, Syndicated Newspaper Comic Strip and Comic Books, all did their part to make "the Masked Man of the Plains and his Faithful Indian companion, Tonto" a deeply seeded element of our collective psyche and of our literary folklore.
As with most legends, it all started gradually, first with a series of Radio Plays, written for local use in Detroit over Radio Station WXYZ. The Creator was one George W. Trendle and the Principal Writer on the Series was Mr. Trendle's brother-in-law, Mr. Fran Striker. The year was 1933 when the Ranger first rode out to " the Plains of the Early Western United States!" The Lone Ranger, Tonto and the Radio Series all successfully guided Depression Era Americans through the mid and late '30's up to and through World War II. But the Post-War Era found the country in the midst of a Super-Nova Explosion of invention and technology. There had been a new communications medium standing ready in the wings, but unable to go forth until both VE Day and VJ Day had been achieved. Once these were accomplished and the World and America was ready to settle down to both Peace and Prosperity. The "New Technology" was, of course was TELEVISION! And we would surely need something else than "Roller Derby" and "Wrestling From Marigold Arena" to fill up the broadcast hours. And while at first, the time that a TV Station had anything on, except that portrait of that Mohican Chief (Test Pattern, Schultz!) Very soon and with post haste, the Networks began tapping their existing Natural Resources, their existing programming! Virtually all would be ripe for adaptation to the TV Screen.
So, the folks over at Lone Ranger, Incorporated were very interested when Producers Jack Chertok, Harry Poppe, Sherman Harris and Jack Wrather all approached them with a deal to put The Masked Man and Tonto on the Television waves, as well as the Radio.
Immediately they went to work and gave us the first season, which made use of the considerable back log of Radio Dramas, all potentially adaptable to TV dramas. They cast Clayton Moore, a fine supporting actor in many a feature film, and with about a dozen years experience. He also had done some work in Serials over at Republic Pictures' "Thrill Factory", which would be invaluable experience in doing "THE LONE RANGER". Cast as his "faithful Indian companion" and partner in bringing Justice to various parts of the Frontier, we had sheer perfection in character-supporting Actor, Jay Silverheels.** We must mention that there was that rift in about '53, when Clayton Moore walked and was replaced with John Hart. After a season or so, Mr. Moore was back in-having been missed so much! Now, Back to Our Story!! The first years of filming gave the episodes a look and a sound all of their own. They made good use of off screen Narrator, which gave these shows a feel of authenticity and an individual, stand-out one of a kind series. The actors employed were all veterans of the movies of the late silent era thru the 1930's and 1940's. A lot of them had been just about exclusively "Cowboy Movie" players. A good example of these is the casting of Glenn Strange (Bartender Sam on "GUNSMOKE") as the vicious, murderous Gang Leader, Butch Cavandish. And it was the Cavendish Gang's massacre of the Texas Rangers that led to the origin of John Reid (thought to have been slain with the other Texas Rangers) as the "LONE RANGER".
In addition to the old timers in the cast, you will find a lot of new and up and coming talent (then) in the cast. We see people like Phyllis Coates, Dwayne Hickman, Denver Pyle and others in the cast from week to week. All of this, along with an always calling for fair-play, justice and peace in a western world.
The last couple of seasons brought some big changes. First was the use of Colour Filming. That made no difference as a Colour TV Set was still a long way off for our household. The second was a new set of musical themes and queues. (Other than Rossini's Finale from "U NO Wutt!") The new music was never a big deal to us, as we preferred the "old Radio" stock stuff.
With this series and two Feature Films done during this period, THE LONE RANGER (Warner Brothers, 1956) and THE LONE RANGER AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (United Artists, 1958), the character has been permanently and indelibly impressed in our identity as a People, we Americans!
The 221 episodes of "The Lone Ranger" were originally broadcast on ABC
from 1949 to 1957; and then for many years they played in local
syndication. For most of the original broadcast years the series was
ABC's most watched piece of programming.
The new DVD set from Pop Flix contains the first 16 episodes (15 Sept-29 Dec 1949) and for some reason unknown to me episode 22 from the fifth season, for a total of 17 episodes (the same 17 available on last year's Mill Creek Entertainment release so these are probably in the public domain). These sets pretty much render "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" movie superfluous as all three episodes that were combined in 1952 to form the movie are included in these releases.
The early episodes hark back to radio as there is considerably more voice-over narration used as an introduction and to introduce key plot moments.
The series itself was pure kiddie western with clear-cut good and evil distinctions and no romance. The title character (played by Clayton Moore) started out Texas Ranger John Reid. The first three episodes provide the background for his transformation to Lone Ranger status, his partnering with the Indian Tonto (Jay Silverheels), and the taming of his horse "Silver".
There is an unambiguous code of positive morality infusing each episode. The Lone Ranger is totally good but he adopts the guise of evil. While a masked man in the west was normally feared by the good citizens and an Indian was distrusted, the Lone Ranger is feared by those who would do evil. One persistent theme is that when the Lone Ranger and Tonto first encounter an average citizen they are greeted with suspicion, and by the end of the episode the citizen has been convinced of their value. The trademark ending was a secondary character asking the question: "who was that masked man?".
To really enjoy the series you must accept it for the simplistic morality tale it was intended to be. If you don't take it seriously and keep wishing for some self-reflexive campy parody elements you will only get frustrated.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
Iam not sure if discussing the television series is exactly where the comments should be drawn to,however it is on the television where the The Lone Ranger really made a name for himself.Iam not even referring to the original radio broadcasts of this masked rider of the plains,Iam though referring to a point where in a little boy, about 9 or 10 years old,I was to see the movie,"The Lone Ranger"and never forgot it.I can recall that I was on a line or we were moving toward the Paramount Theater-the theater was located in the theater district,if I remember correctly.It was directly across,going East to West from the building that has the ball that drops on New Years Eve-This is of course if anybody doesn't know, New York City.High Above the street on the roof tops there was a time and maybe even still today huge billboards would advertise what was being shown and so on.It was at that point in time that I looked up and was never more impressed as I was when I looked at that billboard to see The Lone Ranger across the roof tops-It was great-It made an impression and was never forgotten.That day we went to see The Lone Ranger-It was the story of how the Lone Ranger was born-The terrible ambush that the Texas Rangers rode into and the subsequent rebirth of one of its fallen heroes.It was in this film we learn that The Lone Ranger will not shoot to kill but to injure so as to let the law be the judge.That type of thinking is so worthwhile that we might be good to learn something from history.This is where we learn that Tonto discovers the fallen Ranger and upon seeing the symbol of the boyhood friendship that The Lone Ranger established years earlier when he as a younger person came to the aide of a injured young person in Tonto-For the aide given, Tonto gave to his faithful friend, a symbol of his thanks which now was part of a necklace that Tonto recognized.Tonto said,"you are Kemosabe".The Lone Ranger said,"kemo-sabe,that is familiar?Then Tonto tells the story of this "trusty scout"(the meaning of Kemosabe)I think the Lone Ranger is one of the true heroes of the silver screen and one of the great heroes of television.It should also be stated that these very respected individuals Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels sought to live there lives according to the legend of The Lone Ranger-It may very well be that there is an inspiring story in the story of the Lone Ranger and his faithful companion Tonto.I myself was so pleased by the ability to find and buy the DVDs, that I stayed up all a Saturday morning and watched The many episodes now available.Long Live The Lone Ranger and His faithful companion Tonto-Hi-Ho Silver-
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bullets may not have bounced off his chest, but The Lone Ranger was
every bit the symbolic icon to me as my other boyhood hero - Superman.
He represented truth, justice and the American way in a classic TV
Western setting, living by the principle that he would never use his
gun to kill, while scouring the American Southwest with his faithful
Indian companion Tonto to bring every single outlaw to justice. The
advent of TV provided the perfect opportunity for a post War generation
to find it's ideal in an enigmatic masked man who stood for law and
order, while providing unparalleled entertainment for five seasons
spanning almost eight years.
Today I had the opportunity to view for the first time the complete three part origin episodes start to finish without the standard opening and closing sequences to interrupt the continuity of the story. For fans of the Ranger, this is the grand daddy of all Western sagas, telling as it does how Texas Ranger John Reid survived the ambush by the Butch Cavendish Gang, and how he was nursed back to health by an Indian friend from his childhood. Tonto (Jay Silverheels) declares his companion a 'trusty scout', and names him Kemo-sabe. I've read various interpretations of the origin of the term Kemo-sabe, but I'm satisfied with Tonto's explanation. Reading too much into it just detracts from the story, just like the English translation of 'tonto' from Spanish, which I won't reveal, because it's just better not to know if you can help it.
I thought it quite clever how the origin story created the mystique of the Lone Ranger, like the sixth grave that created the illusion that all the Rangers died in the box canyon ambush. You never see the face of the man who becomes the Lone Ranger, as it's always turned away or obscured to hide his real identity. Even the origin of Silver is handled brilliantly; the voice of the story's narrator describing the wild stallion's sterling qualities. Would that relate, say, to sterling..., silver? I got the biggest kick out of that.
Of course with the passage of time, watching the Lone Ranger episodes today offers a view of how unsophisticated the show was beyond the origin story. Some of them are almost embarrassingly goofy, particularly when it comes to a Lone Ranger showdown when he shoots into the middle of a crowd of bad guys to knock a gun out of a villain's hand. And how about that little wave he gives to Tonto whenever they're about to ambush the bad guys - it's always the same gesture, but Tonto always knows what it means in different circumstances. Then you have the episodes where Clayton Moore takes off the Ranger mask to don a different disguise to impersonate another character in service to the story. He even went under cover once as an actor portraying President Abraham Lincoln to uncover a villain, top hat and all!
Few fans that I come across ever know that actor John Hart replaced Clayton Moore for the 1952/53 season in a contract dispute that Moore had with the show's producers. If you ever saw that "Happy Days" episode where Fonzie idolizes his boyhood hero, you'll notice it was John Hart listed in the credits. It's difficult actually, to tell if you're watching a Hart episode or not, the key is to listen to the voice; Moore's is so distinctive that it's a dead giveaway.
If you ever get the chance to sample some of the final season color episodes, you're in for a treat. The renditions I've seen on VHS are absolutely gorgeous, although I don't know if commercial prints are available. Most of the black and white episodes around have been re-packaged by any number of distributors in different configurations, so getting your hands on those should be no problem. The must see of course is the three part origin, and if you don't watch anything else, this gives you all the flavor and excitement you need to capture the imagination of one of the West's most famous heroes. Hi-Yo Silver, Awaaaay!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wasn't even born when this series was released in the USA. It took
about another decade before British TV networks laid hold of it.
In fact, I was fortunate enough to see the very first episode, in which The Lone Ranger was one of a posse who ran into an ambush and got slaughtered. TLR was the only survivor. Although badly wounded, he was saved by a passing Indian called Tonto. I believe he took to wearing a mask in order to hide his true identity for fear of reprisal. But instead he made himself all the more recognisable. Dunno if he wore it in his sleep.
This was Saturday teatime staple. The fanfare bugles of William Tell's overture presaged a dash to the telly, food still in hand. Though it very quickly became repetitive, predictable hokum. Nobody ever unmasked him. Nobody ever landed a punch, nobody ever out-shot him. He was a little too good, and just a little too camp in his dress for most kids. Poor Tonto, on the other hand, became his Aunt Sally. He was always getting slugged and tied-up and kidnapped and stuff.
And what did he keep calling The Lone Ranger? 'King Savvy' was the general consensus where I lived. It seemed to imply 'the big know-all' in Indian-speak. But is sounded like something else, as if Mr Silverheels had a speech defect. 'Kemosabe'; what the hell's that?
A later, and less well-merchandised duo called 'The Range Rider' and 'Dick West' eventually won my vote. This featured a naked-faced Jock Mahoney who got beat-up pretty thoroughly in each episode and was altogether less camp, less super, and more believable.
Still; even today I can't hear William Tell's overture without expecting the gallop of hooves and a hearty Hi-Oh Silver.
This is a public service announcement, paid for by the Hole in the Wall
gang, with funds generously donated by the stagecoach that left Carson
city 2 hours ago and was held up 10 minutes ago.
In recent years, there have been several low or no budget DVD companies that have come forward and have mass produced DVDs that have episodes of the lone ranger available on them. These companies claim that these episodes are "Best of" and "Classics" But what they will fail to mention, is that every episode they put out is Public Domain and therefore, free to view online without worry of copyright infringement. Some of these episodes are titled as follows - A message from Abe, The Tenderfeet, Old Joe's Sister, Cannonball Mckay, War Horse, Legion of old timers, Rustler's hideout, Enter the lone ranger, and the lone ranger rides again, plus a few more. If you are holding a DVD in your hand which has any or all of these episodes, you have been scammed. Do not let these cheap companies deceive you and take the 5$ from your pocket.
OK, enough with the satire. But really, That's half the reason anyone will watch the lone ranger on DVD, due to the fact that several episodes of the series are no longer under copyright and have fallen into the public domain, therefore making them free to watch, but also free to produce. And because of this, Small DVD companies will get these episodes and sell them in supermarkets for low prices. But what irritates me is that these companies label the episodes "Best of" and "Classics" when they're just public domain.
Now, about the show. This was one of the first TV productions that still runs on Television today. It's a simple concept, really. The main hero is an Ex-Ranger who was supposedly killed on a mission where his brother and 4 other men where betrayed and killed by the Cavendish Gang (On DVD back covers, they call them the "hole in the wall" gang, possibly due to copyright issues.) So upon being saved and brought back to life by Tonto the Native man, The lone ranger swears to bring justice to the wild west in a time of uncertainty and crime.
There is only one Lone Ranger and only one Tonto. Clayton Moore and Jay
Silverheels. They were both so ingrained in my childhood psyche as
hero's, that they remain to this day to be just that. I have watched
each and every episode, or at least I believe I have. In doing so it
occurred to me that there was never really a gray area, there was right
and there was wrong. There was good and there was evil...justice and
injustice. Simple, yet powerful messages.
As an adult and watching the earliest episodes, it occurred to me that Tonto, actually gave all the idea's for his partners image. It was Tonto that suggested the mask. It was Tonto that suggested the silver bullets, and it was Tonto that came up with the name for Silver..when he proclaimed that the horse the Lone Ranger saved from death was "Silver White"! At last, as Tonto stood with the lone surviving Ranger over the graves of the others, Tonto, proclaimed "You are all alone now..You Lone Ranger! Of course, the response was "Yes Tonto, I am..The Lone Ranger!
The bonds of friendship and trust for the Lone Ranger and Tonto, was used 25 years later as an example of true friendship in an episode of Happy Days. In this particular episode, where Ritchie wanted to expose Fonzie for hating liver. The remark from Fonzie that typified what a true friendship should be was this "Many people tried to remove the mask of the Lone Ranger, but Tonto "never tried". All of America knew and felt that the truest of friendships would be to be like The Lone Ranger and Tonto.
Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels are beloved for more than just being actors in a great western that will live forever. They are symbolic of so much more and as I said..will always be my hero's.
Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.....
There can be no denying that The Lone Ranger is the quintessential TV Western of the 1950s. It is the one show that has proved, time and again, to be a real favorite of both children and adults alike.
Starring Clayton Moore, as the masked rider, and Jay Silverheels, as Tonto, his ever-loyal sidekick, The Lone Ranger was an action-packed, half-hour program whose episodes always had an interesting and thoughtful story to tell about life in the days of the Old West.
Actor Clayton Moore was the absolute embodiment of this mysterious, masked crime-fighter who would often go to great lengths to see that justice was done and that the criminals paid a dear price for their dishonest deeds.
Clayton Moore was once quoted as saying that he had "fallen in love with being the Lone Ranger character".
The Lone Ranger's story concerns a nameless Texas Ranger who is the sole survivor of a vicious ambush. After he is nursed back to health by his new-found comrade, Tonto, he embarks on a mission to bring justice and peace to the lawlessness of the Old West.
Using the benefits from a secret silver mine, the Lone Ranger rides the West on his magnificent horse, Silver, and dispenses justice in the form of his trademark - The silver bullet.
Following the cancellation of The Lone Ranger in 1957, Clayton Moore then embarked on a 40-year career making personal appearances, TV guest spots, and classic TV commercials dressed up as the legendary masked man.
In 1999 Moore died of a heart attack. He was 85 years old.
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