The Lone Ranger for newbies
Men behind the mask
Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear
On July 3, 2013, The Lone Ranger rides into theaters once again. How he got there is an interesting story.
Most people know the basic origin story of how a company of Texas Rangers, led by a traitor, is ambushed at Bryant's Gap. All were thought dead, but one lived and was nursed back to health by the Indian called Tonto. The back story of how the character was created, however, is not so well known.
George Washington Trendle owned Detroit radio station WXYZ and needed something new and exciting to boost his ratings. Giving writer Fran Striker of Buffalo, N.Y., the directive to come up with a Western radio program about a lone rider, the two of them incubated and birthed the character known as The Lone Ranger.
Fleshed out over time between them with the aid of producer James Jewell, the masked rider of the plains became one of the biggest radio dramas of all time. Through more than 20 years and 2,956 episodes, youngsters and their parents alike hung on every cliffhanger and thrilled to the adventures of an original American hero.
From the radio sprang books, comics, toys, novelties and two movie serials. In 1949, The Lone Ranger and Tonto migrated to the magic box that was appearing in living rooms across the country. The Lone Ranger starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels began its run of 221 episodes on September 15, 1949 and continued until June 6, 1957. For generations of fans, this was the embodiment of The Lone Ranger.
Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels made two movies after the TV series, The Lone Ranger and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. They also made several television commercials over the years. Moore continued to tour the country making appearances as the character he was so closely associated with. While The Lone Ranger had brief lives in animation in the 1960s and 1980s, it was Moore who kept the character popular until he was court ordered to stop appearing in mask as The Lone Ranger. He was sued by The Wrather Corporation, as they did not want the public to become confused when they produced a new Lone Ranger movie with new stars.
Surrounded by a storm of negative publicity regarding Moore and the antics of Klinton Spilsbury as the new masked man, The Legend of The Lone Ranger became a huge box office bomb in 1981. The right to wear the mask was quietly restored to Moore in 1985.
From that time until his death in 1999, Moore's public appearances were about all that kept The Lone Ranger in the public eye.
In 2002, The WB network filmed a pilot for a new Lone Ranger television program. It was so bad that it only aired once, and then as a movie of the week. It starred Chad Michael Murray and Nathaniel Arcand. About that time, Columbia Pictures announced plans to make a new movie. That project lingered and died in 2008, when producer Jerry Bruckheimer announced he wanted to make it for Disney. That movie, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, opens in theaters on July 3.
It puts a new spin on the classic tale with it being told from Tonto's perspective. Given a modern updating, the movie keeps the basics of the black mask, white hat, silver bullets, the white horse, and the part of the William Tell Overture that is so synonymous with The Lone Ranger.
It will now be up to a new generation of fans to determine the cinematic fate of a beloved American icon. In the meantime, the 32-year drought between Lone Ranger movies is over. The Lone Ranger Rides again!
Hi-Yo Silver, away!