Lone Ranger expert talks about history of the Masked Man

Beginning in 1933 as a radio program, “The Lone Ranger” featured as many as seven different performers in the role during a run that lasted until 1954. The one man most identified as the rider of the majestic white steed named Silver was Clayton Moore.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: July 5, 2013
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Armie Hammer is only the latest in a long line of actors to don the mask of the Lone Ranger.

Beginning in 1933, the original radio program featured as many as seven different performers in the role during a run that lasted until 1954. A forgettable guy named Klinton Spilsbury took a shot at the character on the big screen in 1981 that was a disastrous misfire.

But the one man most identified as the rider of the majestic white steed named Silver was Clayton Moore, who played him on television from Sept. 15, 1949, to the final first-run episode on Sept. 12, 1957 (with the exception of two seasons, when John Hart wore the mask). Millions of kids and adults alike were drawn to the “resourceful masked rider of the plains” and his adventures with his faithful Indian companion Tonto (played to poker-faced perfection by Jay Silverheels), making “The Lone Ranger” by far the biggest hit series on ABC Television in the network's early years.

And fans who've got the silver can own the entire series in the special “The Lone Ranger: Collector's Edition” for $199.99.

This massive set features all five complete seasons (221 episodes on 30 DVDs) in a box resembling a coffee-table book. Bonus content includes two full-length features starring Moore and Silverheels — “The Lone Ranger” (1956) and “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” (1958); a complete episode guide containing a synopsis for all 221 episodes (including the 1952-54 seasons that starred Hart as the Masked Man); an original “Lone Ranger” radio broadcast from 1950; and a rare comic book and photo reprint, in addition to other silver-bullet treasures.

For those who don't own a silver mine like the Ranger did, there are three affordable “singles” DVD sets: “The Lone Ranger: Hi-Yo Silver, Away!,” “The Lone Ranger: Kemo Sabe,” and “The Lone Ranger: Who Was That Masked Man?”

To promote the sets, DreamWorks Classics arranged an interview with Lone Ranger historian Joe Southern of Rosenberg, Texas, who owns lonerangerfanclub.com.

Q: Who actually created the Lone Ranger? Was it Detroit radio station owner George W. Trendle or the radio show's writer Fran Striker? There seems to be debate over that.

A: It was actually kind of a committee involvement there. Trendle was the one who wanted to create a new radio program for his struggling stations and he came up with the idea of some kind of a lone rider, which he passed on to Striker, and Striker began to flesh it out.

His first version resembled nothing that we know today. It was very bloody and very brutal. Trendle said no to that one right away and said he wanted it to be a wholesome children's program ... James Jewell, who was the producer of the program began to offer input. So the three of them probably came up with 95 percent of the character as we know it today.

Q: Was there any real person or other fictional character that was part of the inspiration for what became the Masked Man that we now know?

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