The Lone Ranger (50's)
Synopsis of Saturday Morning Show
Patriotic and loyal. Always out for justice, but never out for blood. Living in a world where evil was punished and greed and prejudice were always outsmarted by integrity.
When people grumble that "they don’t make them like they used to,” many of them have TV's The Lone Ranger in mind.
Beginning as a radio show in 1933, with a rousing theme song (Rossini’s "William Tell Overture") and a suspenseful cliff-hanger style that thrilled its weekly audience, the show featured a hero who refused to use his famous silver bullets for anything other than wounding.
Created by George W. Trendle, who kept a notoriously tight watch on the production, the show made the transition to television 16 years later. It continued in this medium until the late 1950's, becoming the longest-running Western series in radio/television history (Gunsmoke and Bonanza ran much longer on television, but The Lone Ranger edges them out when radio is factored in).
The Lone Ranger was the new alias of a former Texas Ranger, the sole survivor of an ambush by Butch Cavendish’s Hole in the Wall gang. Left for dead, the ranger was rescued by Tonto, a Native American who nursed him back to health.
While aiding the wounded lawman, Tonto recognized a medallion around the ranger’s neck. It was the same one he had given to a boy who had saved him several years ago, when an enemy tribe burned his camp and killed his family.
“You Kemosabe,” Tonto tells the ailing ranger.
“Yes,” the ranger remembers, “You’re Tonto.”
And thus began one of the most loyal partnerships in television history. As the ranger returned to health, he vowed "to devote my life to ridding the West of outlaws,” and Tonto vowed to do it along with him. Protecting his identity with a mask made from the vest of his dead brother, who had led the fated ambush, our hero began what would be years of successful crusades against evil.
“You all alone now. You lone ranger,” Tonto tells his new partner.
"Yes, Tonto," the man replies, "I am The Lone Ranger!"
Each week, the show would sweep onto the air with full force, with the announcer speaking passionately over the swelling Rossini tune:
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-Yo Silver!' The Lone Ranger rides again! Return with us now to those thrilling days of Yesteryear..."
Whisked back to the Wild West, the audience would watch as either the Lone Ranger, on his loyal steed Silver, or Tonto, on Scout, would venture into town to eavesdrop on the enemy. Tonto would feign ignorance, while the Ranger would use one of his several disguises, from the Oldtimer to “Professor” Horatio Tucker, a medicine peddler. In later episodes, Dan Reid, the Ranger’s nephew, would ride with his uncle on his own horse, Victor. (Incidentally, Dan Reid's grandson, Britt, would achieve his own fame as the Green Hornet.)
At least once each season, the “original” episode explaining the origins of the character was repeated, allowing newer audiences to catch on quickly and emphasizing the legend as the heartbeat of the show.
Though Brace Beemer had been the heroic voice of the radio ranger, Trendle apparently did not think this actor fit the physical type for TV. Instead, Clayton Moore, a former stunt pilot who had moved to Hollywood in the late 1930's, won Trendle over with his voice and look.
In 1952, however, something happened to the Lone Ranger. His voice was not as deep, and his mannerisms were somehow different. Despite Trendle’s assumption that viewers would not notice, they knew at once that the man behind the mask was no longer Mr. Moore. John Hart took over in 1951 for two seasons of episodes, when, as speculation has it, Moore asked for a raise and Trendle decided to replace him rather than fulfill his demands.
But audiences missed the powerful voice, build, and charisma of Moore, and he was asked to return in 1954.
With Moore back in place, the show continued until 1957, fulfilling the original intentions of its creator. Trendle had, in his words, “intended to give youngsters a hero who would teach patriotism, tolerance, fairness, and a sympathetic understanding of fellow men and their rights and privileges.”
He may no longer roam the TV prairie, but to this day, there are few heroes out there who match this description as well as the Lone Ranger.
Release History1949 - 1957 ABC
TV Sub Categorieslive-action
Trendle, Wrather Corporation
Television CastLone Ranger (1949-51, 1954-57) Clayton Moore
Lone Ranger (1951-53) John Hart
Tonto Jay Silverheels
Dan Reid Chuck Courtney
Announcer Fred Foy