Lone Ranger, The
About This Show
from the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television
The Lone Ranger originated on WXYZ radio in Detroit in 1933. Created by George W. Trendle and written by Fran Striker, the show became so popular it was one of the reasons why several stations linked together to share programming on what became the Mutual Broadcasting System. Aimed primarily at the children's audience, The Lone Ranger made a successful transition to ABC televi-sion in 1949. Several characteristics were unique and central to the premise of this western, and the initial episode which explained the legend was occasionally repeated so young viewers would under-stand how the hero gained his name and why he wore a mask. The Lone Ranger was one of six Texas Rangers who were ambushed while chasing a gang of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. After the battle, one "lone ranger" survived, and was discovered by Tonto, a Native American who recognized the survi-vor as John Reid, the man who had saved his life earlier. Tonto thereafter referred to the ranger as "kemo sabe," which is trans-lated as "trusty scout." After Tonto helped him regain his strength, the ranger vowed to hide his identity from Cavendish and to dedicate his life to "making the West a decent place to live." He and Tonto dug an extra grave to fool Cavendish into believing all six rangers had died, and the ranger donned a mask to protect his identity as the single surviving ranger. Only Tonto knows who he is ... the Lone Ranger. After he and Tonto saved a silver-white stallion from being gored by a buffalo, they nursed the horse back to health and set him free. The horse followed them and the Lone Ranger decided to adopt him and give him the name Silver. Shortly thereafter, the Lone Ranger and Tonto encountered a man who, it turns out, has been set up to take the blame for murders committed by Cavendish. They estab-lished him as caretaker in an abandoned silver mine, where he produced silver bullets for the Lone Ranger. Ev-en after the Cavendish gang was captured, the Lone Ranger decided to keep his identity a secret. Near the end of this and many future episodes, someone asks about the identity of the masked man. The typical response: "I don't rightly know his real name, but I've heard him called... the Lone Ranger."
The Lone Ranger exemplified upstanding character and righ-teous purpose. He engaged in plenty of action, but his silver bullets were symbols of "justice by law," and were never used to kill. For the children's audience, he represented clean living and noble effort in the cause of fighting crime. His values and style, including his polished manners and speech, were intended to provide a positive role model. The show's stan-dard musical theme was Rossini's "William Tell Overture," accompa-nied by the Lone Ranger voicing a hearty "Hi-Ho, Silver, away" as he rode off in a cloud of dust. Clayton Moore is most closely associated with the TV role, but John Hart played the Lone Ranger for two seasons. The part of Tonto was played by Jay Silverheel-s. After the original run of the program from 1949 to 1957, it was regu-larly shown in reruns until 1961, and later in animat-ed form. The Lone Ranger has also been the subject of comic books and movies. Both the original and animated versions of the program have been syndicated. Perhaps no fictional action hero has become as established in our culture through as many media forms as the Lone Ranger. Clayton Moore made personal appearanc-es in costume as the Lone Ranger for many years, until a corpora-tion which had made a feature length film with another actor in the role obtained a court injunction to halt his wearing the mask in public. Moore continued his appearances wearing oversized sun glasses. He later regained the right to appear as the Lone Ranger, mask and all.
The Lone Ranger (1949-52, 1954-57).......Clayton Moore
The Lone Ranger (1952-54)............................John Hart
Sherman Harris, George W. Trendle, Jack Chertok, Harry H. Poppe, Paul Landers
September 1949-September 1957 Thursday 7:30-8:00 June 1950-September 1950 Friday 10:00-10:30
Calder, Jenni. There Must Be a Lone Ranger. London: Hamilton, 1974.
Glut, Donald F., and Jim Harmon. The Great Television Heroes. New York: Doubleday, 1975.
MacDonald, J. Fred. Who Shot the Sheriff? The Rise and Fall of the Television Western. New York: Praeger, 1987.
Rothel, David. Who Was That Masked Man? The Story of the Lone Ranger. San Diego: A. Barnes, 1981
West, Richard. Television Westerns: Major and Minor Series, 1946-1978. Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland, 1987.
Yoggy, Gary A. Riding the Video Range: The Rise and Fall of the Western on Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1994.
Video clip: Opening sequence from The Lone Ranger