1 9 4 9 – 1 9 5 7 (USA)
221 x 30 minute episodes
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 Lone Ranger 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 1950s, 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 told the story of John Reid, a Texas Ranger who became the sole survivor of an ambush by Butch Cavendish’s Hole in the Wall Gang.
Left for dead, Reid was rescued by Tonto, a Native American who nursed him back to health.
While aiding the wounded lawman, Tonto recognised 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.
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.
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 emphasising the legend as the heartbeat of the show.
Though Brace Beemer had been the heroic voice of the radio ranger, Clayton Moore – a former stunt pilot who had moved to Hollywood in the late 1930s – was brought in for the transition to television.
In 1952, however, something happened to the Lone Ranger. His voice was not as deep, and his mannerisms were somehow different . . .
Despite George 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, when – as speculation has it – Moore asked for a raise and Trendle decided to replace him rather than meet 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.
The Lone Ranger
Clayton Moore (1)
John Hart (2)
Clayton Moore (3)