Note: The Legend of the Lone Ranger // //
An announcer introduced each episode with the following, which was sometimes changed to reflect the storyline of the episode:
In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!
By the time it was on ABC at 7:30 pm Eastern Time, the introduction, voiced by Fred Foy, had become "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear", followed by, "From out of the west with the speed of light and a hearty 'Hi-yo, Silver!'" The intro was later changed to:
A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! ... With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early western United States! Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!
This was followed by Brace Beemer's voice, declaring, "Come on, Silver! Let's go, big fellow! Hi-yo, Silver! Away!"
The Lone Ranger was played by several actors:
- John L. Barrett, on test broadcasts on WEBR in January 1933;
- George Seaton (under the name George Stenius) (January 31–May 9, 1933);
- Series director James Jewell, for one episode;
- An actor known only by the pseudonym "Jack Deeds", for one episode;
- Earle Graser (May 16, 1933 – April 7, 1941). On April 8, Graser died in a car accident; and, for five episodes, the Lone Ranger was unable to speak beyond a whisper, with Tonto carrying the action. In addition, six episodes broadcast in August 1938 did not include the Lone Ranger's voice other than an occasional "Hi-Yo Silver!" in the background. In those episodes, Tonto carried the dialog;
- Brace Beemer (April 18, 1941 to the end), who had been the show's deep-voiced announcer for several years;
- Fred Foy (March 29, 1954), also an announcer on the show, took over the role for one broadcast when Beemer had laryngitis.
Tonto was played throughout the run by actor John Todd (although there were a few isolated occasions when he was replaced by Roland Parker, better known as Kato for much of the run of sister series The Green Hornet). Other supporting players were selected from Detroit area actors and studio staff. These included Jay Michael (who also played the lead on Challenge of the Yukon, a.k.a. Sgt. Preston of the Yukon), Bill Saunders (as various villains, including Butch Cavendish), Paul Hughes (as the Ranger's friend Thunder Martin and as various army colonels and badmen), future movie star John Hodiak, Janka Fasciszewska (under the name Jane Fae), and Rube and Liz Weiss (a married couple, both actors in several radio and television programs in Detroit, Rube usually taking on villain roles on the "Ranger", and Liz playing damsels in distress). The part of nephew Dan Reid was played by various child actors, including Bob Martin, James Lipton and Dick Beals.
The theme music was primarily taken from the "March of the Swiss Soldiers" finale of Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture, which thus came to be inseparably associated with the series. The theme was conducted by Daniel Pérez Castañeda, with the softer parts excerpted from Die Moldau, composed by Bedřich Smetana.
Many other classical selections were used as incidental music, including Wagner's Flying Dutchman Overture), Bizet's Symphony in C, Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave Overture, Emil von Řezníček's Donna Diana Overture, Liszt's Les préludes, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and music by Schubert. Classical music was originally used because it was in the public domain, thus allowing production costs to be kept low while providing a wide range of music as needed without the cost of a composer. Interestingly, the incidental music from Liszt's Les Preludes was being used in the 1940s by Germany's Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, as a theme in German weekly news announcements, particularly to dramatize German victories in WWII.
In the late 1930s, Trendle acquired the rights to use incidental music from Republic Pictures motion picture serials as part of a deal for Republic to produce a serial based (loosely) on the Lone Ranger. This music was then modified by NBC radio arranger Ben Bonnell and recorded in Mexico to avoid American union rules. This music was used in both the radio and later television shows.
The character was originally believed to be inspired by Texas Ranger Captain John R. Hughes, to whom the book The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey was dedicated in 1915. A debunked myth was the possible historical inspiration of Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. Other suggested inspirations were Zorro and Robin Hood.
The Green Hornet
The radio series inspired a spinoff called The Green Hornet, which depicts the son of the Lone Ranger's nephew Dan, Britt Reid, originally played by Al Hodge, who in contemporary times, fights crime with a similar secret identity and a sidekick, Kato. In the Green Hornet comic book series published by NOW Comics, the Lone Ranger makes a cameo appearance by being in a portrait in the Reid home. Contrary to most visual media depictions, and acknowledged by developer/original script writer Ron Fortier to be the result of legal complications, his mask covers all of his face, as it did in the two serials from Republic Pictures (see below). However, rights to The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet have been acquired by separate owners and the familial link has been ignored in the Western character's various incarnations. The Lone Ranger – Green Hornet connection is part of Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe, which connects disparate fictional characters.
Republic Pictures released two serials starring the Lone Ranger. The first, released in 1938, utilized several actors playing different men portraying the masked hero, with the true Lone Ranger unknown to the audience until the conclusion; the character played by Lee Powell is ultimately revealed to be the Lone Ranger. The second serial, The Lone Ranger Rides Again, was released in 1939 and starred Robert Livingston. Tonto was played in both by Victor Daniels, billed as Chief Thundercloud.
The Lone Ranger was a TV show that aired for eight seasons, from 1949 to 1957, and starred Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. Only five of the eight seasons had new episodes. It was the ABC television network's first big hit of the early 1950s. Moore's tenure as the Ranger is probably the best-known treatment of the franchise. Moore was replaced in the third season by John Hart, but he returned for the final two seasons. The fifth and final season was the only one shot in color. A total of 221 episodes were made.
Hi-Yo Silver!, Kemo Sabe, and other cultural tropes
At the beginning of each episode, the magnificent white stallion, Silver, would rear up with the Lone Ranger on his back, then they would dash off, the Ranger encouragingly shouting, "Hi-Yo, Silver!" Tonto could occasionally be heard to urge on his mount by calling out, "Get 'em up, Scout!" At the end of each episode, mission completed, one of the characters would always ask the sheriff or other authority, "Who was that masked man?" When it was explained, "Oh, he's the Lone Ranger!", the Ranger and Tonto would be seen galloping off with the cry, "Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!" catching the attention of one of the townspeople crossing the street.
Tonto usually referred to the Lone Ranger as "Kemo sabe", described as meaning either "faithful friend," or "trusty scout". It is more likely the word derives from the Anishnaabe language. Gimoozaabi is said to mean "he looks out in secret." These catchphrases, the Ranger's trademark silver bullets, and the theme music from the William Tell Overture have become tropes of popular culture.
After the series ended, Moore continued to make public appearances as the Lone Ranger. In 1979, Jack Wrather, then owner of the rights to the character, obtained a restraining order against Moore, enjoining Moore from appearing in public in his mask. The actor began wearing oversized wraparound Foster Grant sunglasses, as a substitute for the mask. Moore later won a countersuit, allowing him to resume his costume.
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958)
The Return of the Lone Ranger (1961)
The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)
At the time of the 1981 release of the film The Legend of the Lone Ranger, the company owning the rights to the character, Wrather Corp., filed a lawsuit and obtained a court injunction to prevent Clayton Moore from appearing as the Lone Ranger, and then gave a cameo to his TV replacement, John Hart. The film itself was a critical and commercial failure. It starred Klinton Spilsbury in his only motion picture appearance. His lines were overdubbed by James Keach. The part of Tonto was played by Michael Horse, a Native American of Yaqui, Mescalero Apache, Zuni, and Latino descent.
Moore, who never appeared publicly without his mask, was enjoined in the lawsuit from wearing it and, in protest, he began wearing oversized sunglasses that were the approximate size and shape of the mask. In a sequence in the movie, John Reid, a newly graduated attorney, is travelling west in a stagecoach to meet his brother. Another passenger announces his intent to make his fortune from his invention of sunglasses. The stage is robbed and the inventor killed. As John Reid lays the dead man on the floor with the broken dark glasses, yet another passenger says, "So much for American opportunity."
The Lone Ranger (2003)
In 2003, the WB network aired a two-hour Lone Ranger TV movie, starring Chad Michael Murray as the Lone Ranger. The TV movie served as the pilot for a possible new series. However, the movie was greeted unenthusiastically; the name of the secret identity of the Lone Ranger was changed from "John Reid" to "Luke Hartman", and while an empty grave was still alongside those of the five dead Rangers, its supposed occupant was unidentified, and the hero maintained his unmasked identity, as well, becoming a cowboy version of Zorro, as in the first film serial. Ultimately, the project was shelved, with the pilot aired in telefilm form during the summer season due to Murray's popularity with the target audience of the network.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
In 2013, Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films released The Lone Ranger, starring Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film is an origin story of the two characters and explores the duo's efforts to subdue the immoral actions of the corrupt, and to bring them to justice, in the American Old West. The film, produced with an estimated budget of $225 million, was received negatively by American critics and performed poorly at the box office.