John Reid (Clayton Moore) was the “lone” survivor of six Texas rangers ambushed at Bryant’s Gap by the notorious Butch Cavendish and his Hole-in-the-Wall gang on the western adventure THE LONE RANGER/ABC/1949-57.
After the ambush, Reid was nursed back to health by an Indian named Tonto (Jay Silverheels). When asked what happened to the other Texas Rangers, Tonto said “Other Texas Rangers all dead. You only Ranger left. You lone Ranger now.”
Vowing to avenge this atrocity, the young ranger fashioned a mask from the black vest of his dead brother, Captain Daniel Reid and set out to capture the men responsible for his fellow rangers death.
“For every one of those men (the fallen Rangers) I’m going to bring a hundred lawbreakers to justice. I’ll make that Cavendish Gang, and every criminal that I can find for that matter, regret the day those Rangers were killed. Tonto from this moment on I’m going to devote my life to establishing law and order in this new frontier-to make the West a decent place to live.” – The Lone Ranger’s Pledge
As John Reid transformed into this new identity, the narrator remarks that in the eyes of the Ranger, “There is a light that must have burned in the eyes of the knights in armor. A light that through the ages lifted the souls of strong men who fought for justice, for God.” Then John Reid proclaims, “I’ll be the Lone Ranger.”
“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 West. Nowhere in history can you find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past comes the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!” – Opening Narration
The Lone Ranger was a friend to decent people everywhere. To protect them and himself he wore two six-shooters specially made for him. He never shot to kill but wounded, if necessary. Silver bullets were his ammunition of choice; he used the bullets as a means of identifying himself to local law enforcement.
The Lone Ranger only removed his mask when he assumed a disguise. However, the Lone Ranger did take off his mask for a dying woman named Grandma Frisby who had adopted and raised the Lone Ranger’s nephew, Dan Reid. “Would you take off that mask and show me your face,” asked Grandma Frisby. As the Lone Ranger does so, the old woman said, “It’s a good face, yes, a good face.”
Note: The idea for the Lone Ranger can be traced back to a program written by Fran Striker called “Covered Wagon Days’ that aired in Buffalo, New York on WEBR as early as 1929.
The Lone Ranger character was created by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle and debuted on WXYZ Detroit radio on January 30, 1933 and ran until episode No.2596 entitled “Cold Spring Showdown” that aired on September 3, 1954. The television adaptation ran on ABC-TV from September 15, 1949 through September 12, 1957. During the 1952-54 season, John Hart played the role of the Lone Ranger.
Clayton Moore who played the role of the Lone Ranger on the TV series was a stuntman, horseman and expert gun twirler. Born in Chicago on September 14, 1914, Clayton Moore spent his youth as a circus trapeze artist and later in his career became known as “King of the Serials” at Republic Pictures starring in Jesse James Rides Again (1947), The Adventures of Frank and Jesse James(1948), G-Men Never Forget (1948), and Ghost of Zorro (1949).
In 1954, The Wrather Corporation purchased the Lone Ranger franchise from George W. Trendle for the sum of three million dollars. The sale included all of the radio programs, 182 half-hour black & white produced programs, as well as all merchandising and related rights.
In August of 1955, the color feature film The Lone Ranger began production at Warner Brothers Studios followed by a second feature film The Lone Ranger and The Lost City of Gold (1958) released through United Artist. Both films starred Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.
During the 1956-57 season the Wrather Corporation produced the thirty-nine new LONE RANGER adventures (these were produced in color). A few years later ,the Wrather Corporation produced a Saturday morning cartoon series THE LONE RANGER/CBS/1966-69
The Lone Ranger’s mask which become a symbol for justice throughout the world was taken to task in August of 1979 when Los Angeles superior court Judge Vernon Foster issued an injunction on behalf of the Wrather Corporation forbidding Clayton Moore from wearing “The Lone Ranger” mask or any mask substantially similar in appearance because they believed the aging Clayton Moore could no longer portray a youthful hero.
The Wrather Corporation was, at that time, producing an updated version of the Lone Ranger character with a much younger actor in the lead role (actor Klinton Spilsbury).
To avoid violating the court order, Moore wore wide dark sunglasses that vaguely resembled the Lone Ranger’s mask. Many fans took the side of Clayton Moore circulating petitions at shopping centers, and radio & TV stations. One such group “The Lone Ranger Campaign” pushed the slogans “Return the Mask” and We Must Get the Mask Back.”
After the motion picture The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981) bombed at the box-office, Clayton Moore, who had worn dark sunglasses in the interim, regained the right to wear the mask in 1985 and…the Lone Ranger rode again!
According to Clayton Moore’s autobiography, the actual mask used in the series were made from plaster with felt on the top of them. In the black and white episodes, a smaller purple felt was used. A larger black felt mask was used in the color productions. The larger mask covered more of the Ranger’s face. This helped disguise the fact that another actor (John Hart) had temporarily replaced Moore in the role of the Lone Ranger.
*Born on September 14, 1914 in Chicago, Illinois, actor Clayton Moore died on December 28, 1999 (age 85) in West Hills, Los Angeles, California.
*Born on May 26, 1912 in Six Nations Reservation, Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Jay Silverheels died on March 5, 1980 (age 67) in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California.
See also – “The Lone Ranger – Origin Story” @ You Tube