We’ll all be hearing much ado about “The Lone Ranger,” in coming months. That’s thanks to “The Lone Ranger” film that’s set to hit theaters in July of this year. In case you’re drawing a blank, let me help you out! Johnny Depp will be starring as Tonto, the Native American wearing a stuffed crow on his head. Anything that stars Johnny Depp with a crow on his head, Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger, and has a reported budget of $250,000,000 is bound to get some buzz. I think the crow alone is buzz-worthy (and somewhat confusing). Yes, The Lone Ranger will ride again. However, that’s not the same Lone Ranger that’s on my mind at the moment!
As intrigued as I am by the upcoming film, when I think of “The Lone Ranger,” I’m picturing the version with Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, Jay Silverheels as the (crow-less) Tonto, and the magic they made for a heck of a lot less that $250 million. Oh sure, I know that it was first a radio drama and has also been immortalized in comic books, books and a couple of feature television movies. I even know that John Hart played the Lone Ranger in 54 of the 217 television episodes of the show that ran from 1949-1957. But Moore and Silverheels are still the Lone Ranger and Tonto to me.
Perhaps I’ve been thinking about that Lone Ranger and Tonto more than any grown woman should, but… At the risk of sounding like everyone’s grandmother, I’ve been longing for simpler days—days when movie wardrobes did not involve taxidermy!
Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!
The Lone Ranger took his first ride in 1933 on a radio broadcast that was to capture the imagination of kids of all ages. I know. I know. I said I was thinking about the television show. But without the radio drama, there would have been no television show.
Fran Striker originally sold “The Lone Ranger” radio scripts to WXYZ radio in Detroit. I don’t care what he called himself; Fran Striker was not a hack writer! He understood what people wanted. In 1933, people were more than a little disenchanted with the government. A masked man who worked for good, outside the confines of the government, was just what the people wanted!
Who Was That Masked Man?
The story of “The Lone Ranger” begins with a healthy dose of Western drama! A Texas Ranger is betrayed by a trusted guide and then ambushed, left for dead and then rescued Indian man, a man whose life the Lone Ranger had happened to save years earlier. Together he and the Indian man take on a new identity, and ride forward together, to battle evil in West. I call it Western Karma at its finest!
Clayton Moore’s portrayal of the Lone Ranger made the character a heroic role model to virtually every child in the U.S., during the show’s heyday (and for years following, thanks to reruns). That was no coincidence; the Lone Ranger’s persona was carefully crafted to make him a role model through and through. Fran Striker had some codes of conduct set up for the Lone Ranger.
Here’s what I mean:
• He didn’t swear, drink liquor or smoke. It’s probably the only TV Western in which café scenes were substituted for saloon scenes.
• The Lone Ranger’s grammar was impeccable.
• He didn’t just go around shooting silver bullets into people willy-nilly. Instead, when guns were used, the Lone Ranger only fired his weapon to disarm his opponent.
• Any hints of racism were avoided. (Please don’t mention Tonto. The Lone Ranger and Tonto were friends, partners and intellectual equals.)
• The Lone Ranger was never portrayed as having superhero powers. He got by on a healthy dose of common sense.
Kemosabe’s Friend, Tonto
Did you know that Tonto didn’t appear in the first ten episodes of The Lone Ranger radio drama? Nope. He really was the LONE Ranger! Solitude is all well and good, but it really cuts down the opportunity for dialogue. (Or so I was saying to the voices in my head, just the other day!) Fortunately, that problem was rectified long before the masked man galloped across our television screens. The Lone Ranger needs Tonto like peanut butter needs jelly and like I need quality, fair trade, chocolate with a high cacao content! (Right now. I need that right now!)
Even though Tonto’s use of the English language was broken, he was never portrayed as an ignorant savage. Viewers always knew that Tonto was a man of substance, even if he was short on words. One word Tonto wasn’t short on was, “Kemosabe,” which was his term of endearment for the Lone Ranger. Kemosabe means, “trusty scout” in the Potawatomi language.
The Lone Ranger Creed
Fran Striker wrote the Lone Ranger Creed in 1933, and they are still some good words to live by. It’s pretty profound stuff!
The Lone Ranger Creed
• That to have a friend, a man must be one.
• That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
• That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.
• In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
• That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
• That ‘This government, of the people, by the people and for the people’ shall live always.
• That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
• That sooner or later … somewhere … somehow … we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
• That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
• In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.”
I told you it was profound! And, even though, I would prefer for someone else to gather my firewood and light it, I do understand the metaphor for life! In fact, this creed is why I’m kind of looking forward to Disney’s new The Lone Ranger. Anything that promotes values like this is worth seeing—even if Johnny Depp is wearing a crow on his head!
Just for fun, watch a little video. . .Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels as The Lone Ranger and Tonto!
Happy Trails, y’all!