"THE LONE RANGER"
Over Rossini’s stirring “William Tell Overture”, announcer Fred Foy asserted, “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ran-ger…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!”
After a highly successful 16 year run on radio, the Lone Ranger came to ABC TV Sept. 15, 1949, in the person of Clayton Moore. The owner of the property, George W. Trendle, seeing the success of Hopalong Cassidy, struck a deal with the longtime sponsor of the radio series, General Mills, to bring the masked man to TV. Trendle selected Jack Chertok as producer and George Seitz as screenwriter of the origin trilogy and director of the first 13 episodes. Seitz worked closely with radio writer Fran Striker so the character and format would blend with the ongoing radio program. Actually, many radio scripts found their “slightly rewritten” way onto TV.
The radio LR, Brace Beemer, wanted very badly to become the TV LR, but, possibly because of his girth, was never seriously considered for the role ultimately won by Moore after a long series of interviews with many actors. Clayton remained with the role for two seasons (‘49-‘51), 78 episodes, until he balked at returning to the series he had made into a huge hit unless he received a salary increase. In his autobiography, Clayton skims over this incident offering no other explanation. However, prior statements by him definitely indicate salary was the
After a season of reruns (‘51-‘52), John Hart was brought in with episode 79 (9/11/52) and completed 52 segments which ran through 9/9/53. During a year of Hart reruns (‘53-‘54), according to director Charles Livingstone in David Rothel’s book, WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN, a search was on to replace Hart. However, salary disputes settled, Moore returned to the series by Sept. ‘54 at a reported salary of $1,500 per week. Certainly the right decision by the producers.
The ‘54-‘55 season saw 52 more b/w episodes produced, followed by their rerun in ‘55-‘56, then 39 color episodes for the ‘56-‘57 season, for a total of 169 Moore episodes.
Jay Silverheels played Tonto throughout the run of the Moore and Hart shows except when he had a heart attack and was off for eight weeks in ‘55 at which time stuntman Chuck Courtney was brought in as the Lone Ranger’s nephew, Dan Reid.
Speaking of stuntmen, although Moore was a good horseman, for dangerous stunts he was doubled primarily by Bill Ward in the b/w episodes, even though men like Alan Pinson and Al Wyatt were also called upon. Incidentally, it was Ward who owned Silver, whose real name was Traveler.
Originally budgeted at a scant $12,500 per episode, the series utilized many indoor “green sets”, giving the shows a cheap look. Trendle kept a tight rein on the budget and by ‘54 (season 4) the budgets had only escalated to $18,000 per episode. According to Livingstone, exteriors for three shows were shot one week and interiors were done the next.
When Trendle sold the LR lock, stock and barrel to Texas oilman Jack Wrather in ‘54 for $3 million, we began to see a new Lone Ranger—in color. Wrather instigated new story, budget and production standards, bringing in director Earl Bellamy to give the series a fresh, outdoor look at locations like Kanab, UT, and Sonora, CA.
With the advent of the ‘57-‘58 season, “The Lone Ranger” went into reruns until ‘61. Assuring they got their money’s worth, Wrather re-edited the 39 color episodes into 13 77 min. “features” for TV syndication. Each one is called “Adventures of the Lone Ranger” but carries a separate secondary title at the end of the introductory section. (“Champions of Justice”, “Count the Clues”, “Justice of the West” etc.) The introductory origin segment was lifted from the opening to the ‘58 feature, “Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold”.