TODAY marks the 80th anniversary of The Lone Ranger radio show, which first aired on WKYZ Radio in Detroit. The program registered as an instant hit among children and parents.
When the show made a successful transition to television (ABC), Clayton Moore starred as The Lone Ranger, appearing in about 170 episodes between 1949 and 1957.
A new Lone Ranger movie is scheduled for release in July.
Sunglasses Replace the Mask
When I met the aging actor a number of years ago, Moore was wearing a Lone Ranger costume, but had on sunglasses instead of the famous half-mask.
“Before I say anything else, I’m required by law to tell you that my name is Clayton Moore who used to portray the Lone Ranger,” he was telling a group of fans gathered inside the showroom of a car dealership in Columbus, Ohio.
Moore had been hired, for $275 an hour, to “unmask” the year’s new car models.
The Lone Ranger Goes to Court
Moore, during our interview, couldn’t mask his disappointment at losing the right to wear the Lone Ranger mask.
The Wrather Corp., at the time, owned the rights to Moore’s character, and had planned a feature film starring a younger man as The Lone Ranger. It went to court, and won the argument that two Rangers would confuse the public. .
“Here’s a company that said to me for all these years: ‘as The Lone Ranger, don’t to this, don’t do that. Uphold the name of The Lone Ranger.’ I’ve done that for 30 years. I have lived the part of The Long Ranger.”
In what was believed a backlash of fan support for Moore, the movie flopped at the box-office.
The Masked Man Rides Again
Moore never displayed any public pleasure at the film’s disappointing showing. In fact, in his 1996 autobiography I Was That Masked Man, Moore said he would “never wish failure on anyone.” Strict adherence to The Lone Ranger style, of course.
Moore counter-sued, but the legal proceedings went on for years until Jack Wrather - without explaining why – simply dropped the case. After Wrather died, a month later, his widow, Bonita, sent a letter to Moore, in which she wrote: “please be advised that Wrather Corporation hereby grants to Clayton Moore the rights to wear the Lone Ranger mask.”
The Impact of The Lone Ranger
I remember watching Moore, that afternoon at the dealership, captivate his audience, as he revealed the legend of the masked rider’s origin. And, he was more than believable.
Later, when I asked him what kind of impact the Lone Ranger character made on him personality, he smiled.
“I’m sure the character I’ve been portraying has helped make a better person of me,” he said. “More tolerant. More considerate.”
But, he wasn’t finished.
“I tell the truth. Part of the Lone Ranger Creed is: I believe that everything changes on this earth but the truth. And it goes on forever.”
Who Was That Masked Man?
After the interview, when I left the office where we were meeting, one of the salesman corralled me.
“This guy really thinks he is the Lone Ranger,” he said in a conspiratorial whisper, rotating his eyes to the ceiling.
Obviously not a believer.
“Stranger,” I said to him, “he is The Lone Ranger.”