Thursday, July 19, 2007

OTR: Masked Marvels, pt. 3 - The Lone Ranger

It would only take a quick glance at this blog, especially the links over on The Right, to know that I’m a fan of the Lone Ranger. In every medium there is something special about the Masked Rider of the Plains and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto. Riding his white horse, Silver, the Ranger is probably one of the most recognizable characters in American pop culture. Although he may disappear from the scene for years at a time it never fails that somebody will come up with yet another incarnation of the character. The Wikipedia entry (to which the above headline will bring you) will cover quite a few of these, and it’s easy to see that not all have been completely faithful to his original conception.

Of course, for me the Ranger will always be Clayton Moore, who I first saw as a kid over fifty years ago. I don’t remember if it was my grandfather or father who first sat with me on the couch to watch the television series. I have a dim recollection that it was my Dad, but I know from talks with my mother that my grandfather and I spent numerous afternoons watching westerns. By the time I was seven or eight I was spending most of Saturday morning watching the Lone Ranger, Hopalong, Gene, Roy, and any old western the local station put on.

I’m pretty sure that while growing up I must have seen most of the westerns that Republic, Columbia and the rest of the low-budget studios produced. Heck, I think I saw “The Terror of Tiny Town” a dozen times alone before I was fourteen and spending more time outside than in. (If you don’t know from this film, just know that it deserves an entry here itself one day.)

As with The Shadow and the other OTR programs, I probably didn’t hear the radio version of LR until I was in my twenties. Listening to the shows though it’s easy to see how it became so successful, spinning off into pulps, comics, films and eventually television.

The initial concept was by radio executive George W. Trendle & others and was fleshed out by the original writer of that series, Fran Striker. The show premiered on WXYZ radio in Detroit, Michigan in early 1933. In these early stories we learn that the sole surviving member of a Texas Ranger patrol that had been ambushed, vows to bring justice for his fallen comrades and punishment to those who break the law. Aided by Tonto, whom the Ranger had befriended earlier in his life, he captures and tames a wild stallion which he names Silver. Assuming a mask to hide his identity, he eventually tracks down those who left him for dead and then continues to bring justice to the people of the west.

In the six shows presented in MASKED MARVELS from Radio Spirit the Lone Ranger is played by Brace Beemer (shown above in a PR photo), originally the show’s announcer, with John Todd as Tonto (believe it or not, Todd was actually a Shakespearean actor on the stage before he began working in radio); six shows dealing with the LR finding his nephew, Dan Reid, son of his late older brother. Created for the radio program, Dan (played by Chuck Courtney) also appeared for several years in the television show, with Clayton Moore & Jay Silverheels in the lead roles. Oddly enough there are two things which connect these Lone Ranger stories with the show I talk about next time.
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