'In Character' Conversation

On Air: The Lone Ranger (Plus Web Extras!)

» Hear the 'All Things Considered' radio commentary

Hiya. So many submissions today — you guys are outta control. Sorry I haven't been more vocal, but I was a little distracted today, publishing your comments and building the Web version of Robert Siegel's piece on the Lone Ranger.

If you missed it on the radio, be sure you give it a listen over here. The on-air piece weaves in a lot of great sound — including some terrific musical segues that help illustrate just how widespread TLR's influence has been.

Plus: Bonus audio from comics artist John Cassaday. And the entire Lone Ranger Creed, right there on the Web page. Can't get that on the radio...



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I'm surprised no one's noted the mythical connection of The Lone Ranger with a more modern vigilante-superstar of the radio era, the Green Hornet.

The Lone Ranger's true name is John Reid, and his grandson (great grandson?), newspaper publisher Britt Reid, is secretly the Green Hornet. Both characters are outlaws on the side of right; both have ethnic sidekicks who speak imperfect English (Tonto and Kato, both of whose names end in "-to"); and both are sworn not to use lethal force.

Not coincidentally, both were also created by Fran Striker.

Sent by Jim A | 8:42 PM | 1-14-2008

Your article on the Lone Ranger brought back memories of watching the series on TV. I wouldn't miss the program that was on at supper time in the 1950's. I insisted on eating supper on a TV tray in the living room so as not to miss it.

You didn't say why the "William Tell Overture" was picked for the background music. It's perfect, but other would be too.

Thanks for the memories.

Carol Kautz
Mansfield, Ohio

Sent by Carol Kautz | 9:38 PM | 1-14-2008

I really enjoyed your Lone Ranger article. I think a follow up might be a piece on Clayton Moore. I say that because he took very seriously, the role and what the image meant to so many. He made many appearances later in life as the LR and always honored the sanctity of the character as best he could. There was also the controversy regarding the mask, that forced him to wear large sunglasses instead for a while.

Maybe the impressions I was left with are not a mark of his integrity and love of the role, but you could research it if you were so inclined. They made a movie about the life of George Reeves, Superman, whose personal life didn't work out so well. That might be an interesting contrast between the two actors.

Thank you for bringing back some of the best emotions I had watching TV as a kid.

Sent by Brian Thorpe | 11:44 PM | 1-14-2008

The Lone Ranger was and is a great story. I have to confess I am old enough to remember the very last of the radio broadcasts...

What I have always wondered is, who was the astute individual who decided "The William Tell Overture" would make the perfect theme song. It certainly is!

Sent by Phil Beckman | 9:05 AM | 1-15-2008

NPR is the best! This was a wonderful segment. It brought back many happy memories of sitting by the radio attentively listening and imagining the scenes and the early days of television. (Perhaps one day you'll do one on "I Remember Mama!") Thank you.

Sent by Audrey Svenningsen | 9:20 AM | 1-15-2008

The Lone Ranger piece was long overdue and extremely well done.

We'd like to point out that Fran Striker was not just "in" Buffalo, New York, he was born and raised there, lived in the region, raised a family, and passed away there.

In fact, the very first episodes of The Lone Ranger were written and broadcast in Buffalo on station WEBR and starred a Buffalo, NY actor. You can easily verify this with Fran Striker, Jr. and it's available online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran_Striker George W. Trendle "tampered" with the history of the show for business reasons.

Mr. Striker, Jr. is now on the board of the Buffalo International Film Festival, and he is helping us to plan future events.

It is remarkable and ironic that Jay Silverheels moved from Ontario to Buffalo in the early 1930s when he worked as a boxer before being discovered by Hollywood. He often claimed to be a Buffalo native and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Buffalo. This was much prior to his being cast in the Lone Ranger television show.

Indeed, this e-mail is being sent from less than 1/2 mile from where Fran Striker lived at the end of his life.

Sent by Buffalo International Film Festival (www.buffalofilmfestival.com) | 9:54 AM | 1-15-2008

What a great piece. The unusual, the unexpected, are what NPR is all about.

Sent by Ken Hunt | 10:13 AM | 1-15-2008

My eyes teared up when thanks to NPR I was once more transported to those "days of yesteryear" and the memories of listening to the Lone Ranger on radio came back. What a wonderful time it was!

Sent by Emery Bayley | 11:57 AM | 1-15-2008

The Lone Ranger was not just an American 'hero'. I grew up in Dublin , Ireland in the 1960's and even met the famous Tonto . While working as a page boy (bell hop) for the summer in a Dublin Hotel, word came down that Tonto was arriving that very day . Mr Silverheels arrived in the afternoon minus his horse, and to our horror was also wearing a greyish suit.

The following day he made amends and donned his traditional Native American outfit to our great glee . I believe he was attending some fund raising charity event in Dublin at that time (circa 1963). The Lone Ranger was one of the earliest programs shown on Irish TV .

Thanks NPR for bringing back some fond memories .

Sent by Martin McEntaggart | 1:00 PM | 1-15-2008

My favorite part of the show was always the very end, when a few of the grateful townsfolk would gather in the sheriff's office or the saloon and would turn in unison to thank the Masked Man and his faithful companion, but they would already be, as if by magic, out in the back 40, kicking up dust toward a new adventure somewhere down the trail. A hearty "Hi Oh, Silver" and a souvenir silver bullet would be all that was left to remember the selfless Masked Man by. The LR was a hero of heroes in my book! As I listened to Fred Foy re-reading the opening narrative, I was 7 years old again, if just for a moment. Thanks Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, Fran Striker and all the rest for the great memories.

Sent by Rick Irvin | 2:32 PM | 1-15-2008

Later, the portrayal of Tonto, in radio, television, and film, was seen by some Native Americans as degrading, including noted Native American author and poet Sherman Alexie. [2] Tonto spoke in a pidgin, saying things like, "That right, Kemo Sabe," or "Him say man ride over ridge on horse." Further, in Portuguese, italian and Spanish, the word "Tonto" means "fool" or "idiot" (although this appears to have been a coincidence, as the character is depicted as intelligent), so the name was changed in the dubbed versions. In some Spanish speaking countries, he was named "Toro", which means "bull". This is copied from public domain (wikipedia.org) as you have seen fit not to post my origional comment on the subject although well within the Terms of Service. This is a Point of View that should be discussed.

Sent by Don Loftis | 4:06 AM | 1-16-2008

Loved the feature on the Lone Ranger. It brought back many childhood memories. One thing, though. Why no inclusion of any info or even a sound bite from Clayton Moore. I don't know if he is still living, but I know he was several years ago. He was also involved in a legal battle to retain his mask. I think someone else was trying to use the costume for a commercial purpose. Anyway, would have liked to hear about him in this piece. Maybe later?

Sent by David Cooper (NPR 1972) | 11:32 AM | 1-17-2008

I always loved the Lone Ranger, and hearing Fred Foy deliver the introduction was a magical moment.

But I was distressed at the fact that there was no mention of Clayton Moore in the segment. Fran Striker may have invented the character, but it was Clayton Moore who embodied him so perfectly that the Lone Ranger became an indelible part of American popular culture.

The Lone Ranger TV series ran from 1949 to 1957, with Clayton Moore creating the role for TV. John Hart played the Lone Ranger from 1952 to 1954, and the audience wouldn't go for it. They had to bring back Clayton Moore.

And I keenly remember the flap when the film, "The Legend of the Lone Ranger," came out in 1982. Clayton Moore, then in his sixties, had continued to make appearances as the Lone Ranger after the TV series had ended. The producers of the film thought that Moore was too old to represent the character and took him to court to stop him from doing so. Moore was legally prohibited from wearing a mask in public.

What was the result? Well, the Lone Ranger fans, the people most likely to be interested in the movie, hated the producers for what they had done to the beloved Clayton Moore. I don't recall if there was a formal boycott, but I do know that the film was a box office flop of titanic proportions. The fact that it was a terrible movie made it even easier to stay away.

Clayton Moore lived his dream. He wanted to be the Lone Ranger, and he became the Lone Ranger, both on screen and in the hearts of his fans. He once again regained the right to appear as the Lone Ranger and continued to do so until shortly before his death in 1999.

Few of us are so lucky.

Sent by Geoff Sjostrom | 7:15 PM | 1-17-2008

I wept tears of joy while listening to this report. I was 8 years old the first time I saw Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger on TV, and it pretty much changed my life. I wanted to be a cowboy and a lawman, and wanted to live up to the Lone Ranger's creed. Not sure if I succeeded, but everyone needs a role model. Sadly, Clayton Moore died on December 28, 1999. There are several good memorial and tribute web sites, easily found by searching for "Clayton Moore" using your favorite search engine. He led a fascinating life and learned to do his own stunts in early movie serials and B-westerns. Thanks to NPR for putting this wonderful remembrance together!

Sent by Jim Gaudet, from Austin, Texas | 7:43 PM | 1-17-2008

What a neat character. I had nearly forgotten about the Lone Ranger. I used to watch when I was a kid and never missed it. Surprising since horse operas were never really my thing. This piece sparked an interest in me. I too am inspired by Clayton Moore and his actions.

The events surrounding the 1981 movie the Legend of the Lone Ranger are fascinating. Producers got a injunction against Moore, preventing him from wearing the mask in public or appearing as the Lone Ranger anywhere. The producers of the film did not want the public to think Moore was playing the Lone Ranger in the film (though he probably should have) further, they wanted to disassociate Moore in the public's mind from the character, which is ridiculous.

Public response was overwhelmingly negative against this. They saw it as taking a source of income away from an elderly man whom played a beloved character. Moore's started wearing a pair of wrap around sunglasses that resembled the mask. He appealed the court order and it was overturned. The Lone Ranger fought for justice and won.

Sent by Bill Jones | 11:18 PM | 1-19-2008

Both the human characters and the animal characters were heroic and loyal in these programs. Most of today's role models are an embarrassment in comparison. The Lone Ranger was not just a good shot and a great rider but, like Sherlock Holmes, was a master at disguise. When the show moved to television, I wondered whether it could rival the radio show, but it carried on where radio left off. I developed a huge crush on Clayton Moore, and I wanted Jay Silverheels (Tonto) to be my best friend.

I felt the same about the heart-bursting courage and physical triumphs of Yukon King and Sergeant Preston. I held my breath until justice triumphed.

And the music!! Rossini's William Tell Overture and Reznicek's Overture to Donna Dianna!! I knew every note. What an encouragement toward classical music!

Days of yesteryear come back!

Sent by Jamie Diamandopoulos | 9:28 AM | 1-25-2008

As a kid growing up in the midwest in the late 40s and 50s Wednesday night on the radio and Thursdays on TV (My dad was a "gadget man" we had the first TV in the neighborhood 1948)Were Lone Ranger time. Nothing else mattered, not dinner, not even homework. The threat of the nuns were no match, to the masked man and his faithful indian companion.
My wife is a silversmith and I have her make me soldid silver bullets which I give out to folks who stand for, and exemplify the Ranger,s Code

Sent by Rob Fiedler | 9:29 AM | 1-25-2008

I began listening to Lone Ranger radio broadcasts sixty years ago, and am still listening to them, via casettes. The wonderful Siegel segment prompts a correction. President Grant, and, of course, Tonto and Dan Reid, were not the only people to see the masked man without his mask. Gramma Frisbie, who adopted Dan after his parents were killed, also saw the Lone Ranger without his mask. In a radio episode she is attended by the Lone Ranger and Dan at her bedside. She is dying, and, as a final wish, asks to see the masked mans face. After the mask is removed she says, "Yes, its a good face." And then she slips quietly away.

Sent by Christopher Jennison | 9:32 AM | 1-25-2008

Since I wanted to establish the difference between a man of honor with strong values, and the storied culture he faced when he joined the NYPD in the 50s, I had the Native American hero in my latest book,"The Copper Indian" being a Lone Ranger addict. The radio show was his only escape from his apartment in the Bronx and his strict parents. The dichotomy sets up the conflict for the novel.

Sent by Jim Morgan | 9:33 AM | 1-25-2008

I had the same experience that some of your listeners had during the Lone Ranger program last week. I was driving home from work, and when I heard the William Tell Overture and then the introduction to the show,I burst into tears. I was surprised at my reaction. I mostly watched the show on the t.v. as a kid, and the its images, sounds, and themes were obviously strongly imprinted in my memory. Then your show, and everything came back all at once. Great show. Greg Jacobs

Sent by Greg Jacobs | 1:10 AM | 1-28-2008

Thanks for the excellent story on The Lone Ranger. I agree this character reflects quintessentially American values in his endeavor to seek justice and his fair and friendly relationship with a Native American.

That said, however, one thing that confused me a bit as a child who grew up in an English-Spanish bilingual home was why the Indian's name was "Tonto." That word means "dummy" in Spanish.

I chalk it up to either coincidence with a Native American word or else lack of proper research to find a name that was more culturally sensitive to Spanish-speakers at a time when we Americans were less aware of the consumption of US-produced entertainment in other parts of the world.

Interestingly, my wife, who grew up in Latin America and loved to watch The Lone Ranger, has informed me that the Spanish dub of the show changed his name to "Toro," which means "bull" rather than use the original name, for obvious reasons.

Thanks again for all your excellent shows, and particularly for this fascinating series.

Sent by Ricardo Guerrero | 6:39 PM | 1-28-2008

actually, the Lone Ranger's real name was Dan Reid. There was a movie in th eighties(?) that I think portrayed him as John, but from what I remember and what I read on the wiki site entry, it was mostly given as Dan. Striker intended for him to remain nameless, but Dan and John got alluded to somewhere along the line. It would be great if someone had the actual scripts or radio shows and could offer them up as sound bites, but from what I understand, there were thousands of radio shows and hundreds of tv shows (many of which were taken from the radio show or adapted from it)

Sent by Paul Entrekin | 5:30 PM | 2-15-2008

Am trying to find out the two other classical selections heard on Lone Ranger radio broadcasts besides Rossini's William Tell.

Sent by JC Schwenk Skaneateles, NY | 5:33 PM | 4-2-2008

re William Tell Overture, I have found out that Franz Liszt's symphonic poem # 3 and Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave were two other pieces of music used in the Lone Ranger's radio broadcasts.

Sent by JC Schwenk | 2:06 PM | 4-4-2008

Who was the voice of H y-O Silver in the Tv Series?

Sent by Pete Scapellati | 9:40 PM | 8-22-2008


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