Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Original Lone Ranger

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

As a fan of the Lone Ranger, I am anxiously awaiting the release next week of Disney's take on this classic.  From what I have seen and heard, it should be a fun and entertaining movie while staying faithful to the original storyline.

For me, my first introduction to the Lone Ranger, as most kids of my generation, was watching Clayton Moore as the Ranger and Jay Silverhills as Tonto in the black and white television series.  Of course, by time I saw it, it was in heavy rotation in syndicated broadcasts on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

But that was never my favorite incarnation of the Lone Ranger.  Some time in the 1970's somebody gave me a cassette tape of the Radio Series and I got hooked.

A few years later, KNX Radio in Los Angeles, looking for a replacement for CBS Mystery Theater, started playing replays of classic old time radio shows every night at 9 PM.  One of the shows in rotation was the Lone Ranger, and I think that over the years, with the help of that airing and the internet,  I have heard most, if not all of the over 1000 20-30 minute episodes.

I am a big fan of "The Theater of the Mind" and radio in general.  Because the images that your mind creates, when listening to the story, are probably better than anything that could be put to film.

The Lone Ranger first appeared in 1933 on a radio show conceived either by WXYZ radio station owner George W. Trendle or the show's writer Fran Striker.

Bass Reeves, a Federal peace officer in the Indian Territory in the late 19th Century through the Early 20th Century was the inspiration for this character.

The show was a hit from the get-go, and spawned a series of books, written by Striker, the equally popular television show that ran from 1949 to 1957, and comic books and movies.

The title character was played on radio by George Seaton, Earle Graser, and most memorably Brace Beemer. Tonto was played by, among others, John Todd and Roland Parker.

Beemer was over six feet tall and was an expert horse rider.  He first served as the deep-voiced announcer for The Lone Ranger soon after its first broadcast in 1933.

Beemer also appeared as the Ranger in public appearances because station owner George Trendle felt that Earle Graser, the actor who played the part on the radio, did not look right for the part.

In 1941, Graser died in a car accident, and Beemer took over as the voice of The Lone Ranger in 1941 to the last new episode in 1954. During the 13 years that Beemer played the title character, he was required by contract to restrict his radio acting to that one role.

The experienced and popular Western film actor, Clayton Moore, was chosen to take over the role for the television series.

Although Beemer had a great voice and had made many public appearances as the Ranger, he had no experience as a film actor, as he preferred live action to television. However, Beemer's voice as the character was so familiar that Moore imitated his sound in the earliest TV episodes.

Beemer also portrayed Sergeant Preston of the Yukon on Challenge of the Yukon, for a brief time after the Lone Ranger series ended. He died in 1965.

Leaving on his white horse, Silver, the Lone Ranger would shout, "Hi-Ho, Silver! Away!" As they galloped off, someone would wonder out loud, "Who was that masked man?"

Tonto usually referred to the Lone Ranger as "Kemosahbee", meaning "trusted friend".

Those catchphrases, the Ranger's silver bullets, and theme music from the William Tell Overture have become ingrained into pop culture.

It was theorized that shows like the Lone Ranger, Green Hornet and Seargent Preston of the Yukon, purposely used songs like the "William Tell Overture" to help introduce kids to Classical Music.

The basic story of the origin of the Lone Ranger is the same in most of the incarnations of the show.

A posse of six members of the Texas Rangers are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. Later, an Indian named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, Ranger Reid, as the man who saved his life some time in the past.

He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid and his comrades, so Cavendish will believe that there were no survivors.

Among the Rangers killed was Reid's older brother who was a captain in the Texas Rangers. Tonto makes a black mask, using material from Captain Reid's vest, to conceal the Lone Ranger's identity. After the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight for law and order and against evil using the alias of "The Lone Ranger."

We have added a link to Old Time Radio's website with all the radio episodes for listening.  The link is in our sidebar under the Bosco Arts and Entertainment Radio section for Monday-Friday.

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