Many early TV shows made the direct leap from radio to television, and the one that I was most aware of was The Lone Ranger. There was the terrific special broadcast, released on LP, I understand, that told the tale of how the evil Cavendish Gang laid an ambush for a patrol of Texas Rangers and wiped them out. Soon after, a passing Indian named Tonto discovered the bodies, found one still alive, nursed him back to health and thus The Lone Ranger. He decides to disguise himself, acquires the clever horse Silver and off they ride to do for the Butch Cavendish and his lot. It was on radio that he gathered his amazing set of icons, the William Tell overture for its theme, the mask and silver bullets, Tonto’s continual “Ugh, Kemo Sabe”, the opening narration “the fiery horse, the flash of light and a hearty Hi-yo Silver!” and the final line of each episode—someone would ask as LR and Tonto rode away, “Who was that masked man?” to which would come the reply “The Loooonnne Ranger.”
In the transformation to TV, they actually used the radio scripts—it gave rise to the comment that the new medium was only radio with pictures. But when I heard that about it, I still remember being very excited wondering what he looked like. And I was not disappointed, even if there didn’t seem to be any benefit in him continuing to wear the mask, and it certainly led to some awkward moments when he tried to explain himself to strangers.
Clayton Moore must have led a frustrated life—an immensely successful career on television yet no one ever knew what he really looked like. Certainly, I’ve seen his name in the credits of the occasional B movie, but was never able to tell which actor was him. Still it was great stuff and it’s rather sad to think that whole generations have now grown up not able to get the two great jokes that arose from the show.
Q: what’s the definition of an intellectual?
A: someone who can listen to the William Tell overture and not think of the Lone Ranger.
Q: what’s the closest thing to Silver?
A: the Lone Ranger’s bottom.