The Lone Ranger’s call to action was first heard 80 years ago on a radio broadcast. Since then the catchphrase has been heard in movies, on television, a Lenny Bruce comedy routine and even in a couple of Frank Zappa songs.
This weekend the familiar phrase will be heard again in The Lone Ranger, the big budget reboot of the story of John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawman who, with his native American warrior companion Tonto (Johnny Depp), fights injustice, greed and corruption in the American Old West.
The role of the masked man comes with responsibility, at least according to the character’s creators. First rule of their creed?
The Lone Ranger is never seen without his mask or a disguise.
It was a rule that the most famous Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, took very seriously and it landed him in court.
Clayton played the character on a highly rated show from 1949 to 1951 and again from 1954 to 1957. The role made him a superstar, and introduced Ranger lore like the William Tell Overture theme music, his trademark silver bullets and the phrase, “Who was that masked man anyway?” to pop culture history.
Two decades after the show went off the air Moore continued to make public appearances, always in the mask, until producer Jack Wrather legally prohibited the actor from performing as the Lone Ranger.
He was planning a new movie and didn’t want Moore associated with the mask or the character.
Moore reluctantly took off the mask, but replaced it with a pair of Foster Grant wraparound sunglasses and continued to make appearances as his counter suit against Wrather worked itself through the courts.
Wrather’s movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, starring Klinton Spilsbury — who never made another movie — came out in 1981 and bombed at the box office. In court Moore prevailed, winning the right to appear as the Lone Ranger in public.
He was so identified with the Lone Ranger that he was the first person on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to earn a star with his character’s name next to his own.
It wasn’t just the public who saw him as the Lone Ranger, however. He often said he had “fallen in love with the Lone Ranger character” and in everyday life tried to stay true to the code of honour in the Lone Ranger creed.