When we research the earliest television shows and series, especially the popular and successful ones, The Lone Ranger is probably among the first names that pop up. This show was aired on ABC, beginning in 1949 and wrapping up in 1957. It was a Western-themed drama series that might still have an audience today, even kids who have an interest in cowboys and horses.
For those who would like to see what shows were like back in the day, or just want to revisit an old favorite, The Lone Ranger is probably a good choice. It was one of the first television series out there, so we may expect several interesting aspects. Let’s have a closer look at the details of this show before we start binge watching it:
The Nitty Gritty of the The Lone Ranger Series
The Lone Ranger was inspired by a radio show, but the original series itself started in 1949 and ended in 1957. Its main cast members included Clayton Moore in the lead role, Jay Silverheels as the loyal sidekick, Chuck Courtney, and John Hart. By the early 1950s, this show had the highest rating on television. Of course, this might not be a really huge feat since it was among the first TV shows available. There were around 5 seasons in total, with the total number of episodes being 221.
The half-hour episodes of The Lone Ranger in 1949 were especially made for this particular medium. The opening or pilot episode told viewers the backstory of The Lone Ranger’s name and his life’s mission. While the character wasn’t a new one, seeing him on television catered to a much wider audience and breathed new life into the story.
The basic story here is that a Texas Ranger by the name of Reid was left for dead after his posse was ambushed. Tonto, a Native American, comes to his rescue and helps Reid get healthy and strong again. The Lone Ranger was known for his mask, which was supposed to be made from his brother’s vest (his brother was murdered) and silver bullets for getting his job done.
The Lone Ranger then goes on a journey with Tonto, aiming to tame the Wild West.
The Roles in The Lone Ranger
Interestingly, while Clayton Moore is the actor best known for being the original Lone Ranger, the role was also given to John Hart for two seasons. This change was due to a dispute about Moore’s contract. Hart also wore a somewhat different mask than Moore while he was filming as the character.
However, the Native American character ‘Tonto’ was played solely by Jay Silverheels in this series. The announcer and narrator of the radio series, Fred Foy, was the announcer on the Lone Ranger TV series as well. While the TV series originally hired Gerald Mohr for narrating the TV series, the narration itself was discontinued after the 16th episode.
Is The Lone Ranger Suitable for Children?
Some sources state that the Lone Ranger is pretty much suitable for children aged 8 and above. However, parents might want to supervise and guide their kids when viewing this series. These concerns are mainly due to the plethora of stereotypes that are now deemed outdated and irrelevant.
There’s also the fact that since the Lone Ranger is a Western series, there will be Western-style shootout. Characters also frequently discuss attacking others, hangings, murders, and so one. Other factors that some parents might worry about are the sporadic cigar smoking and references to the show’s sponsor General Mills.
The rest of the series is quite fun and entertaining, though one may also watch it for nostalgic value. Fortunately, there isn’t very much blood shown.
The most worrisome factor for audiences today, however, probably lies in how Native Americans are referred to and represented in quite a stereotypical and reductive manner. For instance, Jay Silverheels was portraying a member of the Canada-based Mohawk Aboriginal people. His role might be seen as a little too menial and sidelined as compared to the ‘white savior’ hero.
In any case, there are several positive messages one gets from this series, especially regarding loyalty, friendship, and overcoming obstacles. For these reasons, one might consider watching the Lone Ranger by themselves or with their kids.
The Story Components of the Lone Ranger
This series has a lot of traditional components, especially the kind you find in a classic Western-themed story. The good guys are pitted against the bad, and each character is usually black or while. At the same time, the storyline also highlights values such as courage, patriotism, etc. The Lone Ranger is also said to represent and motivate the American desire to take over the West, effectively eliminating or subduing all who get in the way.
A Brief Look at The Lone Ranger’s Story
We’ve already mentioned that the Lone Ranger was part of a posse that was attacked in the Wild West. This attack killed his five mates, including his brother. When Tonto nurses the Lone Ranger back to health, the latter makes himself a mask out of his brother’s vest. Tonto also buries the five dead men, and makes a sixth empty grave to throw off any suspicion on the enemies’ side.
With the black mask disguise, the Lone Ranger travels around Texas with Tonto. He assists anyone who’s challenged or harmed by the lawless elements in the area. For the first episode, the issue was dealing with an attack from above right as the Lone Ranger recovers from an illness. Tonto helps out by distracting the attacker, giving the Lone Ranger time to short the attacker. The episode ends on an almost literal cliffhanger, with the Lone Ranger on a cliff and slipping.
The second episode in the series explained how the Lone Ranger gets his funds. Apparently, he discovers a silver mine. This money will help to get the material for his silver bullets and support his lifestyle.
With this backstory established, most of the other episodes show how the Lone Rangers helps other people out. The ending usually consists of someone asking who the man in the mask was. ‘The Lone Ranger’ is the usual response, with the character yelling the tagline “Hi-Yo Silver, away!” while riding away on his horse (and Tonto riding alongside).
The Production of The Lone Ranger
The title of producer for this series still belonged to George W. Trendle, who was also the producer for the radio series. However, he acknowledged that someone with television experience should be at the fore. Jack Chertok, a veteran MGM producer was hired for the role. He was the producer for 182 episodes.
The first 78 episodes of this series were shown in consecutive weeks. Then, the same episodes were broadcasted weekly again with no new content. All of these were shot in California, Utah, and Kanab. The series was also mostly filmed on what’s now the former Iverson Movie Ranch located in Chatsworth, California. These first episodes had the opening sequence that featured the Lone Ranger and his horse Silver gallop to a certain rock. The rock is called Lone Ranger Rock and is still in the same place on that filming site.
The next 52 episodes came about after an upheaval. Some say there was a wage dispute with the lead actor, though Moore later clarified in his autobiography that he didn’t know the exact reason for his dismissal. When the episodes were produced, they ran for a straight 52 weeks without pause, with reruns following in the next year. However, the switch did not prove favorable with audiences, and Hart’s episodes were not viewed again until the eighties came around.
After the TV series wrapped up its 5th year, Trendle sold the rights. Jack Wrather bought these up in 1954, and brought back Clayton Moore as well. 52 more episodes were predicted this way; a year with new episodes, and another year with reruns.
The last season went through several changes. The number of episodes was just 39, for one. This was mainly because the industry standards had changed. Weather also managed to produce these last episodes in color, investing from his personal wealth to do so. Jack Chertok was also replaced by Sherman A. Harris.
There are several spin offs and movies based on the Line Ranger as well. Weather’s own company has the theatrical releases called “The Lone Ranger” and “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” in 1956 and 1958 respectively.
Reasons for Watching The Lone Ranger Today
While some viewers of the Lone Ranger original series might not like all that’s depicted on the screen, there are a lot of factors in its favor. While there are stereotypes, most of the messages are stormy and positive, about loyalty and friendship. The characters also reinforce the message of fighting and standing up for the right and fair thing.
What’s more, the Lone Ranger isn’t just a show to kill time. It’s earned a spot in popular culture and language. Plus, the content is quite entertaining even if the show was made more than 60 years back. One might say that it was the first true ‘hit’ show of the ABC channel, so it’s probably worth seeing just to know what the hype was all about.