Thursday, November 13, 2008

Clayton Moore and the Lone Ranger's 75th

Happy 75th anniversary year to the Masked Man of the plains, the Lone Ranger! In all of that time, the cowboy hero (often accompanied by friend Tonto) has appeared on radio, in serials, in movies, in books, in comics, in cartoons, in commercials and on lunch boxes. Its biggest success, arguably, was its early television incarnation as played by actor Clayton Moore. As with Hopalong Cassidy before him, Moore largely took on the code of the masked man and continued to appear throughout his life as the Lone Ranger, long after the TV series had ridden off into the sunset. Then, in 1979, the Wrather Corporation (which ahd purchased the rights to the character) gave him cease and desist orders. Seems they were bringing the character back to the big screen and wouldn't want the dumb movie-going public to confuse some dottering old man with the hot young star they were going to create.

Bad move. First, Moore fought the ban. Then as more legal action loomed, he went to a modified costume and a pair of mask-like sunglasses (which eventually got him endorsements). Controverisal Chicago TV critic Gary Deeb took up Moore's cause and fans began rallying to their hero's side.

The Wrather corporation featured former actress Bonita Granville (Wrather) as one of their big-wigs and some writers portrayed the affair as Nancy Drew vs. the Lone Ranger! The corporation stuck by its guns and went forward with their movie while Moore continued making appearances as the ALMOST Lone Ranger. Talk of a boycott of the movie began circulating.

I signed the petition. I signed the boycott sheet, too. To this day I have NOT seen THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER. By all accounts, one of the worst films of its day as well as a major flop, the boycott seems to have done some good. And certainly, no one would end up mistaking the classy Moore for the film's bizarrely named Klinton Spilsbury. Spilsbury made headlines with drunken off-set antics and on-set diva-like behavior. His voice was overdubbed by actor James Keach, allegedly due to its being too slurred to understand. It was to be his only film appearance. Actor Michael Horse, Tonto in the picture, managed to pull a successful acting career out of the debacle but even old-time radio announcer Fred Foy saw his cameo as a town mayor hit the cutting room floor. Horse said in a 2003 interview, "When I heard they were so disrespectful to Clayton Moore, I thought, ‘oh, no, you guys shouldn’t have done that.'”

Tired of all the negative publicity, the Wrather Corporation eventually caved and Moore went back to being the Lone Ranger, eventually writing a book whose title answered the oft-asked question of, "Who was that masked man?" He died at age 85 but is well-remembered throughout the Web.


  1. Anonymous7:11 PM

    One of the coolest voices ever. If he had been the Lone Ranger AND Batman (with Jay Silverheels as Robin) AND Superman AND Green Hornet (with Jay Silverheels as Kato) AND Wilbur (with Silver as Mr Ed) I still could have never gotten tired of listening to him-- ok, maybe not Wilbur... He definitely could have been every male super-hero on every comic book cartoon ever.

    Word verification is "proses"

  2. Anonymous7:52 AM

    I admire your fortitude, BookSteve.
    Even though I knew about all the
    negative publicity associated with
    the movie's pre-release, mainly
    the shameful treatment of Clayton
    Moore, I went to see The Legend of
    The Lone Ranger anyway.
    It was a high class production. Money was SPENT on this baby! It
    looked GOOD. Most of the acting,
    with the notable exception of the
    lead actor, was believable.
    And when you don't buy the actor as the title character, everything else doesn't matter. Klinton Spilsbury was a good looking goof who couldn't act and, if his voice was dubbed, couldn't pull off the commanding tones of The Lone Ranger.
    What were the makers of this movie
    thinking? Well, they weren't thinking, which makes this film as
    big and overstuffed as famed turkeys such as Ishtar and Heaven's
    Every now and then I think I'd like
    to see the movie once more, now that the controversy has died down.
    But the bad taste remains.

    Sagebrush Sam Kujava

  3. yeah, I remember the film. it was awful. I didn't know Moore was so shabbily treated, though. #&@! them. Clayton Moore IS the Lone Ranger. end of debate.