Monday, June 17, 2013



From Friday through Sunday, June 21st through the 24th, Denver, Colorado will draw collectors of Western art, artifacts and memorabilia from around the globe for Brian Lebel’s 24TH ANNUAL OLD WEST SHOW & AUCTION.  While the three-day event features a marketplace with over 200 antique and collectible dealers, the centerpiece is Saturday’s auction, where 337 lots will be sold, comprising an astonishing collection of Western items.  

They say that timing is everything, and what could be better timing for the daughter of Clayton Moore, TV’s THE LONE RANGER, to part with some of her mementoes on the eve of the release of the new LONE RANGER movie?   Says Clayton’s only child, Dawn Moore, “He always said that when he was gone I should keep whatever pieces have particular meaning to me, with the rest to be enjoyed by whoever would appreciate them.” 
Cigar store Indian

I was on Hollywood Boulevard in 1987 when Clayton Moore got his star on the Walk of Fame, and among the fans present were MCGYVER star Richard Dean Anderson, for whom he was a role model.  When Moore wrote his autobiography, I WAS THAT MASKED MAN, and I stood on line at a book signing, along with my wife, and Tex Ritter’s son, attorney Tom Ritter, and we were all struck by how many LAPD officers, and CHP officers, helmets in hand, were waiting for autographs.  Dawn says that even now, thirteen years after her father’s death, she still receives his fan mail, mostly from baby-boomers who are now police officers, firefighters and teachers.  “These were the young viewers who decided to become protectors in some capacity because of my father’s role on television.  Talk about paying it forward – it’s very powerful stuff.”  Among the Clayton Moore Lone Ranger clothing items up for bids are a Nudie’s Stetson, a Bohlin Buscadero Lone Ranger double holster gun rig, four pairs of boots, a Nudie’s Lone Ranger costume, a Manuel Lone Ranger costume, shirts, pants, and a red neckerchief. Among personal items are a Winchester presentation rifle, gold records, posters, toys, toupees, and a silver bullet that comes with a signed picture of Clayton Moore and Richard Nixon. 
Pistol and papers of Wyoming Sheriff Nottage

And speaking of TV heroes, let’s give equal time to TV heroines.  Gail Davis starred in ANNIE OAKLEY in the 1950s, and now her daughter Terrie is selling some of her personal affects.  There are movie posters, toys, magazines, books, and playing cards – all emblazoned with Davis’ image as the woman who, in the star’s own words, “…had to deal with the same ruthless characters--rustlers and killers--that the cowboys dealt with. And she did it without ever killing a one of them.”  There’s a beautiful red Nudie costume as well, but I bet I know what item the women who grew up on the show would give their eye-teeth for: a Nudie-made miniature Annie Oakley costume that little Terrie Davis wore when mother and daughter made public appearances together.  And because Annie Oakley was, after all, a real person, there is also a signed cabinet card of the original ‘Little Sure-Shot’ offered for bid.

If you’re in the market for a hat, there are two Tom Mix Stetsons, Robert Mitchum’s sombrero from THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY (the hat is believed to be pre-Mexican Revolution), and a Stetson that belonged to Robert “Believe it of Not!” Ripley.  There is a wide range of art, both cowboy and Indian-made, and the usual mind-blowing selection of bits and spurs, saddles and sidearms, and some fascinating documents.  There’s a large collection of Tom Mix papers, calling cards and letters from Buffalo Bill Cody, Frederic Remington, and Pat Garrett’s life insurance policy (don't know if they paid off).  From Dodge City there’s a collection of documents carried by City Sheriff Ham Bell.  From Tombstone a collection of documents includes a $1.50 receipt to Wyatt Earp for removing a dead dog, a photograph of Bat’s brother Ed Masterson, and a petition directed to Sheriff John Behan, relating to a writ of Habeas Corpus for Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.  There’s a collection of letters from famous people to the last survivor of the James gang.  There’s even a full-size, working Concord stage-coach!  If you’d like to learn more, get a catalog, or find out how to get to Denver pronto, go HERE.


With the greatly anticipated LONE RANGER movie on the not-too-distant horizon, it’s no surprise that the original LONE RANGER TV series is being made available for those whose appetite will be whetted for more of the masked rider of the plains and his faithful Indian companion.  DreamWorks Classics has released a complete set that includes all 221 episodes on 30 DVDs, as well as two features films, a radio show, a complete episode guide, reproduction of a comic-book, and all manner of extras.  This deluxe edition will run you $199; but if you’d like to get your toes wet before you dive in headfirst, you’ll be glad to know that they’re also putting out three surprisingly inexpensive sampler disks, each featuring eight episodes, and each retailing for a paltry $6.99! Titled HI-YO SILVER, AWAY!; KEMO SABE; and WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?, they’re a great way to relive your own childhood, or to introduce the shows to your children or grandchildren. 

The BIG set!

The LONE RANGER first appeared on Detroit radio station WXYZ in early 1933, and when it went off the air in 1954, it had produced around 3,000 episodes starring Brace Beemer as the Lone Ranger, and Shakespearean actor John Todd as Tonto.  Starting in 1949, the first eight years of the TV show were produced by the man who created the radio series, George W. Trendle (though many claim that head-writer Fran Striker was the true creator of the Masked Man as well as his direct descendant, The Green Hornet). 
Brace Beemer at the microphone
Although Brace Beemer was perfect on radio, a younger and more fit man was needed on-screen, and Clayton Moore was perfect.  A busy but undistinguished actor with an unusually distinctive voice, his portrayal came alive when the mask went on, and he made an indelible impression as the Lone Ranger.  Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk, played Tonto, and although his dialogue was written to make it clear that English was his second language, his characterization was subtle and memorable.  And they didn’t soft-pedal the racial elements; until they learned better, many white folk started the episodes addressing Tonto as “Indian,” as though he didn’t have a name.     

Coming with a tremendous backlog of already-produced half-hour stories, the shows at first relied heavily on adapting radio scripts, which caused them to be rather stiff and stilted.  In early episodes, actor Gerald Mohr, who spoke those well-remembered words from the opening – “…Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!  From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver!  The Lone Ranger Rides again!” – voiced much un-needed and distracting narration that was carried over from radio, but soon, growing used to the new visual medium, they cut back noticeably on the exposition.  The production values are high in the early shows, with plenty of location work, and a bit of stock footage thrown in.  Later on the series became famous for cutting corners.  Dick Jones who guested on the LONE RANGER, recalled that the camera was mounted on a tripod in the back of a truck at all times, so they could change set-ups that much quicker.  There was also extensive shooting on ‘green sets,’ fake exteriors that were convincing on tiny old TV screens of the day, but are jarringly phony-looking today.

Overall, the shows hold up remarkably well, due in great degree to the iconic performances by Moore and Silverheels, clever – if occasionally nutty – plotting, and a subtle but ever-present moral core: good people, tempted to do bad, could be saved, and even killers who had irreparably crossed the line, could be redeemed through self-sacrifice.  Although nothing you’d notice as a kid wrapped up in a story, the Lone Ranger never shot to kill – he was always shooting guns out of villains’ hands.

In 1954, oil-man Jack Wrather bought the rights to the LONE RANGER from Trendle for the staggering sum of $3,000,000.  He produced two feature films, and audiences for the first time got to see the Lone Ranger in glorious color, in THE LONE RANGER (1956), costarring Rather’s wife and the screen’s ‘Nancy Drew,’ Bonita Granville; and THE LONE RANGER AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (1958).  The final season of the series was shot in color, and the budgets boosted to a then-phenomenal $25,000 per episode, many shot in scenic Kanab, Utah, and perhaps to take advantage of their colorful attire, those episodes usually focus on the Ranger’s dealings with Indians.  Wrather also hoped to make the series appeal to an older audience as well, and the one noticeable change is that the Lone Ranger is a tad less stoic and more slyly humorous in his patter with Tonto.  Many of the color episodes are directed by the prolific and talented Earl Bellamy, who helmed many movies, and more than 1,600 TV episodes, more than any other director.  (He also was a friend, and directed the first movie I wrote, SPEEDTRAP.)  One surprise in the color shows is that some forward-looking person decided, back in 1949, to shoot the show’s opening in color – it’s the exact same footage they’d been showing in black & white for years, only now we could see that the Ranger’s outfit was blue, and his kerchief red.

The three individual collections

The quality of image in the new DVD releases, HI-YO SILVER, AWAY!; KEMO SABE; and WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?, is stunning, absolutely pristine.  The black & white prints are crisp and sharp, with rich blacks and a wide range of greys that display the often beautiful cinematography.  The color episodes are rich in hue and beauty, whether showing sets, wardrobe, or remarkable desert locations.  As far as I can tell, they’ve been unedited. 

The episodes on each disk are in chronological order, but on two of the three collections – and this is my only serious criticism – the selection seems completely random: there is no apparent attempt to order or group the shows.  This is most noticeable with HI-YO SILVER, AWAY!  The first episode, THE LONE RANGER FIGHTS ON, is actually the 2nd episode of the series, and the middle section of a three-part telling of the outlaw ambush of a group of Texas Rangers which leaves only one alive, hence the lone ranger.  So we come into the story in the middle, see Walter Sande as a lawman and Glenn Strange (Sam of GUNSMOKE) as Butch Cavendish, and the story ends with a cliffhanger, and a rarely seen cereal plug.  Then we are told to be sure to return for the next episode, but the next episode is not #3, but #43, OUTLAWS OF THE PLAINS.  This is followed by MR. TROUBLE from season 2, which is followed by three episodes from season 3 which star not Clayton Moore, but John Hart as the Lone Ranger!  After two seasons of playing the lead, Clayton Moore tried for more money, and was promptly fired, replaced by Hart for 52 episodes.  Hart was a good actor, but Trendle and company had to admit that, even with the mask, audiences could tell the difference; they renegotiated, and Clayton Moore returned, and played Lone Ranger for the rest of the run.  Incidentally, John Hart, who would go on to star as Hawkeye in HAWKEYE AND THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS series, told interviewer Sunset Carson that he didn’t blame Moore for holding out for more money; Hart was paid less per episode for playing the Lone Ranger than for any other acting job he ever had!  But Even without Moore, these episodes are worth seeing.  THE BROWN PONY stars Lee Van Cleef as an escaped convict who holds the evidence to free and innocent man.  Next is THE OLD COWBOY, followed by THE MIDNIGHT RIDER, starring Darryl Hickman playing, ironically, a caped and masked Zorro-like character.  Then Clayton Moore is back for TRAPPED, episode #178, followed by the 9th color episode, QUARTER-HORSE WAR, filmed in gorgeous Kanab, Utah, featuring a big budget, a lot of action, and guest-starring fine Western villain Harry Lauter.

The KEMO SABE collection starts with TROUBLE FOR TONTO from season 1, then THE FUGITIVE, ENFIELD RIFLE and THE TELL-TALE BULLET from season 4.  TELL-TALE features excellent villain Anthony Caruso, and a pre-Chester Dennis Weaver.  FRAMED FOR MURDER stars the still handsome and active James Best (this weekend he was performing his one-man-show at the Memphis Film Festival).  The last three episodes, COURAGE OF TONTO, MISSION FOR TONTO and THE BANKER’S SON are all in color, so if you’re trying to interest a young kid in the Lone Ranger, this would be the set to start with: if you can get them hooked with the color shows, they’ll be willing to watch the black & white ones after.  (Over the years I’ve introduced thousands of L.A. school kids to Laurel & Hardy, but the trick was to show them the colorized ones first; most kids simply won’t watch anything black & white).  Incidentally, COURAGE OF TONTO guest-stars former screen ‘Red Ryder’ Jim Bannon.

The WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? collection does have a theme, about identity, and features stories about masks, people impersonating the Lone Ranger but, best of all, features several episodes where Moore gets to shed his mask and don outrageous disguises.  The first episode is THE MASKED RIDER, episode #14 from the first season.  The next one, GOLD TRAIN, episode #27, features a pre-STAR TREK DeForrest Kelly; and little Billy Bletcher, a Mack Sennett comic who voiced The Big Bad Wolf and Peg-Leg Pete for Disney.  From Season 2, BAD MEDICINE features primo Western villain Dick Curtis, and Clayton Moore made up as a hysterical Italian farmer.  THE HOODED MEN from season two continues the disguise theme, and guest-stars Walter Sande.  From Season 4, TWO FOR JUAN RINGO guest stars Lyle Talbot, and features Moore disguised as a Mexican bandito; WANTED: THE LONE RANGER guest stars Jesse White, and both Moore and Silverheels dress up as circus clowns.  The last two episodes are color, from the final season.  THE RETURN OF DON PEDRO O’SULLIVAN features Moore as a red-headed, red-bearded Irishman, and best of all, in OUTLAWS IN GREASEPAINT, the Lone Ranger plays Othello!  GREASEPAINT, incidentally, is the very last episode of the series, although there is no sense of finality, as when it was shot, yet another season was being planned. 

Moore and Silverheels would play their iconic characters in commercials for GENO’S PIZZA ROLLS and AQUA VELVA aftershave, but producer Jack Wrather alienated fans when, after announcing production of THE  LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER (1981), he forbade Clayton Moore from dressing as the Lone Ranger, or wearing the mask.  Despite direction by the great cinematographer Bill Fraker, and a cast that included Jason Robards as President Grant, Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish and Richard Farnsworth as Wild Bill Hickock (and perhaps as a slap-in-the-face to Clayton Moore, featuring John Hart in a cameo), it also featured first-time (and last-time) actor Klinton Spilsbury as the Lone Ranger.  It bombed, and combined with the previous year’s financial disaster HEAVEN’S GATE, dealt the cause of Western filmmaking a decade-long setback.  (Worth noting, Tonto was played by fellow first-time actor Michael Horse, who has gone on to a very respectable and successful acting career in and out of Westerns.)

If you like THE LONE RANGER, you’ll love this set of bargain-priced DVDs from Dreamworks Classics.  And if you don’t, why have you read this far?




Here’s a very interesting article from the Columbus Dispatch by Terry Mikesell, about the terrific annual Western Festival at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio.  And no, I’m not adding all those compliments just because I was interviewed for the piece.  But it helps.  Read it HERE.
And if you can get to Columbus, and want details on the festival, go HERE.


Here’s the picture my daughter posted of us on the Round-up Facebook page, wishing me a happy Father’s Day.  I hope all of you other dads out there had as great a day as I did, and are as proud of your kids as I am.

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright June 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved




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