Fascinating Facts About The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger is a beloved character who has been around for over 80 years. There have been numerous spin-offs of the original radio show, and it was particularly popular in the 1950s. The Lone Ranger paired up with a Native American named Tonto to fight crime and pursue justice.

If you’re a fan of the Lone Ranger, there are several things you may not know about the show, the books, and other corresponding media. And remember how Johnny Depp took over the role a few years ago? We have some scoop on that too…

The Lone Ranger Started As A Radio Series

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Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

This photo is from July 21, 1958. Actor Clayton Moore spent four weeks in London on tour, and he is pictured posing as the Lone Ranger without his guns, which were held by British customs and Excise at London Airport. The Lone Ranger was characterized by his mask and his penchant for fighting outlaws in the American Old West.

The Lone Ranger first came on the scene in 1933 in a radio show. It was so popular, it was turned into a book series by Fran Striker and later a popular TV show as well as comic books and several films.

Loyal Listeners Could Get A Lone Ranger Atom Bomb Ring

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Many radio shows in the 1930s would reward its loyal listeners with special prizes. They were usually children’s toys, such as deputy badges. But there was one special item that was particularly odd now that we look back at it.

Several years after World War II started, children of all ages clamored to get their hands on a “Lone Ranger Atom Bomb Ring.” You could remove the red base, which was a secret compartment, and the company assured parents: “The atomic materials inside the ring are harmless.”

Tonto Called The Lone Ranger Kemo Sabe, Which Means ‘Trusted Scout’ Or ‘Faithful Friend’

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Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images
Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images

The origin of the Lone Ranger involves an ambush in which only one of six Texas Rangers survives. Then a Native American named Tonto happens upon the scene. He nurses one of them, John Reid, back to health. Tonto later gives John the name Kemo Sabe, which translates to “trusty scout” or “faithful friend.”

John decides to hunt down Bartholomew “Butch” Cavendish, who is in charge of the outlaws that killed his fellow Texas Rangers, including his brother. John wears a domino mask of cloth from his dead brother’s vest to hide his identity.

There Were Strict Guidelines When It Came To The Lone Ranger’s Behavior

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Bettman, contributor, Getty Images
Bettman, contributor, Getty Images

When creating the Lone Ranger character, writer Fran Striker and lawyer and producer George W. Trendle came up with several guidelines to describe his personality and his behavior. For example, the Lone Ranger always wore a mask and was never supposed to be seen without his mask.

Also, he used perfect grammar, avoided slang and colloquialisms, and almost never referred to himself as the Lone Ranger. Instead, he would present a silver bullet to anyone questioning his identity.

The Lone Ranger Rarely Battled Non-Americans

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Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images
Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images

Most of the time, the Lone Ranger battled other Americans instead of minorities. This was to avoid conflict. However, when the Lone Ranger had adversaries that were foreign in nature, their nation of origin was usually not revealed. On one occasion, he helped a Mexican against French troops of Emperor Maximilian in several radio episodes.

Generally, unsympathetic characters were referred to by a nickname or a surname only. The writers tried to avoid using two names if possible.

The Lone Ranger Never Drank Or Smoked

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The writers portrayed the Lone Ranger as a very wholesome character. He did not smoke or drink liquor. Whenever he appeared in saloon scenes it was often a cafe with waiters and food instead of bartenders and alcohol. In the 1980s, he would have been referred to as “straight edge” because he refrained from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

As for his criminal adversaries, these characters were never portrayed as being wealthy or glamorous. The writers didn’t want listeners, viewers, or readers to admire these types of people.

Tonto Means ‘Wild One’ But Something Completely Different In Spanish

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Tonto first appeared in the 11th episode of the radio series. He was written into the show so the Lone Ranger had someone to talk to. WXYZ radio actor, producer, and director James Jewell came up with the name as well as the endearment Kemo Sabe, which was the name of his father-in-law’s summer camp.

The name Tonto is Native American for “wild one.” Tonto’s English was not very good because it was his second language. In Spanish, Tonto means “stupid,” so the name was changed to Toro in Spanish-speaking regions.

The Lone Ranger Acquired Silver After Saving Its Life

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The Lone Ranger rode a mare named Dusty before meeting Silver. He saved Silver’s life from an angry buffalo, and the horse decided to give up its wild life in return for his favor. Tonto rode a horse named White Feller as well as one named Scout. One popular catchphrase was “Git-um up, Scout!”

Tonto also had an eagle named Taka in animated features that aired from 1966 to 1968. Several episodes included the Lone Ranger saying, “Fly, Taka! On, Scout!” before ending with, “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”

Who Exactly Is The Lone Ranger Based On? Zorro? Robin Hood?

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There are many possible inspirations behind the Lone Ranger. Many believe the character was based on Texas Ranger Captain John R. Hughes. He may also be based on the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River, Bass Reeves. According to the book “Black Gun, Silver Star,” Reeves was very famous during his career.

Reeves wore disguises, had a Native American sidekick, rode a white and grey horse, was an excellent marksman, and he gave out silver keepsakes. Still, others believe the Lone Ranger is based on Zorro or Robin Hood.

The Lone Ranger Is Related To The Green Hornet

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Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The radio adventure The Green Hornet debuted in 1936 and starred a masked vigilante known as the Green Hornet. It aired on the same local Detroit station as The Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger’s nephew was named Dan Reid. In The Green Hornet, the titular character’s father was named Dan Reid, so Britt Reid, the Green Hornet’s alter ego, was the Lone Ranger’s grandnephew.

The 1947 radio show episode “Too Hot to Handle” revealed the information after Dan said the family had a vigilante “pioneer ancestor” that he rode with in Texas. Then the Lone Ranger theme was played in the background.

The TV Series Was A Big Hit For ABC

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Perhaps you’re most familiar with the Lone Ranger from the TV series, which aired from 1949 to 1957. The show starred Clayton Moore as the titular character and Jay Silverheels as Tonto. The show was a massive success for ABC in the 1950s.

Moore’s portrayal of the Lone Ranger is probably the most famous. He left during the third season and was replaced by John Hart before returning to play the ranger again in the last two seasons. All of the show’s 221 episodes were filmed in black and white except for the fifth and final season.

The Theme Music Is Unforgettable

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LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

One of the most memorable things about the Lone Ranger is the theme music. The song is the March of the Swiss Soldiers, which is the finale of the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini. Because of its use in the swashbuckling TV show, the song is one of the most recognizable pieces in the classical canon.

The overture has been used repeatedly in both classical music and media. It’s been used in Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoon The Band Concert as well as in cartoons that parody classical music or Westerns.

Clayton Moore Was Sued For Making Appearances As The Lone Ranger After The Show Ended

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Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Steve Oroz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Clayton Moore starred in 169 of the 221 Lone Ranger episodes. In 1958 after the series ended, he started making personal appearances as the infamous character. He appeared on TV shows, commercials, etc. wearing the signature mask. His costar Jay Silverheels would appear alongside him occasionally.

In 1979, the owner of the Lone Ranger character, Jack Wrather, sued Moore so he would no longer make appearances as the Lone Ranger. Moore countersued, and Wrather eventually dropped the lawsuit in 1984. He died two months later.

Moore Completely And Fully Embodied The Lone Ranger Persona

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Clayton Moore wasn’t just acting when he appeared as the Lone Ranger outside of the TV series. He took the role to heart and became inseparable with the character. In 2006, he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame with his character’s name next to his on the star: Clayton Moore — The Lone Ranger.

In 1982, Moore was inducted into the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame. Eight years later he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Jay Silverheels, A Canadian, Was An Excellent Lacrosse Player

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Jay Silverheels was born in Canada and was a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. His grandfather was a Mohawk chief. Silverheels was a very accomplished athlete who played lacrosse for the Toronto Tecumsehs as well as other teams in the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association.

While he was touring North America with his team in 1937, he was discovered in Los Angeles for his athletic abilities. He did a screen test and shortly afterward started stunt work and playing as an extra.

Silverheels Was Typecast After Appearing In The Lone Ranger

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Silver Screen Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images

When he first started in Hollywood, Silverheels was billed as Harold Smith or Harry Smith, names he used as a lacrosse player. Silverheels initially started in low-budget features and westerns. His greatest and most memorable role was as Tonto in the Lone Ranger TV series.

After the show ended, he had trouble finding roles because he was typecast as a Native American. He became a salesman and bred and raced horses as a hobby. He and his wife had four daughters and one son. He died at age 67 in 1980 due to complications from a stroke.

There Have Been Six Lone Ranger Movies

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Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images
Bettmann, contributor, Getty Images

Clayton Moore starred in two Lone Ranger movies: 1956’s The Lone Ranger and 1958’s The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. In 1961, CBS made Return of the Lone Ranger, which starred Tex Hill and was intended to be the pilot episode for a TV series. The 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger was made by Wrather Corp.

The WB network aired 2003’s The Lone Ranger with Chad Michael Murray in the titular role with the aim of turning it into a TV series. However, it did not draw a strong audience. Johnny Depp starred in 2013’s The Lone Ranger as Tonto. The film was critically panned and didn’t perform well at the box office.

Depp’s Lone Ranger Film Nearly Included Werewolves

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

As you may recall, the Lone Ranger only used silver bullets, which reminded him of how precious life was. He would not fire his gun unless absolutely necessary. His bullets were also his calling card, so people would know who made the shot. The screenwriters of the 2013 Johnny Depp-starring film considered including werewolves in the script.

They thought the Lone Ranger and Tonto could battle the creatures in the Old West and kill them with silver bullets. Yet, somehow the script was not approved in this incarnation, according to ScreenCrush. We can’t imagine why.

The Rights To The Lone Ranger Have Changed Hands A Lot

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Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

In the 1930s, George W. Trendle owned the Lone Ranger and its affiliated characters through his company called The Lone Ranger, Inc. In 1954, Trendle sold the rights to producer and oilman Jack Wrather for $3 million. Thirty years later following Wrather’s death, his widow sold the rights to Southbrook International Television Co. for $10 million

In 1994, Broadway Video bought the rights to the Lone Ranger and then turned it over to Classic Media in 2000, which was acquired by DreamWorks Animation in 2012. NBCUniversal then acquired DreamWorks Animation (now DreamWorks Classics) in 2016 for $3.8 billion. The rights are now owned by Universal Pictures, which is a division of NBCUniversal.

Over 18 Actors Portrayed The Lone Ranger

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Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images
Fred Ramage/Keystone/Getty Images

This photo is from July 22, 1958. Actor Clayton Moore visited the Horse Guards on parade at Buckingham Palace during his stay in London, where he appeared on Children’s Television on BBC and radio programs.

As we noted earlier, The Lone Ranger started as a radio series. There were a total of 3,500 radio shows, two 15-chapter Republic serials, 221 television segments, and three theatrical releases. The TV series is still in syndication, and over 18 actors have portrayed the Lone Ranger in its various incarnations.