Cue thrilling theme: “William Tell Overture”
Pistol shots as man on stark white
horse gallops down a mountain pass
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust
and a hearty, hi-yo Silver!
“With his faithful Indian companion Tonto,
the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains
led the fight for law and order in the early West.
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear –
The Lone Ranger rides again!”
That stirring theme music mixed with stirring words (above) as the masked man raced along on his silver Pegasus (maybe not at light speed, at least pretty darn fast). Add the elegant title supered over the man on horseback and you have a lure that even now sets my pulse racing.
I would look forward to coming Saturdays and more Lone Ranger adventures. But it was almost as if the show itself didn’t matter that much.
The opening captured me and keep my a forever fan. As I look back, I have come to rank that intro as one of the greatest ever for a television show, or at least for a Western. Maybe the opening for “Bonanza” came close, I’m not sure. But at first note of the theme music, I would run into the living room, huddle in front of our big box black and white TV and go spellbound as the masked man speed across the screen.
As I watched, I realized this dude was no ordinary cowboy. Or stereotypical lawman. No, he was different. Not only did he wear a stylish mask – it was not a Halloween mask, but more of a party mask – but it was a deep black. It set off his cool hat – which, again, was not your typical cowboy hat, but a pure white custom-kind-of hat – and custom-tailored outfit, which showed a radiant blue in color episodes.
Again, this was no ordinary outfit, but form-fitting. Not many cowboys wore custom-tailored, form-fitting outfits. It think the clothing was designed to show off the build of the man who played the masked man on TV, Clayton Moore.
And, of course, what other cowboy or Old West Good Guy rode around with a native American sidekick? Jay Silverheels’ Tonto may have been too much of a toadie for us to accept today, but for a kid growing up in suburban America of the 1950’s, he was a perfect partner for my favorite character.
Silverheels was cool, I thought, and had a cool name. Maybe the relationship between these two dis-similar men strained reality, but they seemed truly good friends, and Silverheels played the role mostly with an understated dignity, I thought.
I would remain superglued to our sometimes snowy TV screen until the last decibel of the theme had long ended. I couldn’t wait for next time. The show is one I don’t recall ever seeing in re-runs.
These days, though, you have to wonder how we would react if a masked person posing as a good guy suddenly appeared on the scene of some bank robbery or terrorist bombing. I don’t know if we would welcome him with our arms down.
It’s intriguing for me as a writer to see the legs this story has grown. It continues on in the 21st century. Another remake of the masked man and his native-American sidekick is on the way this summer. From trailers I have seen, I’m not sure if it will be worth seeing or not.
Whatever we ultimately come to think of this latest in the long line of Lone Ranger adventures, it’s got to be better than the 1938 movie serial incarnation of the Western hero (which was based on the radio series of the same name. The radio show, by the way, featured the same theme song as the serial and the TV show. By now, the music has been for so long associated with the Western, people often call it, The Long Ranger.)
If you think an anonymous masked man riding around enforcing the law is weird, this early 20th century version of the character is downright frightening. Forget he’s a good guy. This Lone Ranger is something from out of a horror movie.
This lone survivor of a massacre of Texas Rangers wears a mask straight out of Halloween. It’s long and black and covers his face all the way to his chin. It’s like someone placed the triangular part of his cowboy scarf, completed with large eye holes, over his face. What makes it look truly spooky is the material, which appears to be a thin, rubbery substance that clings to his face but flies up at the chin when he has Silver making like Mercury, the Greek god.
Then, there is the voice, which cries out not a hearty “Hi-yo Silver” but a ghostly one at the opening theme. Later, he races around warning folks to “make for the stockade,” in a very creepy voice.
If I were a person this guy was trying to help, I would have been totally hornswaggled. Which is worse, being saved by this creepy-looking “good guy” or the ordinary-looking bad guys?”
For the moment, at least, we are spared such decisions.