In the 1940s, three times each week, I hurried home from school, did my homework, ate supper and then turned on the radio for the latest chapter in the Lone Ranger’s fight for justice in the early west. Each episode was live, all sound, of course, but BIG, colorful sound which spoke to me from the powerful speakers of my family’s Philco floor model radio. Each episode had me riding right next to the Lone Ranger and Tonto as my imagination ran wild with adventure.
So, I’m skeptical about the new movie, The Lone Ranger. Can Armie Hammer race into my life so that I can taste the dust stirred up by Silver? Can Johnny Depp as Tonto ease me into a sense of nobleness?
Am I too old for all this?
The radio voice of the Lone Ranger that I heard as a kid was Brace Beemer. Beemer had taken over in 1941, after Earle Groser who had voiced the Lone Ranger for eight years was killed in an automobile accident. Beemer’s Lone Ranger voice sounded like it came from some deep valley of security and peace.
Later, on TV, Clayton Moore lowered the bar on resonance. When Moore spoke as the Lone Ranger, it was easy to accept him as a towering hero of justice and peace. I didn’t feel the same thrill, though, during the TV shows as I felt listening to radio. Very little was left to my imagination. It was all there in black and white.
Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s “faithful Indian companion,” had a warm full voice which brought with it a sense of kindness and confidence. Here’s an Indian you can trust. On the radio, that eloquent voice was John Todd, a middle-aged Shakespearean actor who, except for a few episodes, was the voice of Tonto from 1933 until the last radio installment in 1953.
However, most of us remember Jay Silverheels, the TV Tonto who rode proudly next to “Kimo Sabe.” His voice was remarkably like Todd’s. He wore a simple buckskin outfit and a headband with a feather in it.
Astride “the great horse Silver,” on both radio and TV, the Lone Ranger rode throughout the West with Tonto, on Scout at his side bringing the bad guys to justice. He wore a white hat, a black half-mask and fired silver bullets form his six-shooters. What more could a kid want?
In the new movie, Armie Hammer is a tall, rugged Lone Ranger and looks impressive riding Silver. With black mask and white hat, he looks like he’s galloping out of a legend. He sounds good, too — believable.
Johnny Depp, though, speaks as if he is trying to channel Jay Silverheels. The timbre of his voice and the pacing is all Jay Silverheels, but without the “plenty trouble Kimo Sabe” and” “Get-em up Scout” phrases which we remember from radio and TV. A blackbird with open wings is perched on his head and black streaks of war paint run down his cheeks. Johnny Depp looks like a Halloween figure of a Native American,. Not believable. (Here’s the Lone Ranger “final trailer”.)
Long ago the voice of the Lone Ranger disappeared from radio and TV but not from my memory. “Back with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, from out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse, Silver. ” It’s 2013 and here he comes again!
The Lone Ranger Fan Club
Listen to original radio episodes of the Lone Ranger at OTR Network Library.
To view the complete Lone Ranger TV series visit TV.com