Disney’s Lone Ranger has proved to be a bust at the box office. What happened? “The Lone Ranger character was created to be a role model for children,” but it’s a very adult film. Most parents aren’t going to take their children to see a movie that’s rated PG-13 no matter their fond memories of the character.
I also suspect that most people familiar with the Lone Ranger character don’t trust Hollywood to get the story right. The Lone Ranger could have been a big hit. Disney blew it. One more thing. In the original TV series, Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels, a real Native American. I’m surprised that the Native American community hasn’t criticized Disney for the slight in using the very white Johnny Depp to play Tonto.
When I was very, very young, my parents took my brother and me to the South Park Fairgrounds located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. It was the annual County Fair held over the Memorial Day weekend that marked the unofficial end of summer.
I don’t remember much, but I do remember seeing Clayton Moore as the TV Lone Ranger riding on his horse Silver, most likely a younger version of the venerable steed.
The reason I remember this so well is that I have an 8mm film of the event that my father shot that day.
There wasn’t much on TV in those days. ABC, CBS, and NBC were all we had, and not for 24-hours a day. Reception was so bad on our TV that we couldn’t pull in the local NBC signal. As a result, I never saw Bonanza or Star Trek.
But we did see The Lone Ranger. We all did. It had been on radio for nearly two decades before it came to television in 1949. For many of us it was our first introduction to classical music, although most of us didn’t know it. Classical music was chosen because it was in the public domain.
Television was in black and white for us even when a show was in color. Remember The Cisco Kid? It was originally shot in color.
The Lone Ranger was in black and white in another way. It was about a moral code that was black and white. We didn’t always follow it, but we knew we should. The credo — “I believe” — was reinforced in our churches, schools, and, yes, even among politicians even if they didn’t personally follow it.
Actors Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels both took their positions as role models to children very seriously and tried their best to convey that creed in the show that entered our homes through the marvel of television:
- That to have a friend, a man must be one.
- That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
- That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.
- In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for what is right.
- That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
- That ‘this government of the people, by the people, and for the people’ shall live always.
- That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.
- That sooner or later … somewhere … somehow … we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.
- That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.
- In my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
“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!”
Yes, “those thrilling days of yesteryear,” while not a perfect era, still had an understanding or moral right and wrong.