10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Lone Ranger’
The character of the Lone Ranger has been an important and iconic piece of American culture for 80 years. Few characters have had his longevity or have burrowed so deep into the popular culture consciousness.
Even if you've never seen, read or heard anything directly dealing with the Lone Ranger and his faithful partner, Tonto, you surely know who they are. It's genetic at this point.
With the new movie directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp right around the corner, it's time to dive into the past and unearth some of the strangest and most interesting trivia regarding this character. How much do you know about the Lone Ranger? It's safe to say you don't know everything on this list.
Even if you haven't heard the name Britt Reid, you've probably heard of his alter ego, The Green Hornet. However, you may be surprised to learn that the legendary pulp crimefighter was originally envisioned as the son of the Lone Ranger's nephew!
Yep, that's right: Green Hornet and Lone Ranger belong to the same family tree, with the Hornet's radio show being a spinoff from the Ranger's. Although various rights issues have frequently prevented both characters from always being presented as kin, it all makes sense. After all, both of them are cool white guys who fight crime with even cooler ethnic sidekicks.
In the Lone Ranger mythos, the legendary masked crimefighter always loaded his weapon with silver bullets, letting his ammunition act as a calling card (and constantly reminding him of the cost of firing a gun). For the new movie, the original screenwriters decided to make this choice less metaphorical and more directly practical.
The first script for the film featured the Lone Ranger and Tonto battling werewovles across the Old West, necessitating the use of silver bullets in order to take down the supernatural beasts. Thankfully, this script was thrown out and completely rewritten.
No one is entirely sure where the inspiration for the Lone Ranger came from (exactly who created him is still in dispute), but many fans and historians believe that the character was inspired by legendary lawman Bass Reeves.
One of the first African Americans to become a Deputy US Marshall west of the Mississippi river (aka cowboy country), Reeves lived among local Native American tribes for years after escaping slavery, where he learned many languages and became a crack shot. As an Oklahoma territory lawman, he worked tirelessly for 32 years, apprehending over 3,000 felons (including one of his sons) without ever getting wounded.
Like all popular radio shows of the '30s, 'The Lone Ranger' series offered various premiums for its loyal listeners. Most of the available items were children's toys, like six-shooters that fired sparks, and deputy badges. However, the show's Wild West theme didn't keep them from offering some rather, uh, anachronistic premiums.
When World War II rolled around, kids were able to embrace both their cowboy hero and the war effort by wearing a special "Lone Ranger Atom Bomb Ring." Because if there's one thing that sums up a masked cowboy saving the Old West, it's nuclear weapons.
Sure, Armie Hammer may make a fine Lone Ranger, but he'll surely never reach the legendary status achieved by actor Clayton Moore. The star of the 'Lone Ranger' television series that ran from 1949 to 1957, Moore took the role very, very seriously, adopting the character's morals and code of conduct for his offscreen life.
He took it so seriously that he rarely appeared in public not wearing the mask, making numerous special appearances as the character that he helped define. Moore continued to dress as the character for functions and special occasions in the decades after the show ended, building his entire life around his Lone Ranger persona. A court order obtained by the TV show's creator in 1979 to stop Moore from appearing as the Ranger in public was only a speed bump -- he simply replaced the iconic mask with a pair of sunglasses in a similar shape!
When 'The Lone Ranger' debuted on the radio in 1933, his name was quite literal. He was a solo adventurer, riding across the Wild West as a solitary figure of justice. However, this led to lengthy stretches of time where the Lone Ranger would monologue to himself in the middle of nowhere, keeping the audience apprised of what was going on since no one else could.
Eventually, the show's producers decided that their hero needed someone to talk to, so they introduced his faithful companion, Tonto, in episode 11. Of course, they didn't know they had just created one of the most legendary partnerships in all of fiction (or that Tonto would later be retconned into the title hero's origin).
The Lone Ranger's origin has been tinkered with over the years, but the 1938 serial created the version that has endured. It goes something like this: a group of Texas Rangers are ambushed by bad guys and everyone except John Reid is killed. The dead posse is discovered by Tonto, who nurses Reid back to health and assists him in avenging the murder of his friends and colleagues. And this is where the interesting tidbit of trivia comes in. In order to help him conceal his identity, Tonto crafts the Lone Ranger's iconic mask out of material from Reid's vest. You know how recent superhero movies have become obsessed with exploring how the good guys design and build their costumes? Well, the Lone Ranger did it first.
As anyone with even a passing familiarity with American popular culture knows, Tonto constantly refers to the Lone Ranger as "kemosabe," a nickname/term of affection that's become so iconic that Webster's added it to the dictionary. But what does it actually mean? Well, no one is sure. Although it can sometimes translate to "faithful friend" or "trusty scout" in Potawatomi, the use of it on the radio show is a tribute to Kamp Kee-Mo Sah-Bee, a boy's camp run by 'The Lone Ranger' radio show's director's father-in-law.
The word also has several different meanings across other Native American languages (including "one who peeks"), but it can usually translate to "scout" in one way or another.
Although Johnny Depp has a little Cherokee in him, there was much controversy surrounding his casting as Tonto. After all, isn't a white guy playing a Native American a little, well ... racist? The 'Lone Ranger' team did everything in their power to cut any controversy off at the knees, contacting various tribal leaders and keeping them involved and on set throughout the entire production.
However, the biggest coup for the production was Depp being adopted into the Comanche Nation by tribal chairman Johnny Wauqua in a special, private ceremony.
How do you know that a character is an absolute icon? You count up the number of mediums he has appeared in. With the possible exception of Superman, no character has permeated every aspect of popular culture quite like the Lone Ranger. Although he got his start on the radio, he found new fans as a series of film serials. In 1948, he got his own comic book series that lasted 145 issues. From there, the character became the focus of one of early television's first smash hits.
Several feature films followed, as did a handful of other TV pilots (including a 2003 TV movie that was intended to launch a new series). Heck, during the '60s, the Lone Ranger even had his own Saturday morning cartoons and he got his own video game in 1991. And right now, the character lives on in a new blockbuster movie. You couldn't erase this character from the public consciousness if you tried, kemosabe.