Sunday, July 11, 2010

On DVD: The Lone Ranger (1949-1956)

In the early days of television, westerns dominated the schedule. One of the most beloved series of the genre was one that made the transition from radio to television, The Lone Ranger.

Everyone knows the story about how a lone Texas Ranger, John Reid (Clayton Moore) survived an ambush by outlaw Butch Cavendish (Glenn Strange, Gunsmoke) and his gang, and was nursed back to health by Tonto (Jay Silverheels). He let the world at large believe that Reid died that day, too, in order to pursue Cavendish as the Lone Ranger.

The Ranger & Tonto "led the fight for law & order in the early West", as one of the series' introductions declares, read by announcer Fred Foy (later the announcer for Dick Cavett). There is an alternate intro, read by narrator Gerald Mohr, that is prominent in a Platinum video release that I screened last night. Mohr describes the Ranger as both mysterious & fabulous, "striking fear in the lawless, and giving hope" to those hoping to settle.

The series settles into an all-too-familiar pattern. Some folks see the mask, and understandably assume that the Ranger is himself an outlaw. In one story, he pretends to be one in order to trap a gang. Tonto goes into the nearest town on recon, and quickly reports back. That often results in either Tonto being captured by a corrupt lawman or being knocked out by a henchman. Once their job is done, the Ranger & Tonto ride off into the sunset as the grateful citizens finally realize who he is.

In the Platinum video package, 7 of the 8 episodes were in black & white, with the narration by Mohr. There was one color episode from near the end of the series' run, after Moore returned from a sabbatical, during which he'd been replaced by John Hart. I have one other DVD compilation from another packager that I'd screened before, and over the years, I'd seen syndicated reruns of Lone Ranger on cable dating back to the 70's.

Edit: 4/11/14: Here's the episode: "Old Joe's Sister". Fred Foy was the announcer in the open, but the episode is narrated by Gerald Mohr:



The Platinum set also includes an episode of U. S. Marshal, the follow-up series to Sheriff of Cochise. Marshal Frank Morgan (John Bromfield) escorts a convict to the death house, but complications arise. The hook? The convict is played by a young Jack Lord, who'd later star in Stoney Burke and, of course, Hawaii 5-0. Amazingly, Lord looked the same in 1958 as he would when 5-0 bowed 10 years later.

Ratings:

U. S. Marshal--B.
Lone Ranger---A.

2 comments:

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

During my convalescence, my mother and I would sit down and watch The Lone Ranger reruns until our butts were comfortably numb from all the couch-sitting. She is a huge fan of the Ranger, and for reasons I still can't fathom doesn't mind the cookie-cutter formula of the show although she'll bitch to no end about it on other programs.

Mohr's narration would also produce a case of the giggles between Mom and I--particularly when he utters the word "fabulous." Can't explain why we find this so rib-tickling...I guess it's just a silly case of mind.

hobbyfan said...

Well, I gotta be honest with you, Ivan. Hearing Mohr's narration on the DVD was actually the first time I even knew about it. When I watched the Lone Ranger in syndication in the 70's, and on the other DVD compilation I have, the intro had always been the one read by Fred Foy, the same one that had been used on radio.

I remember listening to those old radio dramas when they were picked up by a local radio station in the 70's. Coupled with the syndicated repeats of the TV show, that's what got me interested in the Ranger and oldies in general.