Return with us now to those...

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Return with us now to those...

The heads of George Clooney and Johnny Depp PhotoShopped onto the bodies of Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

...thrilling days of yester­year as "The Lone Ranger" rides again!

The catch is that we'll have to wait 'til June 2013!

This one has been long in the offing, and 3½ years ago this nightmare of a Photo­Shopped image1 of George Clooney and Johnny Depp was making the rounds and causing much angst among fans of Fran Striker's famed radio character of our youth.

(Striker also created for radio "The Green Hornet" and as cognoscenti are aware, there is a blood relation­ship between the two characters.)

I wasn't a huge fan of the radio show2 so much as I was of the famous and rousing theme music by Gioachino Rossini. If the narrated introduction...

"A fiery horse with the speed of light! A cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi-Yo, Silver!' The Lone Ranger!"

...grabbed my pre-adolescent attention, it was the finale of the William Tell Overture that always nailed it for me.

It was that way in 1981 when my daughter and I saw "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" at the Southampton UA.

This was a much-delayed film with poor word-of-mouth, and as the film unspooled I was certainly underwhelmed. The narrative was pretty close to Striker's original mythos: a troop of six Texas Rangers pursue outlaw Butch Caven­dish and are ambushed by Cavendish's Hole-in-the-Wall gang at Bryant's Gap.

Outnumbered 35-to-six, the lawmen, including their Captain, Dan Reid and his younger brother John, are left for dead.

However, Potawatomi nation Native American "Tonto," back in the time when it was okay to refer to him as "an Indian," discovered that John Reid still lived, barely, and nursed him through his near-death experience.

When young "John" regained enough strength to ask about his companions, "Tonto" uttered the fateful words:

"Others dead... you... lone ranger now."

Digging six graves to make Cavendish think there were no survivors of the deadly ambush, "the masked man and his faithful Indian companion" hit the trail to right injus­tice everywhere!

I was semi-contentedly going along with the film, flaws and all, when "The Lone Ranger" vaults onto the back of "the great horse Silver" and takes off at a full gallop as the celebrated music hits the soundtrack like a clap of thunder, and I found myself levitated from my seat, thrilling at the sequence3.

"Dad!" a mortified 15-year old Peggy hissed with urgency. "Dad, sit down!"

I almost couldn't, then managed to compose myself and sit back in my seat... but not before I noticed that I had not been alone!

There we were, a tiny 40-something band of brothers, momentarily transported back to our youths, huddled up to a little radio for our thrice-weekly broadcasts.

(I've been told that my own radio review of that movie to the accompaniment of Rossini's best-known passage, was a memorable one.)

In truth, while it didn't fulfill the promise of its outstand­ing trailer, that movie holds a special place in my heart just for that moment, #1, and, #2, I've never felt that it was the wretched waste of celluloid critics generally accorded it.

Although it was the only role Klinton Spilsbury ever por­trayed, he looked the part even if the producers rushed actor James Keech in to dub all the man's dialogue4.

("Tonto" was played by Yaqui-Mescalero Apache-Zuni Indian actor Michael Horse, better remembered as "Deputy 'Hawk'" in "Twin Peaks.")

Comes next year a new interpretation of this uniquely American mythos, and the photo released today of Johnny Depp as "Tonto" and Arnie Hammer as "The Masked Man," looks promising...

Johnny Depp and Arnie Hammer as The Masked Rider of the Plains and his faithful Indian companion.

...but for the fact that it's a Jerry Bruckheimer production, a man with considerable success making formulaic films and television series of inconsistent quality.

For every "Black Hawk Down," there've been too many like "Pearl Harbor" and TV's "The Amazing Race," so I'm holding my breath.

The fact that neither Fran Striker nor original producer George W. Trendle are in the current list of credits, how­ever, gives me serious pause.

  1. Depp's oversized "Tonto" head on Jay Silverheels' body is a clue.
  2. Direct from Station WXYZ in Detroit, three evenings a week right after Gabriel Heatter and the News.
  3. 31 years later I still shiver in delight remembering that moment!
  4. Just as producers had done with actress Andie Mac­Dowell in "Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes," bringing in Glenn Close to dub all of her lines in post-production. For five years afterward, MacDowell was "untouchable."


1. Crabby said...

They're losing me with the clean hat, starched white collar and suit, worn under a greasy black sweat bandana on the Lone Ranger's neck; accompanied by lily white hands?


2. Hampton West said...

Any opinion on movies like the Charlie Chan series or the TV's Amos 'n' Andy? As a kid I always thought Charlie Chan was a smart sharp guy (even if played by Sidney Toler or Warner Oland) and while watching the TV "Amos 'n' Andy" I recall that the characters were all professionals, i.e. owners of a cab service, nurse, accountant, lawyer, etc. Were they really racist?

By today's "pc" standards, sure... but while I was neevr a fan of the radio or television "Amos 'n' Andy" shows, as a child of the '40s and the TV in the early '50s, I loved the Chan movies. (But then, I'm an unabashed "B" flicks aficionado!)

I didn't much care for the Roland Winters version (he played the character in the final six low budget Monogram flicks) and had no favorite between the other two. But I loved Mantan Moreland's "Birmingham Brown" character in 15 of the series made between 1944 and 1949. He was a funny, funny fellow even without his "feets don't fail me now" routine, and it's sad that today's Political Correctitude has pretty much kept films with Moreland, Willie "Sleep n' Eat" Best and Ben Carter from being shown any longer.

(Carter's and Moreland's celebrated "unfinished sentences" routines.)

Back to Winters for a moment: he resided for a time out in Greenport, and was cast in the three-part television movie of Dashiell Hammett's "The Dain Curse", actually filmed in Greenport and on Shelter Island. The name of his character was "Hubert Collinson." Hammett's early pen name was "Peter Collinson."

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