The Lone Ranger was a popular radio drama set in the Old West. It followed the story of a man named Reid (no first name given although later interpretations favored the name “John”), the last survivor of an attack on him and his fellow Texas Rangers. Reid’s brother Dan Reid was also killed but Reid was saved by Tonto, a…don’t yell at me, it’s the word they used back then…Indian whose life Reid had saved as a boy. Now both men the two form a friendship and Reid decided to pursue the gang that attacked them, donning the mask of the Lone Ranger. And then he decided to keep fighting crime, the mask sometimes getting him into trouble since usually it’s the bad guys who wear masks. He is also the ancestor of the Green Hornet, since they had the same creator although both properties were sold to different people and thus the connection has been lost to time.
The characters were popular enough that numerous interpretations exist, some more faithful than others. Serials, comics, cartoons, and various live-action interpretations followed, the most famous of which being the TV series that can still be found on TV on various retro channels. Clayton Moore (replaced for one season) was the man in the mask and there’s a long history there involving his trying to wear the mask at events. Jay Silverheels, an actual Native American, portrayed Tonto throughout the series. Two cartoons were produced, including one in 1966 that ran for three seasons and tonight’s showcase, Filmation’s The New Adventures Of The Lone Ranger. Because of course we’re going with Filmation.
Airing alongside Tarzan and later Zorro (I discussed the Tarzan version in a previous Saturday Night Showcase but I still can’t replace the video as of this writing), this take on the Lone Ranger starred famed actor William Conrad (who for some reason was credited as J. Darnoc) as the title hero, and his voice isn’t bad but it’s a huge difference from Moore or his sub, John Hart. Just like the live-action series however is the fact that an actual Native American, Ivan Naranjo, voiced Tonto. It’s an extra step that might not have been needed but it’s welcome just the same. In the first episode The Lone Ranger and Tonto, along with their famed horses Silver and Scout, come upon a mystery worthy of Scooby-Doo, complete with Frank Welker providing voices. I wonder if the whole series was like that?
Give Filmation credit. The Chinese aren’t depicted with the same stereotypes that you would see in Westerns from around the time, and one becoming foreman was surprisingly progressive. Classic Media’s “Retro Heroes” channel has some of the old live-action shows but this is the lone animated one and hopefully not the last.