Why, he’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ thanks to contestant Matt DeSanto on Friday’s Wheel of Fortune — and it only took him one vowel, according to The Huffington Post. DeSanto won the game with a record-breaking grand total of $91,892, KSN News Wichita tweeted.
The role of ‘The Lone Ranger’ will always belong to Clayton Moore, who passed away fifteen years ago Sunday on December 28, 1999. Born on September 14, 1914, Moore first donned the mask when The Lone Ranger premiered on ABC on September 15, 1949.
The story: six Texas Rangers were caught in an ambush by Butch Cavendish and his gang of outlaws; only one lone survivor remained. He was founded and nursed back to health by Tonto (Jay Silverheels), the Indian whose life was saved by ‘Kemosabe’ (‘trusty scout’) years ago as a child. One life was over, but a new life began, and a legend was born: the legend of a masked man who dedicates his life to honoring the memory of the Rangers who died at Bryant’s Gap by bringing law and order in the West against men like Cavendish.
He may be an outlaw to some people, but he stands for life, liberty, freedom, patriotism, fairness, equality, tolerance, peace, and truth. With Tonto as his loyal friend and partner, he rides on his trusty steed Silver as a champion of justice, a champion of the underdog, the classic ‘white hat’, the ultimate good guy, an American hero. But we called him ‘The Lone Ranger’.
Moore played the role for two years until he was replaced by actor John Hart for the 1952-53 season, but was back on the plains a year later at fans’ request to continue the fight for justice until ‘The Lone Ranger’ ended its run on ABC in 1957 after 221 episodes; the actor kept the mask on for two feature films.
The success of The Lone Ranger led to ABC to bring three other ‘masks’ for justice on television.
The first: Zorro, the predecessor of the Lone Ranger, aired from 1957 to 1959, followed by four one-hour specials between 1960 and 1961. The late Guy Williams, who guest-starred on ‘Ranger’, portrayed Diego de la Vega, the dashing gentleman who becomes a Spanish Robin Hood against tyranny, oppression, cruelty, greed, and corruption during the early days of Califorina.
The second: Batman, a more campy, over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek version of the Caped Crusader, aired from 1966 to 1968 with Adam West in the role. With Burt Ward as ‘Boy Wonder’ Robin, this ‘Dynamic Duo’ keeps Gotham City safe from the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman.
The third: The Green Hornet (1966-67), the descendant of the Lone Ranger, starred Van Williams as Britt Reid, owner/publisher of the Daily Sentinel who secretly hunts ‘the biggest game of all’: mobsters, corrupt cops, greedy businessman, amoral politicians, and so forth. To the underworld and the police, the Green Hornet is a dangerous criminal, but is actually on the side of justice alongside Kato (Bruce Lee), the black-clad kung-fu enforcer and driver of the Black Beauty.
The Lone Ranger even paved the way for the late Glen A. Larson to create Knight Rider (1982-86, NBC) with David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a cop reborn as ‘a young loner on a crusade who champions the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law’. With KITT as his trusty steed, Michael Knight sets out to prove that ‘one man can make a difference’.
And that is who and what the Lone Ranger will always be about: one man can make a difference.