Friday, September 20, 2013

Old Filth, by Jane Gardam

I don’t know how anyone can resist a novel called Old Filth… and of the 60 or so books I’ve read so far this year, Jane Gardam’s novel is easily the one that I have loved the most.  Old Filth is a novel of great wit, warmth and humor, as well as a deft psychological portrait of a man and a kaleidoscopic view of his era.  It is a novel to savor and reread.

Old Filth is Sir Edward Feathers, who coined the acronym FILTH from his own experience: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong.  Feathers is a child of the now vanished Empire: he was born Malaya, to a mother who dies days later of puerperal fever.  He spends the first four and a half years of his life raised among the native peoples, shunned by his father, an overworked, alcoholic colonial administrator still recovering from the Great War.  Finally, a Baptist missionary persuades the father to send his son back to England, as is the custom, both to fend off tropical diseases and to educate the next generation of the Empire’s loyal servants. Eddie and his two “Raj orphan” cousins wind up in Wales, at the bleak house of their foster parents, Ma and Pa Didds.

What follows next are Filth’s years among unloving aunts, the usual joys and sorrows of an all-boys public school, and his father’s frantic efforts to get him (now almost 18) out of England before the start of World War II.  We also watch Filth’s growing friendship with the Ingoldsby family, which suffers terribly during the war, and whose members leave an indelible impression on Filth.

The book also touches upon Betty, Filth’s sainted wife, who may (or may not) have had an affair with his longstanding criminal court adversary, Terry Verneering, as well as the friendship he forges with his old rival late in life.

If this brief summary makes Old Filth sound like a Dickensian account of suffering populated by colorful characters, I’ve done the job poorly.  Or, at any rate, only half right.  Old Filth is indeed Dickensian, and is certainly populated with colorful characters.  But while there is indeed a thread of melancholy in the book, it is also fabulously funny and warm – two other traits that must be remembered when labeling a book Dickensian.

Filth – who is a model of impeccably-turned-out mid-century English decorum and style – may be a figure of fun to millennial Brits, but he is no clownish buffoon.  Gardam writes movingly about a man whose world has passed him by; most of the comedy in Old Filth is in Filth trying to navigate a world he no longer understands nor likes.  (Perhaps my love for both the book and its titular hero has more than a touch of self identification … but I leave that for another time.)  Here, for example, is Filth at a church into which he wandered during a road trip soon after the death of this wife.  Childless, he runs hand over a cherub before being interrupted by a priest:

The air of the church came alive for a moment as the baize door opened and shut, and a curly boy came springing down the aisle.  He wore a clerical collar and jeans.  “Good afternoon,” he cried.  “So sorry I’m rather late.  You’re wanting me to hear your confession?”


“Saturday afternoons.  Confessions.  St. Trebizond’s.  Half a mo’ while I put my cassock on.”

He ran past the weeping pile and disappeared into the vestry, emerging at once struggling into a cassock.  He hurried into something like a varnished sedan chair which stood beside the rude screen, and clicked shut its door.  The silence resumed.

Filth at once turned and made to walk out of the church, clearing his throat with a judicial roar.

He looked back.  The sedan chair watched him.  There was a grille of little holes at waist level and he imagined the boy priest resting his head near it on the inside.

It would be rather discourteous just to leave the church.

Filth might go over and say, “Very low-church, I’m afraid.  Not used to this particular practice though my wife was interested…”

He walked back to the sedan chair, leaned down and said, “Hullo?  Vicar?”

A crackling noise.  Like eating potato crisps.

“Vicar?  I beg your pardon?”

No reply.  All was hermetically sealed within except for the grille.  Really quite dangerous.

He creaked down to his knees to a hassock and put his face to the grille.  Nothing happened.  The boy must have fallen asleep.

“Excuse me Vicar.  I’m afraid I don’t go in for this.  I have nothing to confess.”

“A very rash statement,” snarled a horrendous voice – there must be some amplifier.

Filth jumped as if he’d put his ear to an eclectic fence.

“How long, my son, since your last confession?”

“I’ve –” (his son!) “—I’ve never made a confession in my life. I’ve heard plenty.  I’m a Q. C.”

There was a snuffling sound.

“But you are in some trouble?”

Filth bowed his head.

“Begin.  Go on.  ‘Father I have sinned.’  Don’t be afraid.”

Filth’s ragged old logical mind was not used to commands.

“I’m afraid I don’t at the moment feel sinful at all.  I am more sinned against than singer.  I am able to think only of my dear dead wife.  She was in the Telegraph this morning.  Her obituary.”  Then he thought: I am not telling the truth.  “And I am unable to understand the strange games my loss of her play with my behavior.”

Why tell this baby?  Can’t be much over thirty.  Well, same age as Christ, I suppose.  If Christ were inside this box…A great and astounding longing fell upon Filth, the longing of a poet, the deep perfect adoring longing of a lover of Christ.  How did he come on to this?  This medieval, well of course, very primitive, love of Christ you read about?  Not my sort of thing at all.

“My son, were there any children in the marriage?”

“No.  We didn’t seem to need any.”

“That’s never the full answer.  I have to say that I saw you touching the anatomy of the cherubs on the Tytchley tomb.”

“You what?”

“Reveal all to me my son.  I can understand and help you.”

“Young man,” roared Filth through the grille.  “Go home.  Look to your calling.  I am one of Her Majesty’s Counselors and was once a Judge.”

“There is only one judge in the end,” said the voice. But Filth was in the car again and belting on past Saffron Walden.

Most readers on this side of the pond are unfamiliar with Jane Gardam (born 1928), and that is a great shame.  She has written both novels and children’s books, and has won the prestigious Whitbread Award twice.  She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2009, and continues to write well into her old age.  (In fact, recent years have seen her writing two sequels to Old Filth – both of which I intend to seek out.)

With the end of summer and the start of serious reading, you could do no better than Old Filth.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane

There are probably more rumors and tall tales about Michelangelo Merisi or Amerighi da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) than any other pre-modern artist.  Stories of his being everything from a highwayman and freebooter, to gay renegade and street fighter have made the rounds, and, really, after all this time, who can say for sure what story of his life is the truth?

Well … Andrew Graham-Dixon (born 1960) can.  In a book that took more than 10 years to write, Graham-Dixon was able to access criminal and city-records that had not been referenced before, and provide a more complete picture of this complex and brilliant painter than ever published before.

It is not an exaggeration to say in an age when brilliance was commonplace, Caravaggio changed the way people think of genius.  Born some 50 years after his namesake Michelangelo, Caravaggio came of age when the high ideals and artistic techniques of the High Renaissance had become stilted and ossified.  Bucking a near 100-year trend, Caravaggio sought not to move art forward, but to move it back to a more medieval ideal.  His goal was the meld the simple piety and poverty so closely aligned with the Middle Ages to the artistic techniques of chiaroscuro and perspective achieved in the Renaissance. 

Caravaggio painted not for the collector, but for the peasant.  His holy figures were visibly poor: weighted down by life and care, often barefoot and dirty, experiencing religious transcendence in usually grungy environments.  Paradoxically, the public by-and-large did not know what to make of his work, and it seemed to appeal best to such cultured aesthetes as Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577 – 1633), nephew of the Pope and noted art collector.

What kind of man was Caravaggio?  Well, as an artist, no one could touch him.  As a human being, no one wanted to touch him.  Though roughly born, he had pretentions to the purple – this left him so prideful that he resorted to fists, knives or swords if he thought his pride was insulted.  His adolescent studio-aide was probably his lover, and Caravaggio seems to have abandoned the moment it was convenient for him; finally he murdered a man in a duel, probably involving prostitutes.  He fawned before the great and powerful, and often repaid them with bad behavior, and he spent enough time in prison to qualify as a rock star.

But… well, yes… but.  Caravaggio’s pictures are unlike any other painted in his era.  His figures are often in dramatic close-up, the light source unknown.  And where most Baroque painters reveled in brilliant coloration and fantastic scenes of heavenly beauty, Caravaggio’s palette consisted mostly of earth-tones and his saints were very earth-bound indeed.  What Caravaggio had that many artists of his era did not have was a true sense of Catholic suffering and an almost primal religious ecstasy.  That this ecstasy was so closely associated, in his mind and in his work, with pain is one of the many things that make his work touch the mystery of religion.

In short, Caravaggio’s sensibility was both “sacred and profane.”  As chronicled by Grahman-Dixon, Caravaggio’s life was always balanced between acts of brutality and ugliness and the creation of deeply felt art.  Critic and historian Robert Hughes (1938-2012) has called Graham-Dixon “the most gifted art critic of his generation,” and this book alone would be enough to cement that reputation.

The historical research on view here is remarkable; but not more so than Graham-Dixon’s work in making it accessible and sensible to the modern reader.  Moreover, he parts company with contemporary critics who seek to align Caravaggio to more modern sensibilities by underscoring how completely alien to our frame of reference Caravaggio’s historical moment actually was.  Finally, he is not afraid to use deductive reasoning to connect recently unearthed facts to make a case for the most probable sequence of events of several of the most significant moments in the artist’s life, including the murderous duel that marked his downfall.

More importantly, few writers look at, and understand, pictures better than Graham-Dixon.  His explanations and explications of Caravaggio’s oeuvre are masterful.  If you are to read only one book about this fascinating, divisive and strangely contemporary painter, make is Andrew Grahman-Dixon’s Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Salon Thursdays at the Dahesh

It looks like the season has started – we just received word from the Dahesh Museum of Art Gift Shop with the schedule of their third season of Salon Thursdays.  These wonderful events are completely free to the public, and start at 6:30 PM.  They are conducted in the lovely gift shop itself, located at 145 Sixth Avenue, on the corner of Dominick Street, one block south of Spring Street.  The events are wheelchair accessible.

Since opening its richly appointed gift shop in 2012, the Dahesh has used the new location as a home for Salon Thursdays lectures, featuring both history and insight from leading arts scholars.   Attendees can also look through the new store, which includes beautiful things for the home, reproduction prints and posters, and an impressive collection of scholarly books on the Classical tradition.

The 2013 Autumn/Winter Salon Thursdays looks as if the new season is even more ambitious than the last.  Next on the calendar are:

Thursday, October 3: Exhibiting Biblical Art in the Age of Spectacle -- In recent years, the idea that modernity is defined by secularity has begun to break down. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the continued relevance of religious subject matter in modern art, but also in the relationship between religion and the practices of exhibition. Using examples like the World’s Fairs, Holy Land reconstructions, and the evolution of the modern gallery, Sarah Schaefer explores the ways in which religion and exhibition have informed each in the past two centuries.

Sarah Schaefer is a PhD Candidate in Art History at Columbia University, and a Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 2013-2014 academic year. She previously worked at the Morgan Library and Museum, and has presented her work in New York, Los Angeles, England, and Germany. Her dissertation examines the biblical art of Gustave Doré, arguing that these images were significant for negotiating modern forms of biblical representation.

Thursday, November 7:  Seeing through Paintings -- How does one restore an art work from the damages of time or natural disaster?  How can collectors distinguish a real work of art from a fake?  Artists, collectors, museums, and galleries often call on conservator Rustin Levenson. Find out what she does and how she does it during her illustrated talk, and stay for a book signing.

Rustin Levenson is the President and Founder of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates of New York and Miami: she has B.A. Wellesley College; a Diploma in Paintings Conservation, Fogg Art Museum, and Harvard University. She served on the Conservation staff of the Fogg Museum (1969-1973), the Canadian Conservation Institute (1973-1974); The National Gallery of Canada (1974-1977); and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1977-1980). She has co-written with art historian, Andrea Kirsh, Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies and written chapters for The Expert vs. the Object.

December 5:  The Other Orient: China in the Nineteenth Century -- If China had represented the “Orient” in the eighteenth century, the Islamic world usurped that role in the nineteenth. But, throughout the nineteenth century, the interest in China and Chinese art remained vivid, yet the meaning they held for the West changed. This changed meaning, in the larger context of nineteenth-century Orientalism, is the focus an illustrated lecture by the distinguished scholar Dr. Petra Chu, PhD.

Petra Ten-Doesschate Chu, PhD is Professor of Art history and Museum Studies at Seton Hall University where she co-Founded and directed the MA Program in Museum Professions., She has two doctorates one from Columbia University, NY and the other from Utrecht University, Holland. The recipient of numerous fellowship and awards, and was most recently named a Fellow Getty Research Institute. She helped found and served as Managing Editor for Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide ( and was the president and board member of the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art.  Among her many publications,  Twenty-First-Century Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Art  (co-edited with Laurinda S.Dixon) is considered a landmark in art history.

Your correspondent is a great believer in the Dahesh and its mission.  It is the only institution in the United States devoted to academic art of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The genesis of the collection was assembled by Salim Moussa Achi (1909-1948), who envisioned a museum of academic European art.  Perhaps one day the dream will become a reality once again.  For the past several years the Dahesh has been a museum without walls, as significant portions of this important collection have traveled the world in various shows and exhibitions.  In conjunction with the new store location, the Dahesh has completely revamped their Web site, and readers are urged to visit it to learn about the collection and travelling shows:  For further details about Salon Thursdays and the gift shop, call the Dahesh at 212.759.0606.

Friday, September 13, 2013


A Legend Learns His Lines

The following is the third and final part of our three-part interview with television Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore (1914-1999), who played part on television from 1949 to 1957;  I originally conducted this interview more than 15 years ago, when Moore released his autobiography, I Was That Masked Man (1996).  Since its initial magazine publication, the interview has been buried in my files.  Enjoy.

James Abbott

Jay Silverheels was always so impressive in the part of Tonto….

Tonto seemed commanding and intelligent because Jay was that way himself.  Jay was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian, and they are a very impressive people.

As our friendship grew, Jay made me a blood brother in the Six Nations tribe.  The ceremony was up in Syracuse, New York in the mid 1950s.  It was a very solemn ceremony and it's something I'll never forget. 
I miss Jay Silverheels a lot.  We had a bond of friendship from the moment we formally met in George W. Trendle's office till the day he died.

Did you do any special preparation for playing the Lone Ranger?

They wanted me to lower my voice as much as I possibly could.  Brace Beemer was the radio Lone Ranger, and his voice had a terrific quality.  I did a great deal of vocal training to bring it down... if you listen to me in my earlier pictures and then hear me as the Lone Ranger you'll hear that my voice is very different. 

Could you tell us about your one year hiatus from the show?

I was replaced by John Hart, a great actor and an awfully nice fellow.  

While John did The Lone Ranger for a year, I played some villains at Republic and also played Buffalo Bill in Buffalo Bill in Tomahawk Territory.  I  never knew why they replaced me for a year, and never knew why they asked me back.

I enjoyed playing good guys and bad guys, of course I prefer the good guys.  Especially the good guy in the white hat... When I came back to the Ranger, I sure was glad to return.

Once you returned, was the Ranger different in any way to you?

Yes.  There's a clear difference between just playing a part and inhabiting a role.  The Lone Ranger offered me more than just a part to play, it was an ideal that I could live up to.  And while kids around the country were working hard to have the same ideals and virtues as the Lone Ranger, I was working just as hard to have them myself.  It helped give me a code of ethics.

I knew his characterization, a champion of justice, of law and order, of fair play.  I thought about him just the same way I had as a young man, and I had found the part that I wanted to play.

When the show finally drew to a close years later, I went around the country making personal appearances and toured all over the United States to keep the Lone Ranger right up on top.  I even went to England around 1958, and the youngsters over there were just as impressed by what the Ranger stands for as were American kids.

There has been a lot of interest again in the Ranger and the ideals he represents.  Do you think we need the Lone Ranger now more than ever before?

Absolutely.  I have a lot of faith in the character of the Lone Ranger and what he stands for.  I've backed out of things, like beer commercials, because I wanted to keep his integrity.  There is still many things he can teach us.  If kids are shaped by outside forces, I was determined that my influence, however small, would be positive, always.

Could you tell us a little about your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

That was an exciting day, and a great honor.  My star reads "Clayton Moore, The Lone Ranger."  I'm the only person on the Walk of Fame who is coupled with the name of his character.  In 1987 a radio announcer named Rick Dees had learned that I didn't have a star and mounted a campaign to get me one.  He sent a petition to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and it worked. 

You also had one or two brushes with real-life crime?

My father's office was across the street from Al Capone's headquarters!  More interesting is something that happened in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1986 when I was making a personal appearance.  I had just finished my performance and left without getting out of costume.  My wife and I were driving home when I saw an overturned motorcycle.  My wife was a registered nurse and we stopped to see if we could help.  She went to the injured man and told him to open his eyes and tell us what he saw.  He opened his eyes, looked at me, and said:  "The Lone Ranger?"  We laughed a little with relief.  I kept things moving to protect the boy by directing traffic.

You seem to be as heroic as the Lone Ranger!

(Laughs.)  No, but my fellow man means a great deal to me.

What are your plans for the future and how is your book, I Was That Masked Man, doing?

My plans for my future are to continue to live the Lone Ranger creed for the rest of my life.  And thanks for asking, the book is doing well!

You had mentioned the Lone Ranger's creed before.  Could you tell us about it?

I'll do better than that, I'll tell it to you.  This creed was written by the Ranger's creators, Fran Striker and George W. Trendle.  It goes like this:  "I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.  That all men are created equal, and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.  That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself.  In being prepared physically, mentally and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.  That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.  That this government -- of the people, by the people and for the people -- shall live always.  That men should live by the rule of what is best of the greatest number.  That sooner or later -- somewhere, somehow -- we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken.  That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.  In my Creator, my country, and my fellow man."

That's the Lone Ranger's creed, and that's how I try to live.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Clayton Moore And The Great Horse Silver!

The following is the second part of our three-part interview with television Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore (1914-1999), who played part on television from 1949 to 1957;  I originally conducted this interview more than 15 years ago, when Moore released his autobiography, I Was That Masked Man (1996).  Since its initial magazine publication, the interview has been buried in my files.  Here is the second of three parts.
James Abbott

In fact you starred in one the of finest serials ever made, Perils of Nyoka.

Perils of Nyoka, with Kay Aldrige, directed by William Whitney.  That was a learning experience, I can tell you.  Nyoka helped me in my career a great deal; what with some of the stunt work I did on the picture and the good part, I got a lot of notice on the lot.  And the kids liked it.  People still come up to me today and mention that one... although they're now only kids at heart!

Did you do a lot of your own stunts for Nyoka?

I did most of them.  I did have an excellent stunt double, though, a man by the name of David Sharpe.  He was a well-known stunt double at the time, and we got to be the best of friends.  David was one of the people that I was closest to in Hollywood.  There wasn't anything he couldn't do!

 I also met stuntman Tom Steele on Nyoka.  Tom taught me a lot about horses, crouper mounts, running-start mounts, everything.  I used all of this when I became the Lone Ranger.

Would you say that many of your closest friends were the stunt people?

Actors and some of the stunt men.  I worked with dozens and dozens of actors and just as many stunt men.  I got real friendly with the stunt people because I thought they got to have a lot of the fun on these pictures, too.  I liked to do as much as I could myself, but when there was something I couldn't have done or shouldn't have done, the stunt people were always there.  They helped make us look good, and I was always grateful to them.  We all enjoyed our work together and had a great time back in the early days of the serial business.

Now you cut quite an impressive figure in the serials, particularly in Zorro...

Yes, I did The Ghost of Zorro.  I'll tell you something about that picture, I almost had a bad accident while making it.  In one chapter a door was set to explode.  They had a safe charge of dynamite planted, but they let it sit too long and it got stronger, which dynamite does.  When the charge went off the door got awfully close to my head, another inch and my head would've gone with it.  I also accidentally knocked-out my pal Tom Steele during a staged fight.  He was out for about 20 seconds.

Funny thing, I didn't know they had dubbed my voice when I was disguised as Zorro until I saw it a few years ago on video.  I don't know why, I did a lot of character parts and got to change my voice a lot when I played the Ranger in his disguises.  But that's not my voice as Zorro.

That was the picture that George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the producer and writer of the The Lone Ranger radio show, saw that helped them consider me for the part of the Lone Ranger.

Tell us of that initial meeting with Trendle and Striker?

An agent named Antrim Short suggested me to Mr. Trendle and Mr. Striker when they were casting around for the part.  When they set up a meeting with me, I was nervous.  I hadn't prepared a monologue and I didn't know what they would expect of me.  We had a long conversation, we didn't even talk about the Ranger much.  But Mr. Trendle and Mr. Striker would look at one-another every now and then.  When the meeting was over, Mr. Trendle asked me if I would like the part of the Lone Ranger.  I looked him right in the eye and said, "Mr. Trendle, I am the Lone Ranger."  In the next instant, he said I had the job.

The Lone Ranger radio program had started in 1933.  Had you been a fan of the show?

It originated from WXYZ in Detroit!  I listened to the Lone Ranger radio show with my father, Thursday evenings at 7:30, I believe.  You know, that's going back quite a bit; I'm pushing 83, you know.

Did you have any idea how the Ranger would change your life?  Or was it just another part?

No, it was just another job after Republic Studios.  I didn't realize that it would develop into a phenomenon like the radio show.  Television was a very new medium... and it was pretty much an experiment for us.  We didn't know if it would last. I ended up making a 169 television episodes of The Lone Ranger, and two feature-length motion pictures!

Do you have particular memories of George W. Trendle?

Excellent producer and a real nice man to talk with.  He wanted things done his way, though.  He had approved all the scripts before we shot them, and he had a man on the set making sure that we said everything word-for-word, as written.  Now, when you had a writer like Fran Striker, the other man who created the Ranger along with Trendle, that wasn't all that hard.  But that doesn't mean it was always easy!  You couldn't play around with a line or try and make it work better for you.

Striker was terrific.  When he wrote the Ranger stories, it was like he was creating a classic American myth.  When the Ranger was on the scene, the ground shook.  And he was careful to keep the Ranger true to his code of ethics.  I think the reason the Lone Ranger is still remembered today is because of the conviction that George Trendle and Fran Striker held onto when they created him.

Could you tell us a little about the early days of the show?

We shot three episodes a week, one every two days.  We'd shoot eight to ten episodes at a time and then lay off for a week, a week and a half to let Fran and the other writers have the opportunity to create more shows.  It was a lot of work, believe me, but Jay and I enjoyed it.  As a matter of fact, I'd like to take a moment to talk about Jay Silverheels.


Jay was a wonderful friend.  He was born on the Six Nations Reservation up in Brantford, Canada.  When he was a little guy he came to the United States of America and made this country his home.  Jay was a great athlete and a fine actor who was very proud of the Indian people. 

We had actually appeared in a scene together in a film before The Lone Ranger.  You can see us both in a Gene Autry picture called The Cowboy and the Indians.  If you look close you can see me in the background while Jay plays his scene with Gene Autry.  It was only after we had done The Lone Ranger for a few years did we realize we had worked together before!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Clayton Moore -- AKA The Lone Ranger -- And His Fan Base

Welcome back to The Jade Sphinx – we took a short hiatus at the end of the summer and have returned for what is, I hope, the start of an interesting Fall Season.

First up, a special treat for Jade Sphinx readers – an interview with Clayton Moore (1914-1999), who played The Lone Ranger on television from 1949 to 1957;  I originally conducted this interview more than 15 years ago, when Moore released his autobiography, I Was That Masked Man (1996).  Since its initial magazine publication, the interview has been buried in my files.  Here is the first of three parts.

James Abbott

Actor Clayton Moore was forever changed by a part he played.

When offered the part of the Lone Ranger in 1949, television's first western program, to Moore it was just another heroic role, much like the heroes he had played in the classic Republic serials.

But it changed him.

After a brief hiatus from the part, he returned to it with a renewed appreciation.  He had remembered listening to The Lone Ranger with his father in his native Chicago, and as he began to explore who the Lone Ranger was and what he represented, he realized that the Lone Ranger was more than a character for an actor to play.  To Moore, the Ranger came to embody a way of living and thinking, of realizing the heroism inherent in every man.  And as he grew more and more into the role, the Lone Ranger became a larger part of his life.

Clayton Moore has succeeded in a life well-lived.  The line between this modest actor and the cowboy hero is a thin one:  Clayton Moore is the Lone Ranger.

 Moore has compiled his many adventures in his new autobiography, I Was That Masked Man, which he wrote with Frank Thompson.  Still energetic, unfailingly courteous and stalwart as ever, Mr. Moore has been making appearances at book signings throughout California.  Fans young and old meet him with hushed awe, only to be relaxed by Moore's easy-going charm. 
We honored to have caught up with him at a recent book signing. 

I understand that during your boyhood you wanted to be either a cowboy or a policeman?

Yes.  When I was a kid I was just in awe of men like Tom Mix and William S. Hart.  When my friends and I would go to the movies, it was Westerns that we wanted to see.  There was just something about it, riding the range and living in the West, that excited me.  After the movies we kids would play cowboys and Indians and I always wanted to play the hero.

I thought being a policeman would be the closest I would come to being a Western lawman... so I'm glad I grew up to become the Lone Ranger, because I really got to be both a cowboy and a policeman!

Tell us a little bit about your boyhood?

I had a real nice childhood with my family and my brothers.  My father was quite a hunter, liked duck hunting and geese hunting and pheasant hunting, so we were well brought up in all the stages of duck hunting and all the fun things like that when we were kids.  We lived in Chicago, but we went away every summer and that's where I got my love of the outdoors.

Were you a very athletic child?

Yes, yes.  I had a good athletic training in the old Illinois Athletic Club in Chicago.  One day I was doing some acrobatic work and Johnny Behr saw me.  He asked me if I wanted to try the trapeze and I found I had a real knack for it.  He thought we had the making of an act and we started working on that.

Was being an acrobat your first brush with show business?

Yes, that's correct.  We asked some friends to join us and we were called the Flying Behrs.  We played a lot in the Chicago area, and we even performed in the 1934 World's Fair.

When did you realize that acrobatics might not have been for you?

We started doing stunts an the trampoline as well.  I landed wrong during a workout and bounced off the side of the trampoline, hurting my knee.  Then I starting to think that acting might be safer.

What did you do next?

I did some modeling work with the Robert John Powers Agency in New York.  My older brother Sprague had been modeling for local newspapers and catalogues.  I modeled for a time in Chicago and then went to New York to get acting experience.  It was a fine way to make a living, but not what I wanted.  I didn't think I was doing what I wanted in New York so opted for California to fulfill my life's dream, to be a movie cowboy.  That's what I wanted to be!

I headed for Los Angeles in 1937 and soon got into some pictures.

Once you got to Hollywood you worked with people like Rowland V. Lee?

Rowland V. Lee directed the Son of Monte Cristo.  He was a very nice man to work with and an excellent director.  He stood up for his actors and helped them get a handle on their roles.  It was a very relaxed set and that was a fun picture to work on. 

You also worked with Bela Lugosi?

He and I worked together in Black Dragons.  I tell you, I had a good education at Monogram and Republic Studios working with people like that.  Lugosi seemed a little shy, he would stay in his dressing room most of the time.  I don't think he was stand-offish, just shy.  When the camera was on, though, he was letter perfect.  He had a way with dialogue that was special.  I never worked with anyone like him.

 All those serials and programmers were real work, they put you through the ropes and made an actor out of you.  I'm happy to say that some people considered me to be the King of the Serials, so I like to think that I made good!

More Clayton Moore Tomorrow!