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.
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!