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.
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.