September 14 (1914) is the birthday of Clayton Moore, the actor forever identified with the fictional Western character called the Lone Ranger.
He was born Jack Carlton Moore in Chicago. He graduated from Senn High School in Chicago, but at an early age he had begun performing as an acrobat. In 1934 he was in a trapeze act at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. As a young man the handsome Moore became a model for the John Robert Powers firm.
He moved to Hollywood in the late 1930s. Between modeling jobs he worked as a stunt man and a bit player in movies. About 1940 a producer persuaded him to adopt the first name “Clayton”. He got bigger parts in movies, mostly B Westerns, and even had leading roles.
Moore served in the U.S. Army Air Force in WWII and made training films.
In 1949 Moore starred in the movie serial “The Ghost of Zorro”. He caught the eye of George Trendle, the co-creator (with Fran Striker) and producer of the popular radio show “The Lone Ranger”, which had started in 1933. Trendle was going to start a television series featuring the same character. He hired Moore for the role.
Moore and co-star Jay Silverheels (a subject of a future Facebook post of mine) became the stars of the first Western written specifically for television. The show was hugely popular. The William Tell Overture (the cavalry charge portion) was picked as the theme music, and it became immediately recognizable and linked to the show. It was said for many years, “Can anyone hear the William Tell Overture and NOT think of the Lone Ranger?” I don’t know if that is still true or not for everyone, but it still holds true for me. The music was still used in the 2013 film “The Lone Ranger”.
Moore was replaced briefly by John Hart in the role of the Lone Ranger, in the third season, but no one remembers that. And Moore returned in the role after that. Moore starred in 169 of the 221 episodes in the series. It lasted from 1949 to 1957; reruns were sandwiched in between new episodes, by season.
Moore and Silverheels starred in two Lone Ranger movies: “The Lone Ranger” (1956) and “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” (1958).
Clayton Moore spent about 40 years in personal appearances, TV appearances, and commercials, appearing in costume as the Lone Ranger. He identified strongly with the character himself and tried to live up to the Lone Ranger’s creed, much like William Boyd identified with Hopalong Cassidy.
But so did the public. Although Moore made many movies and appeared in TV shows other than "The Lone Ranger", it is the Lone Ranger with whom he is indelibly identified in the public’s eye. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is labeled “Clayton Moore – The Lone Ranger”, the only person to be identified with the character he played (as of 2006 at least).
He was inducted into the Stuntman's Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1990 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.
Moore was married four times: 1940-1942 (divorced), 1943-1986 (her death), 1986-1989 (divorced), and 1992-1999 (his death).
He died on December 28, 1999, age 85.
This is a photo of Clayton Moore in the 1949 serial movie “The Ghost of Zorro”. It was Moore’s appearance in this movie that attracted the attention of producer George Trendle, who hired Moore to play the part of the Lone Ranger in the new TV series of that name. In the movie Moore often put on the Zorro costume – including a mask – to fight the bad guys.
The radio version of The Lone Ranger had been playing since January 30, 1933 on WXYZ in Detroit. The William Tell Overture was picked as the theme music because it was in the public domain and Trendle didn’t have to pay royalties to use it. (Trendle used The Flight of the Bumble Bee for the theme music of his show The Green Hornet for the same reason. And he used the overture to the opera Donna Diana for his Sergeant Preston of the Yukon series.)
Brace Beemer had been the voice of the Lone Ranger on radio, but Trendle picked the experienced and popular Western actor Moore to play the TV version of the Lone Ranger.
Most radio historians agree that Fred Foy’s introduction to The Lone Ranger is still the most recognized, most famous introduction to a program in the history of American radio. Although there were other, earlier announcers for the program and the introduction, it is Fred Foy who had the perfect voice and delivery for the assignment. He’s the one who made it famous.
His introduction includes the line, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”
YesterYEAR? Is that a real word? Well, after many decades I finally looked it up. Not in a dictionary at first. You know, that book that has definitions of words in it but which almost nobody uses anymore? No, I googled it. (Google has become a generic term like scotch tape, so you don’t capitalize it anymore.) Google did have a definition and for their example they used – ready for this? – that famous line from Fred Foy’s introduction!
What a hoot! As a writer I would love to create a character that became part of the culture, just as happened with the Lone Ranger. In this case an introduction to the character became part of the language!
Then I did look it up in a dictionary. “Yester” can be applied to any designation of time, like yesternight, yestermonth, etc. But no one does that. Only yesterday. And, because of the Lone Ranger, “yesteryear”.
Here’s the entire Lone Ranger introduction:
“Hi-Yo, Silver! A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty "Hi-Yo Silver"... The Lone Ranger! With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early Western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoof-beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!”
And if you would like to actually listen to Fred Foy’s introduction go to this link, interestingly enough on a Web site for Brace Beemer, the best-known voice of the Lone Ranger on radio:
The Lone Ranger rides again!