Paladin wasn’t only the freelance knight that became a legend in the Old West.
On September 14, the premiere of CBS’ Have Gun – Will Travel, Clayton Moore was born. Then, on September 15, the 35-year-old actor wore the white hat and became a symbolic icon as The Lone Ranger.
Airing on ABC from 1949 to 1957, the series followed Moore as the masked rider, the masked deputy, the avenger. With his faithful Indian companion and friend Tonto (Jay Silverheels), the daring and resourceful Ranger led the good fight for law and order in the early days of the American West: riding the plains to dispense justice against thievery, greed, oppression and corruption.
Lasting five seasons over the course of eight years and 221 episodes, the half-hour Western was a Thursday favorite: spawning two big-screen movies with Moore and Silverheels. The Lone Ranger led the way as the first of ABC’s “Masks” of justice alongside Guy Williams as Zorro (1957-59), Adam West as Batman (1966-68), and Van Williams as The Green Hornet (1966-67) with Bruce Lee as his kung-fu aide Kato. The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet are both related, with the Hornet as the Ranger’s grand-nephew.
In 1952, John Hart – who made two guest appearances – took over the role of the Ranger, but lasted one season, and Moore returned to the role a year later in 1954 and continued until the series ended.
The Lone Ranger served as the inspiration for ABC’s Hardcastle & McCormick (1983-86) with Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly, CBS’ Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-2001) with Chuck Norris, and Netflix’s Longmire (2012-17) with Robert Taylor as the titular sheriff of Wyoming.
If Paladin of Have Gun – Will Travel was the dark knight of the Old West, then that definitely makes The Lone Ranger the white knight: using silver bullets as his calling card.
His face and mask may be unknown, but one can never find a greater champion of justice.
Hi-Yo, Silver! The Lone Ranger Rides Again!