‘The Lone Ranger’: How Clayton Moore Made the ‘Masked Man’ a Western Legend

by Joe Rutland
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Clayton Moore was “The Lone Ranger.” If you try and tell fans of the classic TV show otherwise, then you might have a fight.

Moore, who played the “Masked Man” on the ABC western, would make that character so indelible in the minds of people all over the world. “The Lone Ranger” had its start on radio, but once it moved onto television then Moore became the character.

Actor John Hart played him for one season. He didn’t impress fans and they wanted Moore back after he left over a dispute with producers. Moore returned to entrench himself as that character.

What role did he have in making this such an iconic Western legend? For starters, Moore, who had been a stuntman in movies, had a presence on the TV screen. Second, Clayton Moore always loved going out to conventions and fan-fests dressed up as “The Lone Ranger.”

‘The Lone Ranger’ Star Wanted To Follow In Footsteps Of Movie Cowboys

‘”I would give anything to be up there on the screen with Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, George O’Brien, William S. Hart, Harry Carey Sr., so many wonderful cowboy heroes,” Moore wrote in his 1996 autobiography, “I Was That Masked Man.” “Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said either, ‘I want to be a policeman,’ or ‘I want to be a cowboy.'”

He even refused to go out in public without wearing the character’s patented mask, according to an article from The New York Times.

In 1979, a company that had bought the rights to “The Lone Ranger” from creator George Trendle in 1954 asked Moore to stop wearing the mask. Moore flat-out refused.

“This country needs heroes, and there aren’t many left,” Moore said at the time. “For many Americans, the Lone Ranger is a hero, and people don’t want to see their heroes shot down.” The Wrather Corporation got a restraining order, forcing Moore to relinquish the mask for mask-like sunglasses.

Moore Relinquishes Wearing Character’s Mask, But Gets It Back

They wanted to do a movie called “The Legend of The Lone Ranger” with a younger actor. The movie bombed, losing $11 million at the box office. Well, the corporation dropped its restraining order in 1984 and let Moore wear the mask again.

It made Moore’s day.

“It’s my symbol, it’s the Lone Ranger, and if I may say, it’s Americana,” Moore said. “I guess when I go up to the big ranch in the sky, I’ll still have it on.”

Moore died on Dec. 28, 1999, at 85 years old. But “The Lone Ranger” lives on. He made sure the legend and legacy of the “Masked Man” would do so.

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