Here's a show from the background to our high school days, Bonanza. It starred, improbably, a Canadian radio announcer, the CBC's "Voice of Doom" from the war years, one Lorne Greene. Greene had also run an announcers' school in Toronto. This particular episode opens with Mr. Spock, still very much in his youth and in another seedy hotel. This time he is leaning over a bar in Virginia City and, gasp, in the company of a lady of dubious reputation. There is something wrong with his ears, too.
Allow the sound of Fred Foy's immortal announce voice to echo in your head (remember, you are six or seven years old and sitting on the floor looking up in awe at the family's huge console broadcast receiver. Now imagine Foy's voice riding in over the rich, enveloping hum of the electrodynamic speaker): "With his Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West(ern 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 Sliver." In this case the yesteryear is 1949, early days for television to be sure. (Ahhh, you say you want to return to 1951? Ok, mount this u.r.l and gallop back to 1951: http://www.old-time.com/weekly/lranger2.ram ).
Was the series popular among us little tads? Yes, it ran to 221 episodes on television. Foy is still out and about. Here's a radio interview from 1999 which includes Foy and a contemporary production recreating the Ranger introduction.
Ever wonder what the man behind that magnificent announce voice looked like? Well, here's how he looked in 1999. Fred Foy is on the right receiving an award at a convention of old time radio enthusiasts in Cincinnati.
(When we attended movies in those bygone days, we watched newsreels and trailers for upcoming films at that theatre. It was Fred Foy's resonant voice that we heard more often than not during those move trailers.)
The original Lone Ranger radio programmes were made in Detroit, about as far west as the writers and producer had ever been. The entire crew and the talent were all masters of their art. In this age of tape and direct digital recording, it is difficult to grasp the craftsmanship that went into the production. Fred Foy, in a radio interview, said that each program was produced twice, live both times. A run through for final timing and trimming was done in the afternoon before the broadcast. The first performance was then done live for the east coast and Midwest. A second complete show, not a recording of the first show, was put on for the west coast later the same evening. (Fred's memory may be fading just a little since it appears that, at least later in the show's run, WXYZ cut a disc "live" of the first show for later rebroadcast.) Foy could not remember any occasion when they erred on the timing; somehow they always managed to get the show's time just right with every performance.
Here's Fred's introduction to the television show.
Brace Beemer was a radio actor of such ability that he did not rehearse the show! Fred Foy generally read his lines in the rehearsal and Beemer walked in a little before airtime, picked up the script and did the show pretty much cold. Beemer had another distinction. He was born in 1902 but he served in the U.S. Army in the Great War. Impossible? Apparently not; he was 14 years old at the time and is thought to have been be the youngest soldier in that army. The character of Tonto was played all those years by the same actor, John Todd. In the films, the rôle belonged to one Harold J. Smith from Brantford, Ontario, a championship boxer and lacrosse player of international calibre who later called himself "Jay Silverheels".
The Lone Ranger had been around for some time before we tads made his acquaintance in the late forties and early fifties. The first show was broadcast in 1933. The success of the program led the way to the formation of the Mutual Radio Network. Among the many announcers from whom Foy, the announcer we knew, inherited is mantle was Beemer himself and, briefly, one Amos Jacobs. The radio show continued on into the Fall of 1954 (or into 1956, depending on the source). Beemer, by the way, came to the role from that of announcer because of the death of Earle Graser. Graser had died in a car accident in 1941. The predecessors of Beemer and Graser had been George Stenius, Jack Deeds and James Tewell. Supposedly Graser had fallen asleep at the wheel on the way home from the show. On Graser's death, the Ranger was written out of his own show for several episodes while he recuperated from some affliction dreamed up for the purpose. Todd and the other actors carried the show. After this discreet interval, Beemer, the announcer, took over. On one occasion, the same sort of thing happened to Foy. Beemer appeared at the studio, as usual, just before the show. He communicated the fact that he had developed laryngitis. He indicated that Foy should go ahead, just as he had in rehearsal, and do the actual show as well. Foy was the announcer for all the television shows. Oh, and that fellow Amos Jacobs, the announcer, continued in broadcasting and eventually adopted the stage name "Danny Thomas".
Fran Striker was a busy fellow. The Lone Ranger had done well indeed and Trendle wanted a contemporary complement. The Green Hornet came out of exactly the same stable. Like Amos Jacobs, Myron, the booth announcer on the Hornet show changed his name as well. Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger's brother; murdered, as you all know; in the ambuscade set up by the unspeakably vile Butch Cavendish and his foul gang, was the father of Britt Reid, the crusading contemporary big city counterpart of his great uncle, the Lone Ranger. Like Amos Jacobs on the Ranger, we were to hear more from Myron, the booth announcer on the Hornet. That booth announcer on the Green Hornet, Myron Leon Wallace, who, like Amos Jacobs, later changed his name, took the handle "Mike Wallace". Yes, Mike Wallace.
A new Lone Ranger film was put together in the late seventies. Since the end of the television series, Moore had been appearing in public wearing the mask. The silk suited producers of the new movie made a costly, costly mistake on the point. Trendle had sold the rights to the Lone Ranger in the 'fifties. The rights ended up in the Wrather Corporation's stable. The new owner did not care to have a man then in his mid sixties associated with the character in its film. In a well publicized court fight, which many of you readers will remember, Wrather had managed to enjoin Moore from wearing the mask.
(credit: "Mary's Place", http://www.celebhost.net/claytonmoore/)
For those of us who grew up seeing Moore on Saturday morning in the theatres and on television, there was only one Lone Ranger and that was Moore himself. No slicked down, toothy pretender to Silver's saddle trotted out by big business and Wrather was big business, would be of even passing interest to us, true subjects of the last Ranger and Believers in The Creed. Moore had been nurturing the feeble ember of their property year after year after year. For a whole generation he had tended it single handed, and the best Wrather could do for him was to slap him with a law suit. Bah!
By this inane action, the producers of the 1981 release utterly alienated the very audience that would have delighted most in their film. Had they formally engaged Moore for publicity and, especially, had they cooked up a role, however contrived it might have been, for him somewhere in the film, they would have been guaranteed a good gate. Remember our delight at seeing Chuck Yeager tending bar in Pancho's in The Right Stuff? Moore could have fitted in as the well whiskered operator of the Ranger's silver mine or maybe the straight shooting sheriff of a town beset by bad guys. There were many possibilities open.
"What does the Lone Ranger look like now?" "Will we finally see him in this film without a mask?" "We all know the Lone Ranger canon: what character will there be for him at his age?"
However much the old man had wanted, even for just a cameo, they would have made that amount back a hundred times over and more and left Moore a bit more comfortable in retirement; he wouldn't have been making much appearing at store openings and used car lots.
As it was, the film was a financial disaster and few of us real Ranger fans lament the fact (just imagine, suing the Lone Ranger of all people!).
After this drubbing at the box office and under a relentless avalanche of letters, supposedly over a million, the Wrather Corporation saw the hopelessness of its position and caved in. In 1985, the idiocy ended; Moore was permitted to put "his" mask back on.
Justice had prevailed again in the West, this time the new West.
All of Moore's fans seem to have been nettled by this grasping avarice which not only turned its back on Moore but attempted to snatch the old man's identity as the Lone Ranger. The power of Lone Ranger fans was demonstrated mightily at the box office and in Wrather's mailroom but it appeared elsewhere, too. Perhaps the ultimate manifestation of the irritation and of the power of Ranger fans appears right in Hollywood itself. Moore has a star on the sidewalk there. It was installed in 1987 just after the legal doings noted. It rubs in the lesson: it is the sole star which bears not just the actor's name but that of his character, too. There is only one Lone Ranger and you can see that for a fact on a sidewalk in Hollywood, 6914 Hollywood Boulevard.
If you can stand a painful, painful dose of L.A. kitsch, have a look at this u.r.l: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB16IbfWd3c . Now remember it is going to be a tooth grinder but what one gets out of it is a look at Moore still looking fit and trim and obviously enjoying a robust old age.
Jack Wrather, you made a big mistake in taking on our Lone Ranger.
early days: late days
Ok, now, what was the name of Tonto's horse and who were George Trendle and Fran Striker? What was the Lone Ranger's real name and who was Dan Reid? According to the scripts, by whom was the mask fabricated and from what cloth? What was the mask really made of and what was its real colour? Who was Jack Carlton Moore?
Oh, yeah, "kemo sabe": you think that you know where that phrase came from, don't you? Don't be too sure about that! See what Fran Striker's son has to say about the matter here.
Our informal acculturation in those days involved this man, too. Who is this gentleman of distinguished appearance?
Need hints? He was successful in business. He owned race horses while in San Francisco, as many gentlemen did at the time, and entered society in that city. There are persistent rumours that he did not always conduct his business affairs with the utmost probity. He passed away peacefully in 1929 in Los Angeles.
Webb's original radio sponsor?
Fatima cigarettes were 1 1/64" in circumference!
Groucho Marx's foil on You Bet Your Life, George Fenneman, was always the announcer of Dragnet's introduction and close. He participated in the commercials, too. Fenneman, by the way, was supposed to have been chosen over other candidates for the job on Groucho's show because of this arithmetic ability. It was Fenneman who kept track of the contestants' winnings. He came up with those dollar figures in real time himself.