|The Lone Ranger TM Serials|
|The Lone Ranger TM and Tonto TM are trademarks, and the trademark, characters and likenesses are owned by Classic Media, Inc. More information is available at the Classic Media website: http://www.classicmedia.tv/. This website on the Lone Ranger serials is a fansite and is not connected with Classic Media, Inc.|
|THE LONE RANGER|
Filmed 11/28/1937 to 12/31/1937
Negative cost: $168,117
by Republic Pictures
Chapter Titles (Running Times):
1. Hi-Yo Silver (30:17)
2. Thundering Earth (18:22)
3. The Pitfall (16:43)
4. Agent of Treachery (16:39)
5. The Steaming Cauldron (16:17)
6. Red Man's Courage (16:28)
7. Wheels of Disaster (15:58)
8. Fatal Treasure (16:54)
9. The Missing Spur (16:35)
10. Flaming Fury (16:33)
11. The Silver Bullet (16:18)
12. Escape (16:22)
13. The Fatal Plunge (16:37)
14. Messengers of Doom (16:49)
15. The Last of the Rangers (17:03)
HI-YO SILVER (Republic, 1940) was the feature version of THE LONE RANGER serial, had a running time of about 68 minutes (7 reels in length), and was released in 1940.
|THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN|
Filmed 12/9/1938 to 1/20/1939
Negative cost: $213,997
by Republic Pictures
Chapter Titles (Running Times):
1. The Lone Ranger Returns (28:54)
2. Masked Victory (16:43)
3. The Black Raiders Strike (16:45)
4. The Cavern of Doom (16:44)
5. Agents of Deceit (16:37)
6. The Trap (16:39)
7. Lone Ranger at Bay (16:42)
8. Ambush (16:40)
9. Wheels of Doom (16:44)
10. The Dangerous Captive (16:37)
11. Death Below (16:40)
12. Blazing Peril (16:41)
13. Exposed (16:42)
14. Besieged (16:39)
15. Frontier Justice (16:45)
VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Rays, etc.
In the past ten or so years, a bunch of DVDs have been issued on the Lone Ranger serials, feature films, TV shows, etc. In April, 2017, I did a search on Amazon (under the "Movies and TV" category) using the term "Lone Ranger". There were several hundred results: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=%22lone+ranger%22&i=movies-tv&rh=n%3A2625373011&ref=nb_sb_noss
|Above right is the DVD cover of the THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1939) which stars Bob Livingston. Eric Stedman of the Serial Squadron worked long and hard to bring out the best quality in his restoration of the second LR cliffhanger. Part of Eric's restoration efforts included the removal of the Spanish sub-titles.|
In late 2009, the Serial Squadron released a two DVD set of the 15 chapter THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) and Eric Stedman (AKA Dr. Grood) spent about 400 hours working on the restoration. And the result is probably the best you'll see ... unless a miracle occurs and somebody finds an original 35mm (which isn't likely).
Details about both restorations can be found at: http://www.serialsquadron.com/dvds/loneranger/index.html
BACKGROUND - the Radio Show
George Washington Trendle acquired radio station WXYZ in Detroit in 1929. Hoping to turn a respectable profit, Trendle thought about developing a radio show using a hero based on a combination of Zorro and Robin Hood. THE LONE RANGER hit the airwaves in 1933. Initially the show was heard on WXYZ, and later, over the Michigan Regional Network. During the early years, WXYZ's jack-of-all-trades, James 'Jim' Jewell, did scripts, directed and even did roles on the program. Supposedly, Jewell even portrayed the Lone Ranger in a 1933 broadcast. Later, Trendle hired a talented radio writer named Fran Striker who further developed the characterization and scripts which left Jewell to concentrate on directing.
By the mid-1930s, the program was being broadcast on Chicago's WGN and New York's WOR. That trio of stations (WOR-WGN-WXYZ) - along with WLW in Cincinnati - became the early Mutual Broadcasting Network. Soon after, the LONE RANGER show was picked up by the Don Lee Network in California. By 1940 or so, WXYZ's LONE RANGER was running on the NBC Blue network.
While there were several performers who portrayed the Lone Ranger in a few early broadcasts, James Jewell hired Michigan native Earle W. Graser and he became the radio Lone Ranger from 1933 through early 1941. Graser did his last LR broadcast on the evening of April 7, 1941. The following day, April 8, 1941, he fell asleep while driving and was killed in an automobile accident in Farmington, Michigan.
LR announcer Brace Beemer took over Graser's role, and the five episodes on April 9, 11, 14, 16 and 18, 1941 have become known as "the Transition Series". During that five program changeover from Graser to Brace Beemer, Tonto did most of the work while Beemer played a wounded and injured LR who uttered a few moans and grunts and wrote instructions to his trusted Indian companion. On April 21, 1941, in an episode titled "Outpost in the Desert", Brace Beemer (and his booming baritone voice) settled into his new job as radio's Lone Ranger, a role he would play for thirteen years through the final live broadcast on September 3, 1954.
Brace Bell Beemer was born in Mt. Carmel, Illinois on December 9, 1902 and passed away March 1, 1965 while playing bridge with friends. Though some sources list 1903 as his birthdate, the grave marker shows his birth year as 1902 (see the Find A Grave link at bottom of this page).
(Courtesy of Judy Jewell Kelly)
|Jim Jewell was one of several folks who created the Lone Ranger and other programs. In later life, he was in Chicago as the producer or director of THE SILVER EAGLE, a mountie adventure which ran on ABC from 1951-1955 and starred Jim Ameche, the brother of movie star Don Ameche.|
Several years ago, Judy Jewell Kelly and I connected via e-mails in which she wrote about her father James Jewell, WXYZ, Trendle and the Lone Ranger radio program. Excerpts from Judy's e-mails follow:
He (Jewell) was the creative director of station WXYZ in Detroit. He worked for George Trendle for most of the 1930's. My father introduced the phrase "Kee mo sabe" which was the name of my maternal grandfather's boys camp at Mullet Lake, Michigan since 1914. Until 1942, we owned the horse Silver which my father purchased in 1934 as a road show attraction advertising the LR radio show. There were times I remember as a child when Silver was between shows and we had to keep him in our garage at our Grosse Point home. Didn't please the neighbors. Tonto was played by an English Shakespearean actor named John Todd and the very first person to play the Lone Ranger was George Seaton, later a noted Hollywood producer. My father also was the person who selected the William Tell Overture for the theme song. Soundman Shields Djerkiss was responsible for the thundering hoofbeats and music. Though there were many collaborators, and eventually, Fran Striker became the regular writer of the series, my father continued to direct the show for many years. Jewell's sister, a budding young actress, wanted to play a part in a radio series at WXYZ so Jim wrote her into another show he was directing and sometimes writing, THE GREEN HORNET. Her name was Lenore Jewell Allman and she played Lenore Case, the Green Hornet's secretary, for 28 years and is in the Radio Hall of Fame. After WXYZ, Jewell was long time author/director of JACK ARMSTRONG, THE ALL AMERICAN BOY during the last 13 years of the series.
BACKGROUND - the Republic serials
By 1937, the radio program was popular, and Trendle wanted to see if the character was saleable to Hollywood. In June, 1937, a contract was signed between Trendle and Republic Pictures for a cliffhanger based on the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Trendle/The Lone Ranger, Inc. was paid $18,750.00 plus 10% of any rental share above a $390,000.00 minimum. The agreement also allowed Republic to release a condensed version of the serial (which they did in 1940 with the feature HI-YO SILVER).
The main issue between Republic and Trendle was that the Lone Ranger would unmask in Chapter 15, revealing himself as Allen King (played by Lee Powell). Trendle didn't like this unmasking, but the contract gave Republic final authority on the script and characterizations. Apparently, any issues/arguments were solved when Republic gave Trendle the music from the serial (and much of that music was used by Trendle in subsequent LR radio broadcasts). Republic's budget for THE LONE RANGER was $160,000.00, and the final negative costs amounted to about $168,000.00. Production on the serial began in late 1937, with exterior location filming done at Lone Pine, California.
Released in February, 1938, THE LONE RANGER serial was a huge financial success for both Republic and Trendle. The serial also created new interest in the radio version and an additional hundred or so stations picked up the show. King Features even came out with a comic strip.
During the Summer of 1938, negotiations began for a sequel, and in September, a contract was signed with Republic agreeing to pay Trendle a substantial $40,000 against 10% of the gross. This time, Trendle did not give approval for a feature version. However, Republic still had authority over the script and screen characterizations (and star Bob Livingston would frequently mask and unmask). The working title of the sequel was THE LONE RANGER RETURNS, but was changed to THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN. Negative costs totalled around $214,000.00, with filming initiated in late 1938, and theatrical release in February, 1939.
Both serials were directed by the team of William Witney and John (Jack) English, the dynamic duo generally recognized as the creators of the finest cliffhangers.
During 1939, Trendle began shopping around for a more lucrative deal, and this included negotiations with Universal for serial rights to the Lone Ranger as well as the Green Hornet (which was another popular radio show originating from WXYZ and owned by Trendle/The Lone Ranger, Inc.). Universal did bring two Green Hornet cliffhangers to the screen, THE GREEN HORNET (Universal, 1939) starring Gordon Jones, and THE GREEN HORNET STRIKES AGAIN (Universal, 1940) with Warren Hull in the lead.
Republic also continued negotiations with Trendle for future use of the LR character, but apparently the price was too high and/or the contractual terms were too restrictive.
Note the text above in this color ? While the above is my writing, the basic details, information and timelines are from Jack Mathis' Valley of the Cliffhangers (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1975), which is THE definitive reference book on the serials of Republic Pictures. Thus, you and I should feel comfortable with that information.
THE TIMES THEY WERE A CHANGIN' !
Time passed. And by the 1950s and 1960s, a variety of things occurred of which these come to mind:
Definition of 'scuttlebutt': rumor, best guess, opinion, speculation, conjecture.
One of the common rumors was that George Washington Trendle (1884-1972) hated the LR serials. Yet there were communications between Republic and Trendle / Fran Striker with accolades about the film (at least with the first serial). Apparently, Trendle's main issue was the freedom which Republic had with the LR character ... and in particular, the unmasking. But Trendle also appreciated the $$$ and music that he received from Republic. It does appear that Trendle was a profit-oriented businessman as he had no qualms about selling his property to Hollywood (as evidenced by the several Republic contracts for the LR and deals with Universal for the Green Hornet ... as well as a proposed arrangement for Universal to film a third Lone Ranger cliffhanger ... but that fell through).
Many decades ago, I began checking on these two serials and solid information was difficult to find, especially since Republic had disappeared. Scuttlebutt was that Republic had stored the 35mm nitrate picture and sound reels of both cliffhangers during the 1940s or 1950s (possibly at film storage facilities located in Fort Lee, New Jersey). But both chapterplays had become lost ... or misplaced ... or had been turned over to Trendle or the Wrather Corporation ... or were destroyed due to nitrate decomposition ... or who knows.
When BETA and VHS videotape machines arrived, interest in the two serials was rekindled. Many chapterplays were in the public domain (such as many Mascot productions including Gene Autry's PHANTOM EMPIRE), and these were among the earliest films put onto videotape and made available to the cliffhanger collector. Soon, there was a 'lost serials list', and among the missing were THE LONE RANGER and THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN.
At this point, my ol' memory is a bit fuzzy (plus I couldn't find my notes from years past on these serials). As best I can recall, a fair 35mm or 16mm of THE LONE RANGER was found in Mexico or South America, and it had English dialogue with Spanish subtitles as well as Spanish opening/closing titles and credits. However, that print had some missing pieces, most notably the 'Lee Powell takes off his mask scene' in the Chapter 15 finale. A few years later, a similar, and relatively complete 35mm or 16mm was discovered of THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (also in English with Spanish subtitles and opening/closing credits).
Sometime during the 1980s, a partial or complete THE LONE RANGER was found in Europe (France?), and it included the Chapter 15 unmasking scene of Lee Powell. This, plus the earlier found LR, along with some newly added english language dubbing, were put together to form a reasonably complete version of the first serial.
Those are the sources for videos of these serials. And prior to videotape, these were also the sources for 16mm copies which could be purchased from several companies that catered to the film collector community.
Several versions (variations) of the first LR serial have been floatin' around for years, initially to film collectors, and later, in the videotape world. Following are the variations that I recall, and there are probably other permutations:
Is there an original 35mm release print of either/both of these cliffhangers hidden somewhere ... does some collector have a 35mm positive print, a 16mm reduction print or lesser quality 16mm "dupe" in their collection? The answer is maybe ... rumors have circulated for years that one or more prints are out there ... but I have not been able to confirm.
A little about negatives and positives, 35mm and 16mm: the original 35mm camera negative or fine grain would be the highest quality source material to use for a transfer of the film to a videotape or digital master for video production or to create other film copies. The next step down in quality would be a 35mm positive print ... then a 16mm, etc.
There's better news with the HI-YO SILVER condensation of the first LR serial (which has Raymond Hatton introducing the story and characters and was released by Republic in 1940). Sometime in the mid 1990s, HI-YO SILVER was commercially released on videotape, but it was quickly pulled off the market (probably because of licensing or copyright issues). However, in September, 1999, VCI Home Video released the feature/condensation of the LONE RANGER serial - see top of page.
As to the later status of Republic Pictures, I recall that by the mid 1960s, their film library wound up with National Telefilm Associates (NTA), who re-issued many of the westerns in versions edited down to around 52-54 minutes to fill an hour slot on TV. Sometime later, NTA changed their name to Republic something-or-other. Spelling Entertainment (producer Aaron Spelling) acquired and ran what was left of Republic for about ten years, but the unit closed down in September, 1998 (and the Republic website was also shut down).
Wikepedia has an article which chronicles Republic Pictures from formation through current status: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_Pictures
WERE THERE MORE LONE RANGER FILMS OR SERIALS BEING PLANNED?
The answer is Yes! Several examples below of things that didn't happen:
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
|Note there are two Green Hornet serials announced, and would be made by Universal.|
There are also two Buck Rogers serials in this announcement - one would be made, the second would be changed to Flash Gordon, and Buster Crabbe would star in both.
The Lone Ranger cliffhanger was announced for the 1940-41 release season, but did not happen ... nor did the sequel to SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE (Universal, 1938).
If you would like a larger sized version of this pressbook page, send an e-mail to the Old Corral webmeister.
RIGHTS AND OWNERSHIP OF THE LONE RANGER
Wikipedia has a lengthy description of the Lone Ranger films, books, comics, serials, et al. Quote from the Wikipedia section on current ownership and rights to the Lone Ranger: "Classic Media acquired the rights in 2000. DreamWorks Animation acquired Classic Media in 2012 and renamed the division DreamWorks Classics, which was acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016 for $3.8 billion. Its Universal Pictures unit currently has the rights to the Lone Ranger": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Ranger
SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS
It must have been in the early to mid 1970s, long before the videotape boom, when a collector friend of mine purchased a 16mm of the Spanish subtitled LR serial. At that time, there were several smallish companies that catered to film enthusiasts and were peddling or renting the serial (names that come to mind are Thunderbird, Ivy and Syndicate Films, and there were others whose names escape me at this writing). When we screened the serial, we lamented about the quality and suggested to each other that a superb print of this wonderful serial will ultimately be found. Well, that was about a half century ago ... and I'm still waiting.
For those looking for the latest scoop, film historian Ed Hulse authored Behind the Mask: The Making of Republic's Lone Ranger Serials.
Published in late 2018, this wunnerful 7 x 10 trade paperback has 93 pages and is chock full of photos, posters, lobby cards, correspondence, etc. on THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938; 15 chapters), THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1939; 15 chapters), and HI-YO SILVER (Republic, 1940), the feature version of the first serial.
Hulse had access to files of George W. Trendle, the broadcasting magnate who owned Detroit's WXYZ radio station and the Lone Ranger character. He also includes comments and behind-the-scenes details from his interviews with co-director William Witney, writer Barry Shipman, stunt man Yakima Canutt, cast members George Montgomery, Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett), others.
The relationship between Trendle and Republic Pictures was not peaceful and quiet, and Trendle was livid over the unmasking of Lee Powell as the LR in the first serial. Lots of other tidbits are covered - a few examples: there's contract details, legal wranglings and lawsuits; John Wayne was (briefly) under consideration to portray the masked rider in a feature; Bob Livingston was really unhappy about Republic putting him back in westerns and giving him the starring role in RIDES AGAIN; and Universal Pictures almost landed the Lone Ranger for a cliffhanger planned for the 1940-41 release season.
The creation and evolution of the LR radio program is also covered with details on Trendle, director James Jewill, writer Fran Striker, the 1941 death of Earle Graser in an auto accident, Brace Beemer taking over the role, etc.
Behind the Mask is a great and fun read. Bargain priced at $12.50, you can order from Hulse's Murania Press website or from Amazon:
Wheeler Winston Dixon is the Film Studies professor at University of Nebraska - Lincoln. He has a series of videos on YouTube titled "Frame by Frame" with comments and perspective on various movie topics. This link is for his three minute video which summarizes why so many early films are lost: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnRsn89471U