|The Lone Ranger|
Poster for Chapter 13 of The Lone Ranger
|Directed by||William Witney|
|Produced by||Sol C. Siegel|
|Written by||Franklin Adreon|
George Worthing Yates
|Music by||Alberto Colombo|
|Edited by||Edward Todd|
|Distributed by||Republic Pictures|
|15 chapters (264 minutes) (serial)|
69 minutes (feature)
|Budget||$160,315 (negative cost: $168,117) or $285,000|
The Lone Ranger is a 1938 American Republic Movie serial based on the radio program of the same name. It was the ninth of the sixty-six serials produced by Republic, the fourth western (a third of Republic's serials were westerns) and the first Republic serial release of 1938. The following year a sequel serial The Lone Ranger Rides Again was released. The fifteen chapters of the serial were condensed into the film Hi-Yo Silver, which was released in 1940.
In 1865, Captain Mark Smith of the Confederate Army leads a band of deserters to conquer Texas and rule it as a dictator. In one of his first actions, he captures and assumes the identity of Texas's new Finance Commissioner, Colonel Marcus Jeffries, after having the real man murdered. When a contingent of Texas Rangers enters the territory, Snead, one of Smith's men, leads them into an ambush by Smith's "troopers". The Rangers are apparently wiped out, although one injured survivor is left. The survivor, nursed back to health by Tonto, swears to avenge the massacre and defeat "Colonel Jeffries" and his men.
When he is not operating as the Ranger, he appears under an assumed identity as one of a group of Texans resisting Smith's rule. Smith, through a henchman, has narrowed the field of suspects down to five specific members of the resistance. One of these five—Allen King, Bob Stuart, Bert Rogers, Dick Forrest, and Jim Clark—actually is the Ranger, but only Tonto and the other four Texans know which one it is. Together, they operate as an effective team attempting to end Smith's rule.
A contract between Republic and George W. Trendle for a Lone Ranger serial, and the right to release a condensed version, was signed in June 1937. Trendle and The Lone Ranger Inc. were paid $18,750 plus 10% of any rental share above a $390,000 minimum.
There was some disagreement between Republic and Trendle but the contract gave Republic authority over the script and characters. Republic planned that the Lone Ranger would unmask in the last chapter, revealing himself to Joan Blanchard (Lynn Roberts) as Allen King (Lee Powell). Prior to this the issue was confused by two voices for the Lone Ranger (mainly Billy Bletcher but with Earle Graser from the radio series providing the signature cry of "Hi-Yo Silver") and his stunt double (Dave Sharpe). Trendle objected to Republic's plans for the serial. However, he could not prevent it as the contract gave Republic Pictures the right to do whatever it pleased with the character. Republic was notorious for making changes in its adaptations, the worst case of which was Captain America (1944), Prior to the reveal, the audience had been presented with several candidates who may have been the Lone Ranger but only one survived to the end. A similar approach was taken with The Masked Marvel (1943).
After the second Lone Ranger serial, which featured Robert Livingston as the title character, who appeared in a mostly unmasked state, George Trendle decided to dissolve his relationship with Republic and offer the property to another studio. After apparently ordering all prints of both Republic serials to be destroyed to prevent further exhibition, Trendle took with him the Ranger's origin story as presented in the serial, and rights to the serial's music, both of which were later used on the radio and other media versions of the character's adventures.
The Lone Ranger was budgeted at $160,315 although the final negative cost was $168,117 (a $7,802, or 4.9%, overspend). It was the most expensive Republic serial until the release of Dick Tracy Returns later in 1938.
It was filmed between 28 November and 31 December 1937. At nineteen days, this was the shortest production for a Republic serial until Zombies of the Stratosphere in 1952. The serial's production number was 794.
The bulk of the outdoor action in the serial The Lone Ranger was filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., where Republic shot virtually all of its serials, along with most of its B-Westerns, during the studio's life span -- and where the later TV series The Lone Ranger would also shoot much of its outdoor footage. Additional footage for the serial was shot in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California, giving the serial a strikingly different overall look from that of the more widely seen television version.
Following the end of his contract with Republic, Lee Powell toured with a small circus as "The Lone Ranger of the Movies". This was not successful, possibly because he had never actually been billed as the Lone Ranger due to the element of mystery in the script. He was eventually forced by the copyright holders to stop.
The Lone Ranger's official release date is 12 February 1938, although this is actually the date the seventh chapter was made available to film exchanges.
A 69-minute feature film version, created by editing the serial footage together, was released on 10 April 1940. It was one of fourteen feature films Republic made from their serials. The working title of this film was Return of the Ranger but it was released as Hi-Yo-Silver.
The Lone Ranger 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.
In the words of Harmon and Glut, the serial contains "tight plotting that became certainly atypical of Republic serials." Most serials introduced all the characters and plot elements in the first chapter. The Lone Ranger, however, added new elements during the course of the serial. In chapter eight the outlaw Jeffries substitutes Confederate money for the local taxes. The tax silver then becomes one of the main focal points of the plot. Another development occurs in chapter ten when Jeffries tries to force Joan to marry him, which was an unusual plot element for a sound serial.
The Lone Ranger was superior in terms of plot and execution when compared to the average western serial, although it contained many features standard to the genre such as explosions, runaway stagecoaches and falls from a great height.