As TV’s Lone Ranger in the 1950s, Clayton Moore was a hero both on and off the screen. With September being the centenary of his birth, Dawn Moore has been sharing the life and legacy of her father who passed away in 1999.
“I still get letters from policemen, firemen, and teachers who say they chose a career in service because of him,” said Dawn from Los Angeles. “He not only acted out the Lone Ranger’s Creed on TV, but lived it.”
The Creed, written by Fran Striker in 1933 for the original Lone Ranger radio show, was an ethical guide that emphasized friendship, respect, truth, God, country and, remarkably for the period, stewardship for the planet.
Dawn will be recalling stories about her father at this year’s Lone Pine Film Festival, Calif., held October 10-12 (see www.lonepinefilmfestival.org).
The following week, one of her father’s famous Lone Ranger black masks will be sold through the Profiles in History auction house.
“People ask how I could sell it,” noted Dawn. “The spirit of my father doesn’t lie in the props he used for his job. Far more important to me are his fishing tackle and the old Coleman lamp we took on family camping trips.”
As a child, Dawn didn’t even know her father had been the Lone Ranger until one day the pair went shopping for a television and the salesperson recognized his voice.
“I was 8 or 9, and wondered how this stranger knew my father,” she recalled. “The show ended in 1957 so I never saw it growing up. And when we went out, no one recognized him because his character had always been masked.”
In addition to the one being sold, Moore had two other masks. One is in a private collection and Dawn donated the other to the Smithsonian after her father died, in accordance with his wishes.
“The original masks used on the show impaired dad’s peripheral vision and he couldn’t see where to land after a fall. So the costumer made a mold of his face and created three felt masks which were covered with resin on the inside. But they were hot to wear.”
Moore’s clothes were also uncomfortable.
“They filmed the Lone Ranger at the Iverson Ranch, near Los Angeles, where summer temperatures were over 100 degrees,” explained Dawn. “Dad’s costume was made out of heavy wool and was skintight. And Jay Silverheels who played Tonto wore an outfit of heavy suede. So these guys worked their tails off making the show!”
A favorite story from her father’s Lone Ranger days occurred on one such hot afternoon with the director filming Moore riding around a rock and rearing up on Silver, his famous white horse.
“They had done it hundreds of times before, but the director kept asking dad to re-shoot it,” recalled Dawn. The problem turned out to be basic stallion anatomy. Because of the camera angle, Silver’s testicles were clearly visible in every shot – hardly a sight for prime time viewers in the ‘50s.The director’s solution was to use whitewash paint to cover them up.
“But no one was going under the horse and start painting there!” said Dawn, with a chuckle. “It was late afternoon and very hot. Everyone was cranky and wanted to go home. So my father grabbed the paint brush, dipped it in the whitewash, wiped off the excess paint, and disappeared underneath Silver!”
That story, says Dawn, illustrates her father’s work ethic. “He had no class distinction and would do what had to be done for the show. It demonstrates how he led by example all his life.”
For trivia fans wondering why a bucket of whitewash was on the set, Dawn says it was for the horse’s coat.
“He was white, but needed a touch up now and then,” she said. “Silver had a make-up man too!”
And then there’s the masked man’s famous cry, “Hi-Ho Silver, Away!”
“Many people get that wrong,” she notes. “It’s actually ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’”
Dawn says she had no interest working in entertainment, preferring a business career in luxury retail (see www.mooreabout.com). But she learned a lot about the show and her dad when helping him prepare his 1998 autobiography, “I Was That Masked Man.”
“I had a father who made a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “Many of his fans have told me they grew up not wanting to be the Lone Ranger, but to be Clayton Moore.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., with features, columns, and interviews in over 450 magazines and newspapers.