Friday, March 22, 2013

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

 In 1939, Republic Pictures released a 15-chapter cliffhanger serial titled, The Lone Ranger Rides Again. Robert Livingston played the title role. Chief Thundercloud played the role of Tonto. The plot was fairly simple for a standard Western yarn. Homesteaders are moving into the valley settled many years ago by rancher Craig Dolan. Dolan wants to keep them out by legal means but his nephew Bart, with ulterior motives, brings in outlaws to drive them out. The Lone Ranger arrives and after assessing the scenario, decides to help the homesteaders battle Bart's men as he overcomes traps, ambushes, burning buildings and other obstacles in his attempt to bring peace to the valley.

For anyone wanting to know why The Lone Ranger isn't wearing the mask Clayton Moore ultimately became synonymous with, it's because radio producer George W. Trendle and script writer Fran Striker never created or sketched out how the mask should look. Trendle agreed to allow Republic to use their own creative department and a veiled mesh hung over half of The Lone Ranger's face. In a private letter to Trendle, Striker, after watching a few chapters in the local theater, told Trendle he preferred the mask worn by Livingston over conceptions promised in prior publications and promotional products.

In 1943, the publishing company of Grosset & Dunlap released their eighth Lone Ranger novel and it comes as no surprise that the novel was titled, The Lone Ranger Rides Again. The publishing company was obviously aware of the serial so it can only be assumed that G&D was attempting to cash in on the popularity of the title. The plot of the novel, however, was something altogether different from the serial.

The Lone Ranger defies the authority of Ace Cardigan, owner of the hotel and gambling hall known as the “Ace of Spades,” and the most powerful man in the town of Beacon City. Cardigan had managed to build an empire having shot and killed any ranchers who defied him, and he bought the law. The only person to stand his ground was Tom Turner, editor and owner of the local newspaper who prints an editorial against Cardigan. Soon after, Turner finds his office vandalized, his printing equipment destroyed and print shop torn apart. The Lone Ranger and Tonto plot a clever means of destroying Ace Cardigan and restoring law back to Beacon City, but in the process (Chapter 16) The Lone Ranger finds himself up against twenty-to-one odds and in an attempt to restrain twenty outlaws at their rambling building made of un-stripped logs, finds himself beaten so severe that his is almost killed. The Lone Ranger succeeded, keeping the outlaws busy long enough for Tonto and the defending ranchers to arrive and take the outlaws by surprise. Saved by the heroic efforts of local ranchers, The Lone Ranger then spends the second half of the novel recovering at Tom Turner’s residence as Tonto heals all wounds. Still dizzy while recovering, the Ranger later finds himself caught in a trap and almost burned alive in Cardigan’s warehouse. Thanks to his resourcefulness, The Lone Ranger saves the life of a trapper/hunter, breaks out of the burning building and physically apprehends Ace Cardigan and his associates, ensuring their longevity in jail -- or at the end of a noose.

Having read almost all of The Lone Ranger novels, I would like to state that this is perhaps one of the best -- if not the best of the series. While reading the novels, I also try to envision The Lone Ranger as he was depicted during the 1930s and 1940s, as illustrated throughout this article (scans from various G&D books).

Notes About The Novel
In order to combat Ace Cardigan, The Lone Ranger becomes deputized complete with swearing in the oath and wearing the badge. The present sheriff, a meek old man named Tumbleweed who did the bidding of Cardigan because three former sheriffs were shot to death after they defied Cardigan, was a familiar face to The Lone Ranger. Formerly Captain Harry Tweed of the Army, the old man discovered after he left service that his folks at home had died. He took to hard liquor and careless living. He broke all to pieces.

The Lone Ranger makes a comment that he knew Tweed years before. “He used to be a great fighter,” he remarks to Tonto. To become deputized, The Lone Ranger placed his left hand on top of the Holy Book, then raised his right hand.

“Now,” he said, “swear me in as a deputy sheriff. You probably don’t know the rule so I’ll take the oath without your help.”

In a moment, before the amazed gaze of Tom Turner and his wife Betty, who has silently entered the room, the masked man had taken the oath of office and returned the Book to the table.

“For the time being,” he said, “I’ll use your badge. Ace Cardigan likes to have things done in a legal way. I’ll now have the authority to do things as he likes them done.”

Chapter 16 is so well written that I actually went back and read it twice. The Lone Ranger’s code of ethics was explored when, having discovered the secret hideout of the Cardigan gang, must keep the men at bay long enough for re-enforcements to arrive. He estimated the length of time it had taken him to follow the trail in the darkness. Time was the all-important factor. He might, by shooting to kill, prolong the fight, might even win it single-handed, with the rock as a fort. To attack, the men would have to come into the open. They would spread out to approach from the sides. Should he -- could he shoot to kill -- shoot to save his own life? That was a question he had often asked himself. Those men against him were killers. They were a scourge, far worse than preying wolves or sneaking coyotes, more dangerous than poisonous snakes that gave a warning rattle before they struck. Life was cheap in that country and men who lived, as those outlaws did, by the gun, expected to die the same way. If he shot to kill, there would be no one to condemn him. Quite the contrary, men would cheer his deed and thank him for ridding the community of a menace.

But he knew that when the time came to align his sights upon the heart or head of a human being, he would be unable to squeeze the trigger that would send death crashing home. There was no choice. The Lone Ranger could not shoot to kill. The Ranger’s Achilles’ heel was his inability to kill a human being and thus he kept this secret hidden from his enemies. In what might be considered reverse psychology, the Ranger also employs a sense of disregard for the life of a hunter named Jim Brady on page 194. Trapped within the fur warehouse, Brady and the Ranger discover that the structure has been set ablaze and they are the intended victims. The walls are too well fortified to smash so fighting fire with fire, the Ranger uses the oil from the lamp to set the wall on fire, hoping to burn an exit route. Waving their hats to fan the fire, Brady soon gets too tired and pleads to quit and lie down.

“I don’t care about your life. Die if you want, for all of me,” snapped the masked man as he fanned. “But think of the other hunters. Think of how they’ll be swindled out of their furs.”

The Lone Ranger’s material possessions are described earlier in this novel as “a gun belt and a pair of heavy, ivory-handled pistols.” On two separate occasions, the Lone Ranger wore a sombrero and a stetson and neither description claimed to be the Ranger’s standard hat. The costume and makeup kit he carried on his person gave The Lone Ranger an opportunity to disguise himself as a cowhand with false mustache and eyebrows (bushy ones to conceal his own). His skin underwent a change with the application taught to him by Tonto’ that of a dark skin the Indian always had ready.

Chapter 16, “Twenty-to-One Odds” details the fantastic battle between the masked man and twenty outlaws and murderers. The fight reveals that The Lone Ranger is not inhuman and is beaten to near death. He is bleeding from a dozen cuts and lacerations. His muscles ached frightfully. He felt a wave of giddiness enfold him. Grinning ranchers, happy with their quick victory, were a blur before his eyes.

Perhaps the most important quality displayed in the novel was The Lone Ranger shown as a beacon of hope to the ranchers who chose to defy Ace Cardigan. It was the Ranger who convinced Tumbleweed that it was not too late to make amends and stand up for what was right. Cardigan kept the sheriff under his thumb. Tumbleweed was afraid to lift his head for fear he’d knock it down again. He hated himself for kowtowing to Cardigan like a whipped dog. “You took from him every vestige of his self-respect,” the Lone Ranger comments. But Tumbleweed defied Cardigan’s orders and therefore became a men of respect.

If you ever wanted read a Lone Ranger novel and only have time to read one, this is the one you want to buy from and sit out on your back porch and enjoy.

The Radio Program
Small note of interest: On the October 24, 1952 broadcast of the radio program, The Lone Ranger is shot and wounded by a stray bullet during a newly started range war. Brace Beemer, the actor who played The Lone Ranger on radio, was leaving for a two-week vacation. For this Friday afternoon broadcast, kids were shocked to discover their hero was not an invincible superhero. For the next four consecutive radio broadcasts, The Lone Ranger is never heard except for an occasional whisper (which means Beemer was not playing the role) while the Masked Man recovers from his wound at Clarabelle Hornblow's ranch. For the broadcast of November 5, The Lone Ranger's famous cry, "Hi Yo, Silver!" is heard but only via a recording. The Lone Ranger being away for a spell happened more often on the radio program than you think and seemed to have happened once every two years. Not sure if there is a connection or not, but the November 5, 1952 radio broadcast is titled, "The Lone Ranger Rides Again."  Hmmmmm....