Friday, January 31, 2014

The Lone Ranger: The "Lost" 1933 Adventures

Earle Graser, radio's Lone Ranger
The origin of the December 17, 1937 radio broadcast of The Lone Ranger existing in recorded form is the result of an in-joke Fran Striker slipped into a Green Hornet radio broadcast. During the broadcast of January 13, 1938, The Green Hornet pays a late-night visit to the house of Judge Woodbury, known for being strict in his courtroom and in need of a little push to set a trap and expose a crooked attorney. The Green Hornet climbs through the window of the judge’s bedroom. As the announcer describes ...

ANNOUNCER: The slick black car of The Green Hornet with its super-powered motor was parked in the drive of Judge Woodbury’s home a few minutes later. The Judge was listening to The Lone Ranger, one of his favorite radio programs, half dozing in his chair. 

To accomplish this trick, Striker’s notes on the script suggested playing back a recording of The Lone Ranger. But to date, Trendle had never arranged to any of the Ranger broadcasts recorded. (One was recorded back in September of 1937 in New York, more than likely without Trendle's knowledge or permission.) The series had always been broadcast live on a coast-to-coast hookup. So the Ranger broadcast of December 17, 1937, was recorded solely for the purpose of this Green Hornet scene and was the spark that launched Trendle into the transcription business, leading to a transcription of every episode of The Lone Ranger beginning with the broadcast of January 17, 1938. Trendle obviously wanted to give it a "go" for that one recording before contractually committing to a regular recording scedule.

Pictorial image of the early Lone Ranger.
The earliest announcement came on Monday, January 10, 1938, when King-Trendle released a public statement that The Lone Ranger was riding cross country and not just the western plains. Coincident with the Republic Pictures movie serial in February, King-Trendle announced it would market transcriptions of the radio series for February 1 assignments. The strong growth of the series since it premiered four years previous showed promise and broke all records for mail response for WXYZ. Then heard over 27 stations, Trendle wanted to expand his empire with transcription discs and began advertising the series, claiming the discs would be available for broadcast starting February 15.

Sales were certainly impressive and profitable, leading to Trendle’s second transcribed series, Ann Worth, Housewife. (Many of the Green Hornet radio transcriptions were marked not just with an episode number, but the letter 'B'. It was originally assumed that 'B' meant the second series to be transcribed for Trendle, but is not the case.) By August 1938, King-Trendle Broadcasting was still feeding The Green Hornet live to Mutual stations and it was not transcribed. A business meeting in July 1938 discussed the possibility of expansion. Sponsor interest was growing in various sections of the country, giving them guide to how many transcriptions would need to be produced to meet the demand. Thus the reason why we have so many Green Hornet radio broadcasts in collector hands today.

Since recordings of pre-1938 Lone Ranger radio broadcasts are not going to surface in the coming decades (or centuries), I offer you a selection of episodes from the calendar year of 1933, along with plot summaries and assorted notes and trivia. Enjoy!

Adults, as well as children, listened to The Lone Ranger.

Broadcast October 12, 1933
Sally Perkins, is truly a most attractive girl. Her father has always looked forward to the time when she would marry the son of his nearest friend, Ben Eastman. He has hoped for this uniting of two of the finest families in the west, and is not well pleased with the attention Sally gives the newcomer, Bert DeForest. Bert is an Easterner who knows nothing of cattle raising and ranching; only how to dress fancy and spend money. At the urging of the Lone Ranger, Tonto kidnaps the girl. Her father searches all night in vain for his daughter, but the Masked Man visits the saloon and suggests if they want the girl returned, they need to send Bert DeForest after her, suggesting he can buy her back. Scared, Bert is persuaded by the men in the saloon to visit the rendezvous, where Tonto strikes a bargain in exchange for the girl. But Ben would rather see her harmed than be harmed and when Ben proves his worth, the Lone Ranger steps in and explains the ruse. Upset, Sally orders Bert to leave and never come back… knowing who would prove their worth as a husband.

Broadcast October 14, 1933
In the small mining community of Parmalee, wealthy Bill Turner is offered a financial opportunity involving six precious diamonds, each worth over $5,000. Galdberry wants to have the diamonds sold and hopes Turner will provide a means of resale. Late one night, after a lively party, the diamonds are stolen and Galdberry attempts to hold Turner accountable. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, aware that Galdberry is a con man, stole the diamonds in the hopes of revealing Galdberry is a crook. Tonto sets up the stage to make both parties believe he knows where the diamonds are, offering to return them to the man who pays him the most money. When the men agree to double-cross the Indian, at the insistence of Galdberry, by keeping the diamonds, turning the red skin over to the sheriff and forcing Turner to sell them later for money he already paid out, the Lone Ranger overhears their plans. During the transaction, Galdberry gives himself away and the Lone Ranger, accompanied with the sheriff, explain how the setup was created. Galdberry is ordered to leave town and never return.

Broadcast October 17, 1933
Jim Rockwell, a gold prospector who believes sweat and hard work are the true riches to a man’s happiness, allows his cousin, Matt Manover, to help him with the latest claim. Matt’s father, Ike, believes the hard work might make a man out of the boy, who spends much of his day sleeping and most evenings gambling and drinking. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, observing how the boy isn’t much of a laborer, suspects foul play will come of Jim and hangs around long enough to observe Jim, moments after discovering a rich vein, create a rockslide from the soft shale along the hill, sealing Jim in the tunnel for good. Hoping to cut his cousin out of a share of the goldmine, Matt believes he got away with the crime until the Lone Ranger arrives and pulls Jim out of the tunnel. It seems the Masked Man had a tunnel of his own dug from the other side and was quickly able to rescue Jim. Racing on the great horse Silver, Jim arrives at the claim office in time to file the claim, and then steps aside as Matt walks in to make his claim and announce the death of his cousin -- unaware that his verbal claim is about to hang him.

Trivia, etc. Silver is referred to as “the Wonder Horse,” carrying a double load with both Jim and the Lone Ranger which “means nothing to those tremendous legs, and the ground flies beneath his silver shod hoofs.”

Broadcast October 19, 1933
General Gonzales and his band of Mexican revolutionists orders Fisheye and Squint to prevent the delivery of cattle and horses from the Circle Box Ranch, just outside the town of Fariday, which was recently sold to the United States Army. Days later, Lem Peabody, owner of the Ranch, is unaware that the men in the cab of the engine are Fisheye and Squint, no longer employed by the railroad, and had killed the regular employees to take their place. Tonto, meanwhile, arranges for the sheriff to find the two dead bodies so the lawman will know about the murders. When the killers attempt to double cross Gonzales by stranding the cattle on a side track, the Lone Ranger assists Lem with getting the merchandise delivered in the hands of the United States Army by allowing the cars to move on their own accord, because they are on the down grade, and from there they will coast down hill to their destination. There is a wheel on the last car that will brake the cars to slow them down when they reach the turns. While Lem finishes the job that was almost foiled by the killers, the Lone Ranger takes charge of the two murderers at the point of his heavy guns and takes them to the sheriff.

Trivia, etc. According to the script notes, John Todd not only played the role of Tonto in this episode, but doubled for the role of Fisheye. The Federal Men were referred by the Lone Ranger as the United States Army in this episode, while Lem remarked that it was a new name for them.

Broadcast October 21, 1933
Sheriff Bart Cummings of the small town of Showdown is on the lookout for Black Hoss Billy, who robbed at least three stagecoaches and shot each of the drivers. Known for riding a black horse, the sheriff mistakes innocent Ben Gridley for the killer. Gridley attempts to verify his identity, knowing the only person who can vouch is a half breed named Tonto whom he recently helped across the river. While Ben resided in jail for a short time that preceded the hanging of criminals in the early days, the Lone Ranger races back to Kansas to fetch proof that Black Hoss Billy was already hung for his crimes. Upon returning to Showdown in the nick of time, the Lone Ranger combats a stubborn sheriff that Ben, standing on top of the gallows, is innocent. The letter, Billy’s neckerchief and Tonto’s testimony finally serve as a reminder that one good turn deserves another.

Trivia, etc. Broadcast during the times when certain phrases and stereotypes were depicted without any sense of “political correctness,” this episode expressed one such example. Ben Gridley, in the opening scene, refers to his black horse by name -- “Nigger.” Yet, in the same scene, Ben offers Tonto a ride across the river on his horse. Tonto is reluctant at first, even reminding Ben that most white men hesitate assisting a half breed, but Ben shows no reluctance. 

Ranger:    I’ve just been finishing a little business with Black Horse Billy.
Tonto:    Um.  Gitum?
Ranger:    He wont be around here any more Tonto.
Tonto:    Killum?
Ranger:    No, I can’t shoot a man in cold blood Tonto, but I did manage to get him across the state line where the men in Kansas were waiting for him with lynching ropes.
Tonto:    Humph!  Better you shootum!
Ranger:    (LAUGH)  You bloodthirsty old fellow…

More Trivia, etc. The Lone Ranger laughing? Yes, this happened for the first 170 or so radio scripts. That aspect of the Masked Man gradually faded away but is very obvious is Gaylord DuBois' novel, The Lone Ranger, the first of 18 Grossett & Dunlap novels published from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Ben Gridley was also a negro in this episode, who expresses joy when he is served chicken as his last meal before hanging. John Todd not only played the role of Tonto, but doubled for the role of “Whitey.” According to script notes, the Earl Graser also doubled for a voice in the crowd sequence.

Broadcast October 24, 1933
Sally Simms is without the prettiest girl in Osage, especially those of Dale Martin, deputy sheriff at the town of Forks.  Shortly after the shooting in which both the Sheriff and his murderer were killed by fast bullets, Dale Martin accepts the position -- with a price. Now known for a fast draw, Dale must defend his quick draw against those like Injun’ Joe and Lightin’ Harris, against the protests of Sally. The Lone Ranger takes a hand and kidnaps Dale, only to teach him that a good sheriff can stop a fight without a firing a shot. Late one evening, Lightnin’ Harris arrives at the Silver Dollar Saloon and provokes a fight with Sally’s father. Dale removes a shotgun and order Lightnin’ to surrender his firearms as according to the law that hasn’t been enforced. Realizing he is cornered, Lightnin’ leaves town, never to return again. Sally cries for joy -- her future husband will be the kind of sheriff she wants him to be.

Trivia, etc. John Todd not only plays the role of Tonto in this episode, but doubles for Smoky Snyder in the opening scene.

Broadcast October 26, 1933
Silas Withersby was found shot to death with a gun owned by Steve Thatcher, who now resides in Sheriff Tenebre’s jail in the town of Shelby. Sid Fields, an Easterner from Ohio, fell victim to the chaos of the night before and is also accused of the crime. The Lone Ranger knows time is against him when a lynch mob is bent on hanging a man and determined to do it, before morning when the highly respected Texas Rangers arrive to help the Sheriff guard his prisoners. Single handed, the Lone Ranger holds up thirty odd men in the saloon to inspect their cash, hoping to find someone with a bankroll damaged by a bullet that passed through Withersby. Tonto, meanwhile, unlocks the jail and helps disguise the prisoners as Texas Ranger, even arming them with loaded guns to fool the approaching mob. When the mob breaks, believing Steve was a Texas Ranger, the Lone Ranger arrives to clear Steve and Sid’s good name and brings Rusty Redpath, the real murderer, into the office to verify the money found on his possession -- with burn marks from the fatal bullet that killed Withersby.

Trivia, etc. Beginning with this episode, the program opens with the Lone Ranger encouraging his horse Silver with the call of “Hi Yo Silver!” after the opening narrator delivers his prologue, remarking that the speedy white horse and his rider just rode past. The speed at which Silver muscles is described by deputy Jim Fowler when he tells the sheriff, “Yuh caint hit a feller travelin’ like that Sheriff. Gosh, he’s goin’ faster’n the bullets is…”

Broadcast October 28, 1933
Sheriff Snead of Carson City leads a posse to catch Pete Lorenzo, a notorious outlaw who just killed honest Jim Fawcett and made off with a pile of new paper money from Washington. A witness named Andy Daiglish witnessed the crime and identified Lorenzo to the sheriff. The posse catches up to a man who claims his name is Pete Atwill, even though he fit’s the description given by Daiglish. Too late in the day to return to town, the sheriff orders the posse to make camp for the night while their prisoner remains tied until they can decide what to do with him. After dark, Pete attempts to make a break for it. The posse catches up to him and a struggle ends with the sheriff being shot through the heart. The posse prepares for a hanging until the Lone Ranger interferes, and points out that Pete had a gun loaded with blanks… supplied by Daiglish. After comparison to the bullets in Daiglish’s gun and the stolen money found on his possession, the posse discovers they had the wrong person and seeks justice against the true murderer while the Lone Ranger rides away.

Trivia, etc. It is referenced in this episode that Tonto rides a jackass. Obviously he later graduated to a pint horse named "White Feller," later renamed "Scout."

Broadcast October 31, 1933
Bob Ryder has masqueraded as a masked bandit who robs from the rich and, on occasion, giving to the needy. His wife Betty is unaware of her husband’s activities, believing he spends his afternoons panning for gold. The Lone Ranger plays detective and quickly discovers the identity of the notorious bandit. The Lone Ranger and Tonto trail him to a cabin and taking custody of the goods, escorts him back to Virginia City. Along the way, Bob pleads his sad sob story of being swindled -- twice -- and his newborn son being the primary reason why he turned to theft. Riding along a treacherous mountain side, Tonto’s horse loses its footing and Bob, without hesitation, plunges his horse front on Tonto’s, saving the life of the Indian, but taking the life of Bob as he plunges to his death. Realizing Bob could have had his chance to escape, but instead chose to do the right thing, the Lone Ranger brings in the body for identification and tells the story of how an Indian was masquerading as the masked bandit. Tonto is arrested for the crime but before a lynch mob can seek justice, the Lone Ranger arrives to free Tonto and ride out of the territory, content knowing Bob’s good name will not be tarnished. As the Lone Ranger remarked, “I didn’t know whether to bring him in, or let him go.  I’m glad I didn’t have to decide.”

Trivia, etc. Beginning with this episode, the series began the opening catch-phrase: “A fiery horse with speed of light, a cloud of dust, a hearty laugh!”