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The Lone Ranger - Loose ends and unfinished business
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The mysterious masked rider of the plains, the fictional hero who fought for law and justice in the American West, helped form the values of several generations of American kids.

Many younger fans are unaware that The Lone Ranger originated on radio. And very few know of the 18 Lone Ranger novels authored by Fran Striker.

The development of the Lone Ranger is almost as interesting as his exploits.

Detroit radio station owner George W. Trendle is doubtlessly responsible for the original concept. But writer Fran Striker fleshed out the characters, wrote the original scripts, and a majority of the several thousand radio episodes. Striker did not get the credit he deserves for his role in creation of The Lone Ranger.

Trendle wanted to use music in the public domain in order to avoid paying royalties, but it was Jim Jewell who selected the William Tell Overture as the theme. And Jewell furnished the actors, directed early radio shows, and even wrote some of the early scripts.

Trendle and Striker also created Sgt. Preston of the Yukon and The Green Hornet, whose "real" name was Britt Reid. Some incarnations of The Green Hornet have Britt Reid as the son of the Lone Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid, making The Lone Ranger the great-uncle of The Green Hornet.

Recognizing the potential of The Lone Ranger, Trendle incorporated - or "forced Striker and Jewell to sign over" - the rights to the Lone Ranger. Trendle retained the talents of Striker and Jewell at minimum compensation.

During the early 1930s, various actors played The Lone Ranger. From May 1933 until his death in an auto accident in 1941, the part was played by Earl Graser. Trendle wanted Graser's identity to remain secret and required Graser to restrict his acting to The Lone Ranger. Furthermore, Graser had an unatheletic, slightly chubby, build and was not seen as a proper image for The Lone Ranger.

Graser and his wife once found themselves at a Detroit nightclub when a prize was offered to the person who could shout "Hi-Yo, Silver!" most nearly like the radio Lone Ranger. Graser, unknown to the general public as the radio Lone Ranger, entered the contest but, incredibly, didn't win.

Upon Graser's death in 1941, Brace Beemer took over the role for the duration of the series ending in 1955. It was Beemer's voice that readers of this column remember as the radio Lone Ranger. Yet according to one account, they retained and continued to use Graser's recorded "Hi-Yo, Silver!" shout.

In contrast to Graser, Brace Beemer was more than 6 feet tall with an athletic build, and in real life an expert horseman. He made numerous public appearances as The Lone Ranger.

Based on radio, television, and novels, the Lone Ranger's last name was "Reid." However, so far as I know, in neither of these media is his first name ever specified. In the 1981 movie, "The Legend of The Lone Ranger," his first name is "John."

At least two sources state that the Lone Ranger's first name is "Dan." However, insofar as the son of The Lone Ranger's brother is "Dan Reid" it's more logical, and consistent with other scripts, that Dan's father, the Lone Ranger's older brother, is "Dan."

This leaves "John" as the Lone Ranger's name.

In a 2003 TV-movie series pilot, some halfwit gave the Lone Ranger the name "Luke Hartman." Fortunately, that series went unsold, and died an ignominious death. Owners of the rights should never allow blatant liberties and deviation from the "real" Lone Ranger. Depending on one's generation, and the medium by which fans came to know him, we have our various ideas of what the Lone Ranger is like and how he should be portrayed. But we are united in that we don't like maverick writers taking liberties with our hero.

The novel, "The Lone Ranger Rides North," published in 1946, details how the Lone Ranger finds his lost nephew, Dan Reid. It's a good account, but has some loose ends. A radio episode had the group of ambushed Rangers headed by Cpt. Dan Reid, the future Lone Ranger's older brother. In contrast, the novel has the Lone Ranger's brother, Dan, as just one of the rangers ambushed by the Butch Cavendish gang. Cpt. Hargraves, not Dan Reid, was the captain who assigned the Rangers to that ill-fated mission. Perhaps a minor inconsistency, but fans notice these things.

Another loose end has Baby Dan's mother, Linda Reid, with a southern accent. She left from Council Bluffs to meet her Texas Ranger husband, Dan Reid, at Ft. Laramie, Wyo. If she were from the south, why would she leave from Council Bluffs in the Midwest? And why would she meet her husband in Wyoming instead of Texas? Perhaps there is an explanation, but Fran Striker doesn't address it.

Numerous attempts to bring back The Lone Ranger have fallen short. A serious script could dramatize these events and tie up loose ends. Any future attempt should remain as consistent as possible with the generally accepted saga of The Lone Ranger.

The 1981 movie, "The Legend of The Lone Ranger," was considered a failure.

Nor do I have much hope for the latest attempt, a Disney film with a quarter-million dollar budget, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. Nowhere in the hype surrounding this film, scheduled for release in May 2013, do I see any reference whatsoever to the radio episodes, to the series of 18 novels, or even to Striker whose writing should remain the most authoritative source of "The Real Lone Ranger."

Any Hollywood production should remain true to the spirit of The Lone Ranger. And go easy on special effects and gratuitous violence. There is enough drama in the saga of The Lone Ranger for a great movie to rely on a good script and good acting.

- John Waelti's column appears every Friday in the Times. He can be reached at