I loved the Lone Ranger when I was a kid. He seemed cool and suave compared to other cowboy heroes, and with the powder blue jumpsuit and the red scarf, he kind of had an Elvis thing going even before Elvis had the Elvis thing going. And Clayton Moore, the actor who to me was the Lone Ranger, delivered every line as though it had been written by Shakespeare.
I have to stop watching the Lone Ranger, however, before all my childhood illusions are destroyed. Oh, the Lone Ranger is still cool, but as an adult, I get the sense that the show was written, not by Shakespeare, but more like two patrons of the Funkstown Tavern right before last call. Patrons who arrived at say, 3:00 that afternoon. Many entertaining and even serious movies have holes in the plot. Most of us can accept those, but it’s the details that sometimes destroy a movie. You know, the ones that you notice that make no sense; the ones that make you say, “Hey! Wait a minute . . .” And it only takes one “Hey! Wait a minute . . .” moment to make you realize that in fact, the entire movie is nothing but such moments.
I recently watched the 1956 movie The Lone Ranger and instead of being inspired by the Masked Man’s pursuit of justice, I was instead inspired by the scriptwriter’s profound denial of reality. We’ll skip the part where the Lone Ranger has assigned his horse, Silver, to be a lookout, and that when Silver does see a gang of bad guys, he begins tapping out some kind of equine Morse Code with his hoof to let the Ranger know that Evil Personified is riding across the land. Maybe it was the actual Morse Code, I don’t know, Silver is pretty smart.
Anyway, there’s this scene with cow hand Pete Ramirez who, fresh off the trail in Abilene, is writing his best gal back home while seated at a table in his hotel room. There’s a knock at his door and his spurs jingle as he walks over to answer it. And this is the exact point at which this movie fell apart for me.
Why was Pete wearing spurs in his hotel room? Why was Pete, a cowhand, in a hotel room and not at a boarding house or even more likely, camped on the prairie? And he was not staying in a little room either. It was big enough to be the Bat Masterson Suite at the Abilene Hilton. And how is it that the Evil Foreman felt that he could shoot through the wall and kill Pete without anyone noticing? And no one did seem to notice, not even the town marshal who, when questioned by the Lone Ranger, who was wearing his “codgy old miner” disguise, couldn’t remember any murders that had taken place in his town just a week earlier? It could have been a month earlier or a day earlier, I’m not sure. It took the cattle drive a lot longer to reach Abilene than it seemed to take the Lone Ranger. Maybe Silver is just that fast or maybe Silver was smart enough to tap out “t-a-k-e-t-h-e-b-u-s” in Morse Code. In any case, when the marshal finally did remember that a murder had taken place, he didn’t remember any of the details. The town’s general store owner did, but never mind; explaining why he did and the marshal didn’t will only make our heads hurt.
We know that Pete was shot because he knew too much. This demonstrates the true flaw in the script for it was the writer who should have been shot for knowing so little. Pete knew that the Evil Rancher was buying dynamite, which we learn he will use to drive the Innocent Indians from “Spirit Mountain,” their sacred grounds, because there’s silver in that thar hill. The Evil Rancher leads his hired hands through a canyon pass that looks much more like Utah than it does anyplace between Texas and Abilene, but why should the scriptwriter know anything about geography? Innocent Indians, who take no notice whatsoever when the Lone Ranger rides into their village which sits on top of a butte at the least convenient point from which to gather water, have walled off part of the canyon with a barricade of vertical logs sunk into the ground. It would have been easier to stick two logs in the ground at each side of the canyon and then stack the rest inside the form, but whatever. When Evil Rancher and his men attack, some of the Indians climb the short rise around the wall, while others take the trouble of climbing up one side and down the other of the log barricade. These climbing Indians must have failed basic training or something. Certainly, the writer failed to explain why, having gone to the trouble of building a barricade, the Indians were making such a fuss about getting in front of it instead of staying behind it.
I could go on, but it only saddens me to think that the Lone Ranger has righted wrongs throughout the Old West for all these years, but has never come close to arresting the writers whose assault on reality is a crime in and of itself.
(The trailer for this movie appears below; in fact, the entire movie is available on YouTube, which shouldn’t be surprising since a recording of what I had for breakfast this morning is probably now available on YouTube. Watch until the end at which point you’ll notice that Silver gets top billing. It’s possible that Silver did the editing on this film.)