Yesterday, while going through a collection of ABC promos from the 1950s that I acquired on DVD several years ago, I came across the opening and closing credits to an anniversary special relating to The Lone Ranger, as well as a few minutes of footage from the special itself. The quality is pretty bad. The original source for this material was no doubt a very rough 16mm print, transferred to VHS at some point and then converted to DVD.
The Lone Ranger Story
According to the opening credits, the special was called “The Lone Ranger Story” and would answer questions like why the Lone Ranger wears his mask and why he uses silver bullets. It was sponsored by General Mills. The closing credits indicate it was produced by The Lone Ranger, Inc. with George B. Seitz, Jr. as director and writer. The copyright date is given as 1955.
I assumed it would be easy to look this up online and figure out what it was. I was wrong.
The Lone Ranger character debuted on radio in 1933. The television series The Lone Ranger premiered on ABC in September 1949, with Clayton Moore in the title role. A total of 221 episodes were broadcast over the course of eight seasons (three of which consisted entirely of repeats), with the final first-run episode airing in June 1957. The 1956-1957 season was filmed in color. From 1952-1953, John Hurt played the Lone Ranger.
Initially, I was unable to find any references to “The Lone Ranger Story” but discovered that the Internet Movie Database does have listings for a 1952 compilation film called “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” and an anniversary show called “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” from 1955.
Supposedly, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” consisted of the first three episodes of The Lone Ranger edited together but there aren’t a lot of sources for this other than IMDb. As for “The Lone Ranger Rides Again,” it is said to have aired in February 1955 to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Lone Ranger on radio and television. It retold the origin story of the Lone Ranger and, most importantly, was reportedly broadcast in color.
I found a number of references to a 22nd anniversary special airing in February 1955, including television listings in a few newspapers and a review in Broadcasting*Telecasting. It first aired on Saturday, February 12th, 1955 from 1-2PM on CBS and again the following day on ABC from 8-9PM. I found no mention of it being in color and nothing to indicate whether it was made up of footage from old episodes. Unfortunately, none of these sources give an actual title, they just refer generically to an anniversary special.
Further confusing things are indications that anniversary specials were also aired in 1956, 1957 and 1958. That last date would have been the 25th anniversary of the Lone Ranger on radio/television and a few sources online state that the “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” from 1955 was repeated in 1958 to celebrate the 25th anniversary.
It was at this point that I somehow stumbled upon an Amazon.com listing for something called “The Lone Ranger Double-Barelled Feature: The Lone Ranger Story/Hi-Yo Silver,” released last year by Legend Films. It contains a vintage TV special called “The Lone Ranger Story” (said to have been aired in 1958 and consisting of the footage from the first three episodes) and the 1940 film version of the 1938 Lone Ranger serial.
So, it seems safe to say that “The Lone Ranger Story” is the 22nd anniversary special aired in February 1955 (potentially repeated in 1956, 1957 and again in 1958 for the 25th anniversary). I have found no information suggesting it was filmed or broadcast in color. If anybody reading this has purchased “The Lone Ranger Double-Barelled Feature: The Lone Ranger Story/Hi-Yo Silver” and can describe what’s on it, please hit the comments.
Some questions still remain. Was there an earlier compilation film broadcast in 1952? Could the 22nd anniversary special have been filmed in color even if it was only broadcast in black and white? What is the source for the 1955 special being titled “The Lone Ranger Rides Again?”
If nothing else, attempting to unravel this mystery has served to reinforce my long held belief that websites like Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database are unfortunately often inaccurate