Nearly 80, Clayton Moore is still the man in the mask.
30 April 1994
By Derek Bishton
Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark
'HI‑YO, SILVER, away!" With those immortal words and the furious, galloping rhythms of the overture to William Tell, the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, rode into the hearts of millions during the early Fifties. In the days when television sets were still something of a rarity, The Lone Ranger introduced a generation of postwar children to the good old‑fashioned values of the wild west where good triumphed over evil and where the individual was still capable of making the difference.
Now nearing his 80th birthday, actor Clayton Moore is still playing the part of his alter ego, as this recent portrait in his Los Angeles home shows.
Photographer Mary Ellen Mark has made a special study of veteran actors from the golden era of the western--and not before time : both Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, and the Lone Ranger's faithful white horse, Silver, died more than a decade ago. Although filming of the original series ended in 1958, actor Clayton Moore has continued to keep the Lone Ranger's persona alive by refusing to appear in public without his mask‑-save for a six-year period during the early Eighties when the Wrather Corporation, which had bought the rights to the Lone Ranger for $1.5m in 1954, banned him from so doing because it wanted to replace him with a younger man. oore fought the ban by releasing a special souvenir record featuring the official fight song, "Keep the Mask on the Lone Ranger".
His appeal revealed a hitherto unsuspected legion of fans who rallied to his cause, placing emotional adverts in US newspapers pledging their support for a man whose life had been dedicated to upholding the American Way. In the end, popular opinion won out despite attempts by the Wrather Corporation to launch a new hero in the 1980 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger (starring Klinton Spillsbury--and who remembers him now?) Moore won a famous victory in a Los Angeles court in 1985 allowing him to wear the mask again.
Although it is now more than 45 years since he first appeared in the role, Moore still has a busy schedule opening supermarkets and fetes. 'The Lone Ranger means a lot to me,' says Moore. “He was a very helpful man.”