The Secret History of the Lone Ranger
Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger, left, and Clayton Moore — arguably the most famous masked man (Photo: Walt Disney/Everett)
The Lone Ranger is a mystery, all right: On one hand, the character's seemingly been around forever; on the other hand, it seems forever since he's been around.
The second part of that changed with Wednesday's arrival of the $250 million summer-popcorn flick "The Lone Ranger," with Armie Hammer as the iconic western do-gooder and Johnny Depp as the just-as-iconic Tonto.
But do audiences still know their silver bullets from their Silver horses?
They will now. Your cheat sheet, kemosabe:
1. The Lone Ranger Is Older Than Superman (and Batman, and...): One of the 20th century's original superheroes, minus the superpowers but with the secret identity, the Lone Ranger first saddled up, via his eponymous radio drama, on Detroit's WXYZ (yes, the hero of the wild, wild West got his start in the future home of Motown) in 1933 on a date that even expert sources, such as the Lone Ranger Fan Club, can't exactly pinpoint. In any case, the Lone Ranger beat the Man of Steel to the heroic punch by five years and the Caped Crusader by six years.
2. The Character Behind the Mask: While the origin story has varied, the most common version (and the one used, more or less, in the Hammer-Depp version) is this: Six Texas Rangers, including brothers John and Dan Reid, are ambushed by the dastardly Butch Cavendish gang. All die, save John, who creates a mask out of his slain brother's vest, and, with Native American guide Tonto at his side and snow-white stallion Silver doing the legwork, goes off to bring Cavendish to justice.
3. It's "Hi Yo," Not "Hi Ho, Silver!" A 1980s song by singer-songwriter Jim Diamond begs to differ, and admittedly it's a fine enunciation line between "yo" and "ho" in Fred Foy's famous narration, but history notes the line as a hearty "Hi-Yo, Silver!" Wikipedia, seriously, has a good rundown of the full "Lone Ranger" intro and its evolution over the years. (Foy, it's also worth noting, was neither the only nor the original "Lone Ranger" announcer, but as the New York Times put it, he was "certainly the best known." In addition to the radio show, he was heard on the 1949-1957 TV series.)
4. The Too-Alone Ranger: Tonto was not in the radio program's first episode. Or its second or third, for that matter. It wasn't until Episode No. 11, in fact, that Tonto made his debut, a byproduct of writer Fran Striker's dramatic need to "giv[e] the Lone Ranger someone to talk to," Striker's son, Fran Striker Jr., told NPR in 2010.
5. The Depp Twist: In the beginning, Tonto was Potawatomi. In the new movie, Tonto is Comanche, the tribe that accepted Depp as an honorary member. The actor, who claims Native American ancestry, told Yahoo! Movies he was committed to do right by the character and, even more so, the character's people, so often reduced to stereotypes in Hollywood westerns. Depp, by the by, is the first onscreen Tonto to receive top billing over the man in the Lone Ranger getup.
Exclusive: Watch 'Lone Ranger' Featurette — Legacy: