Friday, March 4, 2016

The Lost 1933 LONE RANGER Radio Episodes

“The Lone Ranger,” Fran Striker recalled in later years, “always was a blood-and-thunder affair – with both a chase and a fight. In a way, it’s a morality play with good pitted against and overcoming evil. Of course, we tried not to let the plumbing show.” With but three exceptions in the first month of broadcasting, Striker was responsible for writing all of The Lone Ranger radio scripts over the first decade. Looking back with fond recollection, and romance on the eyes, Trendle, Jewell, Campbell and others involved since the very beginning insisted the program was created for young children. Historical documents found at archives over the years, and a review of the radio scripts verify the series was in fact produced for an adult audience, broadcast during a time slot when youngsters were generally fast asleep in their beds.

            The practice of recording of The Lone Ranger did not commence until 1938, so the first five years of the radio program have been virtually unexplored – and undocumented – over the decades. (The only three exceptions in the last 60 years are brief mentions in Dave Holland's book, Terry Salomonsson's broadcast log, and a recent article in SPERDVAC's Radiogram.) The relationship between the masked man and Indian included a comfortable barrier of privacy – with Tonto never seeing the face of The Lone Ranger without his mask. The earliest radio scripts depicted the title character expressing a laughing-at-danger approach commonly found in the masked avenger/pulp fiction lore, when confronted with a challenge or confrontation. (This personality trait was toned down considerably by the time The Lone Ranger gained its first sponsor in late 1933.) It has also been proven that Jewell was in fact revising the scripts Striker mailed him so the trademarks of a blood n’ thunder adventure may not have been as prevenient as historians observe when reading the radio scripts today. With no extant recordings, the scripts are the only time capsule that remains from this era. It is clear that by early 1934 Trendle’s influence dictated a more wholesome character who never shot to kill and sought retribution through trial and law. Because The Lone Ranger was broadcast from WEBR and KOIL in late 1933 with local stock companies, The Lone Ranger may have been dramatized in those areas of the country with a rough edge over the tamed rendition originating from Detroit.

            Fran Striker initially visualized The Lone Ranger as just over six feet fall and weighing around 190 pounds; a good working build for a Western hero. Such a man, riding a super horse with silver horseshoes, would naturally have the finest possible equipment, including ivory handled guns. In a radio script from his pre-WXYZ years, Striker identified Robin Hood with silver-tipped arrows – so he passed this idea on to The Lone Ranger with silver bullets and silver horseshoes. In a number of 1933 broadcasts, The Lone Ranger was quickly identified not by his cry of “Hi-Yo, Silver,” but rather the silver horseshoes and/or silver bullets. Tonto did, on occasion, shoot to kill and he left an identifying trademark of a silver-tipped arrow. And so it is these early radio scripts from the calendar year of 1933 that today spark the greatest interest to fans of The Lone Ranger. It would come as no surprise to historians well-versed in the field that the first year of the radio program depicted a different rendition of The Lone Ranger and Tonto than what we are familiar with today.

            The first episode indicating Tonto’s savage brand of justice was during the broadcast of April 15, 1933. A gang of rustlers from Snake River are stealing cattle from all the neighboring ranches: The Lazy A, the Bar Lone, the Crossed T, and Carol Hawkins’ Circle X Ranch, where an emergency meeting is held. Two murders were foretold by the mark of a snake cut into the saddle of the riders. Carol deduces the leader of the Snake River Rustlers is employed on her ranch, and The Lone Ranger introduces himself to Carol late that evening. With her help, the foreman of the Circle X Ranch, Peters, is exposed and shot dead with an arrow that came out of nowhere. Peters had a place fifteen miles away where he was hiding all the stolen cattle. The drama concludes with Mr. Hawkins remarking, “If Peters was shot with a silver bullet, I could dope it out. But an arrow, by gum, that’s a new one to tell them other ranchers about…” The announcer closes the broadcast: “The arrow seems to be the work of the funny little half-breed. Perhaps Tonto has had an active part in this affair of The Lone Ranger. There is so much mystery about the strange rider on the white horse, that we can do no more than guess.”

            In the broadcast of June 13, 1933, an Indian attack on Phil Weston and his young wife, Helen, is thwarted by The Lone Ranger and Tonto. The masked man shoots and kills eight Indians before taking an arrow to the back. After his wounds are mended, The Lone Ranger pays a visit to Tonto.

RANGER:   Tonto, whose knife is this?
TONTO:      It mine.
RANGER:   Umhum. That’s what I thought. Did you kill that Indian?
TONTO:      Ugh.
RANGER:   Threw the knife, eh?
TONTO:      Him bad Injun. Him need killin’.

            Throughout the calendar year of 1933, Tonto displayed a strong dislike towards Mexicans and Gypsies – especially Mexicans. For the episode of May 9, Tonto gets worked up when he talks of Mexican Pete, a notorious outlaw. Perhaps no dialogue exchanged between The Lone Ranger and Tonto can best exemplify Tonto’s hatred than the following reprinted from the broadcast of April 18.

TONTO:       Here guns.
RANGER:      Alright.
TONTO:       Tonto take um out bullets of silver. Put in lead.
RANGER:      Eh? What for?
TONTO:       Silver... no waste on greasers.
RANGER:         (LAUGH) You thrifty old scoundrel you. 
                  Put those silver bullets back in, or… never mind, I’ll do it.

            Throughout the 1930s, vigilante behavior and frontier justice was the meat and potatoes of pulp fiction, dime novels and movies. Frontier justice, even when undertaken with the most peaceable of intentions, involved various degrees of violence. With knowledge that the story itself was pure fiction, suspension of disbelief granted each person their own interpretation of the law based on the scenario that played out. Allowing the lynching of a man inferred with guilt, when exposed in front of a crowd of townsfolk, was commonplace on the printed page. The Lone Ranger, allowing justice to be served outside a court of law, was just as guilty as the man who constructed the noose – and this was demonstrated many times throughout the radio broadcasts of 1933.

At the close of the broadcast of April 11, a dishonest sheriff pays the supreme penalty. One of the men in the posse shouts, “I reckon we got all we need boys. Let the hanging’ go right ahead with a different guest o’ honor.” The Lone Ranger picks up the young lady who was an eyewitness to the crime, responsible for cinching the sheriff’s guilt, and puts her on top of his horse. “I’ll take you back to your place girl,” the masked man remarked. “This won’t be good for you to see.”

During the broadcast of May 2, 1933, The Lone Ranger does not think twice about the judgment sought against Dryden, a killer hired to kill the cousin of Curt Boskins.

ANNOUNCER: To a small narrow bridge, that spanned a deep Canyon that was 
                  known as Miners Leap, went The Lone Ranger, with Dryden across 
                  the saddle.  Here, at one end of the flimsy bridge, he reined the great 
                  horse Silver, and allowed Dryden to stand down, lame, and angry with 
                  his arms still bound tightly to his side.
DRYDEN:   BLAST YUH, WHOEVER YUH ARE, I’LL KILL YUH FER THIS.
RANGER:   Just like you killed the Stage driver, eh?
DRYDEN:   HOW D’YEW KNOW...  ER... I DIDN’T KILL HIM, I...  
                  I DON’T KNOW WHAT YORE TALKIN’ ABOUT!
RANGER:   (LAUGH) I heard all about it Dryden, and that’s one reason I am here. 
                  The other reason is an agreement that is in your pocket, signed 
                  by Curt Boskin.
DRYDEN:   HE SQUEALED THE DIRTY DOUBLE CROSSIN’...
RANGER:   There are many laws out here Dryden, and you are going to see one 
                  of them enforced right now. You are going to meet a new kind of justice.
DRYDEN:   YUH WON’T UNTIE ME, YUH DON’T DARE TUH MEET 
                  ME SQUARE...YUH DON’T DARE TUH LET ME DRAW...
RANGER:   I’ll undo this rope at once. A coil like this... this… this and this 
                  and there you are. Now you are free to draw if you want to.
DRYDEN:   AN’ SO I WILL I...
SOUND          (shot)
DRYDEN:   WHA…WHAT THE…
RANGER:   You’re very slow for a man that talks as loud as you do Dryden. 
                  There is your gun, still tumbling down the canyon. 
                  Just the way that Jim Greene was going to tumble.
DRYDEN:   WHY WAS HE?
RANGER:   Because, you were going to bring him here and have him go 
                  across that bridge, AHEAD of you.
DRYDEN:   WAL... It’s one way tuh his place ain’t it?
RANGER:   Yes, but now YOU will go across, AHEAD OF ME!
DRYDEN:   I WON’T DO IT!
RANGER:   What are you afraid of? Cross the bridge and you’ll be safe. 
                  I won’t chase you any further.
DRYDEN:   NO…  I WON’T.
RANGER:   COME… HURRY…  HI SILVER…  CROWD HIM!
DRYDEN:   WAIT…
SOUND          (clumping of hoofs)
RANGER:   CROWD CLOSER SILVER!
DRYDEN:   CALL THAT HOSS BACK...  HE’LL STOMP ME...
RANGER:   THEN GET ON THE BRIDGE!
DRYDEN:   IT AIN’T SAFE!  I CAN’T… I CAN’T…
RANGER:   CROWD HIM SILVER!
DRYDEN:   STOP!
RANGER:   THIS... IS FOR THE STAGE DRIVER YOU KILLED DRYDEN!
DRYDEN:   WAIT…  WAIT… STOP…  CALL THAT HOSS BACK!
RANGER:   GET ON THAT BRIDGE! CROSS IT!
DRYDEN:   I CAN’T! I CAN’T! IT’LL CRASH DOWN! IT’S CHOPPED 
                  SO’S IT’LL FALL!
RANGER:   CLOSER, SILVER!
SOUND          (more clumping)
DRYDEN:   STOP... (SHOUT) OUCH! OUCH! CALL THAT HOSS BACK... 
                  I CAN’T GO ON THAT BRIDGE!  I’LL CONFESS… 
I                  CHOPPED IT MYSELF!
RANGER:   HI SILVER... CROWD HIM BIG FELLOW!
DRYDEN:   AIN’T YUH HUMAN AT ALL? AIN’T YUH GOT NO SOUL? STOP!
RANGER:   YOU KILLED MORE THAN ONE MAN, IN COLD BLOOD! 
                  I’M SAVING THE SHERIFF A LOT OF TROUBLE!
DRYDEN:   I ADMIT IT STRANGER! I KILLED THAT STAGE DRIVER… I CONFESS!
RANGER:   ON THE BRIDGE... HURRY!
DRYDEN:   I CONFESS IT ALL... OUCH! THAT BLAMED HOSS! (SHOUT)
SOUND          (bridge cracks)
DRYDEN:   (SHRINK) IT’S GIVIN’ WAY!
SOUND          (wood splinter, stop hoofs)
DRYDEN:   (FAST FADE OUT)  OOOOO… Oooooo!
SOUND          (far distant crash of wood)
RANGER:   (AFTER SHORT BREAK) Well Silver… it’s justice. 
                  I thought he would back up, at the last minute, but... 
                  well, we just HAD to get the man that shot old Johnny Drews.

During conversation between Tonto and The Lone Ranger on the broadcast of May 11, our heroes discuss what to do about Rem Purdy, an outlaw wanted for the murder of his wife in El Paso, and the death of two Indian babies. “Tonto, if there ever was a man that deserved killing, that is the man,” The Lone Ranger remarks. Tonto offers to kill Purdy himself. “No, there are things that are harder for him to stand, that will do better for our purpose than killing him,” the masked man explained. “He has a scheme of sort. We’ve got to find out what they scheme is. He’ll be killed someday, sure enough, but not by us.” Tonto then suggests that tar and feathers would be a “good thing for coyote like him.” As it turns out, Purdy’s scheme is exposed in the presence of the mob of angry railroad workers, and justice is promptly served at the hands of the men with tar and feathers. Only afterwards Purdy feels like a fool to discover he was coated with molasses, not tar.

What I find amusing is the fact that 80 years following those early radio broadcasts, very little has been documented. The radio scripts have been available to the public for reading and review but maybe few wanted to take the trek or expense to travel to the archive. It may give readers of this blog post a great feeling to know that almost every radio script dating from 1933 to 1937 have been read and fully documented into a database. This project has been going on for the past year and will doubt be completed in the next month. What you read above is just a sample of what was unearthed and I can assure you there were virtually hundreds of surprises. If the stars align properly, all 770 plus pre-1938 radio broadcasts will not only be documented in book form, but details regarding the purchase of said book will be made public. In the meantime, should you want to know more about the early adventures, I recommend you subscribe to SPERDVAC's monthly magazine, Radiogram, which costs $20 a year. There will be a more in-depth article about these recent discoveries later this year. You can subscribe to the newsletter at www.sperdvac.com and visit the "Membership" page.

On March 11, at the Williamsburg Film Festival, I will be presenting a slide show presentation on such discoveries for a full hour -- most of the photographs originating from archives across the country, the majority of them never seen by the public in 60 to 70 years. If you live within travel distance and want to check this out, I can assure you it will be worth the effort. You can find more information about the festival at http://wff5.tripod.com



2 comments:

Tommy Cole said...

Thank you. I learned something new today about the Lone Ranger. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this info. gleaned from the pre-1938 TLR radio scripts. I hope a video of your slide presentation will be available.

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