The Lone Ranger — Clayton Moore — and Silver
Gioachino Rossini, the "King of Opera" ... and composer of the "William Tell Overture"
A number of different versions exist of that iconic TV show opening, and a degree of confusion surrounds the sequence — especially when it comes to filming locations. Figuring out just what's going on in the various "Lone Ranger" openings is part of Fundamentals of the Iverson Movie Ranch, or "Iverson 101."
John Goodman, above, and Gioachino Rossini are not the same guy
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, as the Lone Ranger rides again ...
Version 1 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — shot in part on the Iverson Movie Ranch
The early opening seen above begins with a 20-second sequence that is shot in the desert north of Los Angeles in 1954. This sequence has been widely reported to be filmed in Lone Pine, Calif. — a claim that has been debunked. After those 20 seconds, the scene transitions to the Iverson Movie Ranch, where Clayton Moore, as the Lone Ranger, first rides south through the Iverson Gorge as the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!" is heard and the familiar voiceover comes on, talking about "a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty 'Hi-yo Silver!' "
With the Lone Ranger in the saddle, Silver rears up next to Lone Ranger Rock in the Iverson Gorge,
from the 1949 version of the opening to the TV show
The big moment starts at about the 31-second mark, as Lone Ranger Rock comes into view and Silver then rears up on his hind legs next to the distinctive landmark. You'll notice several cuts or edits during this sequence, something that's common to all known iterations of the opening. Every version I've seen has a series of edits during the "rearing up" scene, which makes sense as it would have been pretty much impossible to get Silver to scamper up the hill to the rock, turn slightly to the left and immediately do a picture-perfect "rearing up" — all within a matter of a few seconds. (Never mind pausing for the episode title to appear before turning and heading down into the Gorge on cue.)
Lone Ranger Rock as it appears today
Lone Ranger Rock, which got its name from its appearance in the opening to the TV show, can still be visited today, on the former site of the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. You can see it from the car as you drive north on Redmesa Road, just north of Santa Susana Pass Road, and you can also get out and hike a short distance for your photo op with the rock.
The Lone Ranger heads down the Gorge in the extended version of the original 1949 opening
As the clip continues, the Lone Ranger leaves Lone Ranger Rock and continues his ride south through the Iverson Gorge. A version of this part of the ride appears in both the original 1949 opening and the 1956 reshoot. However, the most commonly seen versions (which are from the 1956 reshoot) cut short the ride well before the point seen in the screen shot above. The original 1949 clip above contains one of the longer versions of the Ranger's ride into the Gorge.
A shot of Iverson's Upper Gorge from the original opening, just before the ascent to Lone Ranger Rock
The above shot, taken from the original 1949 opening, appears moments before the Lone Ranger makes a right turn to head up to Lone Ranger Rock. It's seen at about the 28-second mark in the clip above. The shot features a portion of Iverson's Upper Gorge, including key rocks that are still in place today. Behind the Lone Ranger and Silver, the shot also includes the trail the Ranger rides as he approaches Lone Ranger Rock. Below I will compare this shot with its counterpart from the 1956 reshoot, and will talk about the features seen in the shot.
It's worth emphasizing that version 2 is an ENTIRELY NEW VERSION of the opening, containing none of the original footage. I'm emphasizing it because a large portion of the new opening closely replicates footage from the original version filmed seven years earlier, and many viewers — including myself — have probably watched the two versions of this footage countless times without realizing it's from two different shoots, seven years apart. (I'll go into detail below about how to tell the 1949 and 1956 versions apart.)
This is the version of the opening that is probably the most familiar to fans of the TV show:
Version 2 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, in 1956
Along with all-new video, this new 1956 version features a new arrangement of the "William Tell Overture" — although it's hard to tell them apart until about 12 seconds in, when the familiar "deedle-eet, deedle-eet, deedle-eet-deet-deet" part, now synonymous with the Lone Ranger, kicks in. (If you go back to the 1949 clip and pay attention to the music, you may be surprised to find that the "deedle-eet" section is missing from the first half of the clip — but it does come in around the 34-second mark, and accompanies the ride into the Lower Gorge.)
In the new video, Clayton Moore again guides Silver along the same trail through the Iverson Gorge that he traversed in 1949, and again the horse rears up next to Lone Ranger Rock.
Season 5 title shot — the fifth season was the only one shot in color
The backstory on this version is that the opening was completely reshot, in color, in 1956, for the fifth and, as it turned out, final season of the series — the only season of the show that aired in color. (See version 4, below, for the color version of the opening.) This new color version of the opening sequence, shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, was then "decolorized" for use on subsequent airings and repackages of seasons one through four of the TV show — in reruns, in syndication, on videotape, and eventually, on cable and DVD.
The Lone Ranger and Silver at Lone Ranger Rock, as seen in the clip from 1956
The climactic moment for most fans probably comes about halfway through the clip, soon after the familiar cry of "Hi-Yo Silver!" is heard, when Clayton Moore rides up to the rock now known as Lone Ranger Rock and rears up on Silver. It is because of this sequence that the rock came to be known as Lone Ranger Rock, and remains the most famous rock on the former site of the Iverson Movie Ranch.
It's a tribute to the importance the producers of "The Lone Ranger" placed on Lone Ranger Rock that they made a point to refilm the sequence in the exact same location. I do not know whether the rock had come to be known as Lone Ranger Rock by 1956 — if you know, please comment or contact me by email.
Frame from version 2 of the "Lone Ranger" opening (1956), with a white gate visible
One element distinguishing this version of the opening — although it goes by quickly — is a white gate that appears briefly in the background at about the 17-second mark, immediately before the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!"
1956 version of the opening
Here's a shot of the Lone Ranger just before he arrives at Lone Ranger Rock, taken from the 1956 reshoot. This shot can be compared with a similar shot from the original 1949 shoot, which I posted higher up. In the next three photos I will point out some of the details in the two shots.
Original 1949 version
Here's another look at the comparable moment in the 1949 sequence, with key details noted. Sea Leopard is the nickname I've used in my research to indicate the large rock seen at the right in both shots. While all of the noted features remain in place today, Sea Leopard is virtually impossible to find because it is now buried under heavy vegetation. The other features seen here remain relatively easy to find.
I'm including a version 2a here — It's the same footage seen above in version 2, but a shorter edit, omitting the ride down the Gorge after the Lone Ranger leaves Lone Ranger Rock. This clip also happens to run too fast, but I'm including it because the picture quality is better than on my version 2 above.
Here's the speeded-up version 2, which provides a better look at the gate and other details:
Version 2a — runs fast, but the picture is better
While this clip runs a little too fast (or a lot too fast, depending on your tolerance level), it has the best picture quality I've been able to find for this version of the opening. It runs about 30 seconds and was filmed — and it was film, not video, in those days — entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, in 1956.
Version 3 is one of a number of variations created with minor edits, but it represents a significant evolution from version 2 in that it deletes the apparently unwanted (and initially overlooked) appearance of the gate.
Version 3 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — edited down from version 2 (shot in 1956, entirely at Iverson)
This version contains a number of additional edits of the footage found in version 2, besides deleting the brief shot of the gate. One key difference is that in this version, after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!," the Lone Ranger fires three shots before riding up to Lone Ranger Rock. That's edited down from the five shots he fires in version 2.
I want to note that I'm not presenting these openings in the chronological sequence in which they first appeared, or version 4, the color opening, would have preceded versions 2 and 3, which are decolorized reprints of version 4, the color opening. Here's the 1956 shoot as it was intended, in color:
The clip I've posted here is truncated, but it's the best I could find. It does not include any footage after the "rearing up" sequence at Lone Ranger Rock, so it excludes the ride down the Gorge. However, this clip matches version two (other than the fact that one is in color and one's in black-and-white), in that this original color clip also includes the brief glimpse of the white gate, and it also has the Lone Ranger firing five shots after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!"
Here's what the opening looks like — and more to the point, sounds like — in Spanish:
Version 5 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — Spanish version, "El Llanero Solitario"
One of the most interesting things about this Spanish version is that it uses a completely different recording of the "William Tell Overture." I like this one better than either of the two arrangements used on the U.S. versions, as the horns have a more dynamic sound. The video footage seen here is the same footage from 1956, shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, and in some ways this interpretation of the opening is closer to the familiar version 2, above, than are any of the opening's other incarnations. Here again, we see the white gate, and here we again have five shots ring out after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!" Of course, we also have a completely different voiceover here, in Spanish, along with a "Spanish-sounding" guy yelling "Hi-yo Silver!"
The above examples are NOT all there is when it comes to the "Lone Ranger" opening. These few variations are by no means an exhaustive collection of the many openings to the TV show. A virtually unlimited number of variations exist, but I tried to hit on the main differences here without going overboard. If you watch your own "Lone Ranger" episodes, you will undoubtedly discover other variations.
Before I knew about the 1956 color reshoot, I posted several years ago about the "Lone Ranger" opening and speculated about whether the sequence had been colorized. I learned from a reader that it had not, and I've since learned a lot more about the opening. But that original post is still up, and you can read it, if you're interested, by clicking here.
Below are some links to various DVD packages of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" that are available on Amazon — I have the 75th Anniversary set, which contains complete seasons one and two, and I can vouch for it being pretty amazing in terms of Iverson Movie Ranch content: