Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
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• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Iverson 101: Hidden gems in the opening to the TV show "The Lone Ranger"

The Lone Ranger — Clayton Moore — and Silver

"The Lone Ranger" remains one of the most popular TV Westerns of all time, and its famous opening sequence, with Rossini's "William Tell Overture" blaring its fanfare as Clayton Moore storms across the Iverson Movie Ranch on the back of his trusty steed Silver, is forever etched on our collective consciousness — to the point where many of us will never be able to hear the composition without thinking of the legendary Masked Man.

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."

By the way, is it just me? ...

  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 ...

Below you will find several of the main versions of the opening. I will do my best to sort them out — but first I want to make sure you know that you can expand any of these video clips to full screen by clicking on the frame icon in the lower right corner, next to the YouTube logo ...

The original opening to the "Lone Ranger" TV show, seen below, is NOT the most widely seen version of the opening. This version, in various forms, appeared only during the show's original run on TV and only for its first four seasons, from 1949-1955. After that the opening was refilmed, and subsequent airings of the show, including the first run for season five (from 1956-1957) along with later presentations of all five seasons in syndication, on videotape and eventually on cable and DVD, ran with variations of the refilmed opening. (I'll go into more detail about these versions below.)

Version 1 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — shot in Lone Pine and on the Iverson Movie Ranch

The original opening, seen above, begins with a sequence shot in Lone Pine, Calif., which plays out over the clip's first 21 seconds. The scene then 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 what is probably the longest version 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.

If you're inclined to try to follow in the hoofsteps of Silver and hike the path taken by the Lone Ranger — and I can tell you from personal experience, you're not the first to want to do it — the good news is you can do just that. The trail where Clayton Moore and Silver rode through the Iverson Gorge has been preserved as public land, an unmarked section of Garden of the Gods Park on the east side of Redmesa Road in Chatsworth. As long as you stay below the condos, you should have only the rattlesnakes and poison oak to worry about.

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.

Here's a side-by-side view of the two different "rearing up" sequences shot at Lone Ranger Rock — the original 1949 version on the left and the 1956 reshoot on the right.

One quick way to tell the two shoots apart is by looking at the shadows on Lone Ranger Rock. In the 1949 footage, much of the rock is in shadow, while in the 1956 update, the rock is largely in sunlight.

If you think about it, it's a real 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, but if anyone has any insights on the topic, I hope you will comment or contact me by email.

Frame from version 2 of the "Lone Ranger" opening, 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!"

Here's the same screen shot from version 2, with the gate noted. In version 3 of the opening, which you can see below, the gate has been edited out and a few other minor changes have been made.

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.

This is the same 1956 shot with a few key details pointed out. Other than Sticky Bun, which was concealed behind foliage in the 1949 sequence, these same features are also seen in the original, as noted below.

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.

Here's a comparison of the Sea Leopard sightings in the 1949 shot and the 1956 shot, focusing one of the key differences between the two shots. Notice how much more foliage appears around and in front of Sea Leopard in the 1956 version, with the native vegetation having grown significantly in just seven years. Today this growth surrounds and towers over the rock, effectively making it impossible to see.

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, because 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 the original appearance, in color, of that pesky white gate. This is part of the first segment of the reshot opening, which takes place on the Upper Iverson. In this color clip, the Upper Iverson segment lasts about 17 seconds, right up to the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!," where the scene shifts to the Lower Iverson for the ride past Sea Leopard, the ascent up to Lone Ranger Rock and — had it been included — the eventual ride down into the Lower Gorge.

Another screen shot from the portion of the color 1956 opening that was filmed on the Upper Iverson, this frame includes Pyramid Peak in the background, behind the Lone Ranger's head, along with the Line of Trees. The Line of Trees marked the western boundary of the Upper Iverson, with neighboring Brandeis Ranch on the other side of the trees. Brandeis was also a filming location for a period of time in the 1930s and 1940s.

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:


Anonymous said...

This is the kind of detailed analysis that as a hard core Lone Ranger fan I really enjoy! It was the Lone Ranger rock that got me to explore that area in the first place. Keep up the great work.

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your comment, Rick. I appreciate the feedback.

The Lone Ranger is an integral part of Iverson Movie Ranch history, and was also a big part of my early efforts to learn about the ranch. It's always good to check back in and see whether any new secrets can be unearthed about the show. I realize this blog item goes on pretty long — it might be my longest one yet. But I could have gone on much longer and I finally had to cut it short to keep it reasonable. Many other variations exist of the opening to the TV show, although they're mostly just various edits to make it fit certain repackages of the show.

I enjoy knowing that Clayton Moore remained actively interested throughout his life in preservation efforts involving Iverson and other former shooting locations in the Santa Susana Mountains. In case you haven't seen it yet, check out this post from a few years ago, which features Clayton Moore talking about preserving the old movie sites:

Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

What I would like to find out is the titles of all the music that was used during the episodes, that is before the color versions when the series still had a narrator. I once heard that all the music used on the tv shows were classical music. If you can supply this information it would be appreciated.

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your comment, dad. I'm with you: It would be cool to find out what all the music was. I've looked around a little, and it is clearly not easy to turn up that kind of info.

I did find a number of different soundtrack albums and CDs from the radio series, but unfortunately not the TV series, on eBay.

Hopefully an obsessive Lone Ranger fan will surface online one day who has the info.