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TV Diary: 'Lone Ranger' story unmasked

Monday, July 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

With the disappointing theatrical opening of “The Lone Ranger” earlier this month, even Johnny Depp couldn't save a tried-and-true formula where the guys in the white hats always win.

Maybe it wasn't sci-fi, high-tech or fast enough to keep up with “Star Trek,” “Iron Man” or “Fast & Furious.” Maybe it wasn't disastrous enough to compete with the likes “White House Down” and “World War Z.”

Maybe the popular heroes of the 1940s and 1950s were incognito for too many generations to be popular today. Actually, not really.

Clayton Moore, the star of “The Lone Ranger” series (1949-1957), took his role seriously, even after the series ended. He made a lot of public appearances as “The Lone Ranger.” Incorporated Television Co. (ITC) later sued Moore to remove “the mask” so the company could proceed with the filming of “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” (1981) and make way for a new star, Klinton Spilsbury.

With Spilsbury in the title role, it fared far worse than the 2013 film, only grossing $12 million. The film had cost $18 million to make, and, remember, there were no DVDs or Blu-Rays to recoup some of the lost revenue like there is in today's market.

Moore then donned sunglasses and countersued ITC and won his case, which allowed him to once again wear the mask and make public appearances as “The Lone Ranger,” which he did until his death in 1999.

Spilsbury and Armie Hammer just couldn't find a way to own the legend as Moore did.