The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

PG | 98 mins | Western | 22 May 1981

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HISTORY

       The film was also referred to as The Lone Ranger.
       An item in the 3 Aug 1977 Var reported that Jack Wrather had owned the rights to The Lone Ranger since 1954 and announced that his Wrather Corporation was teaming with Thomas J. McDermott to produce a new feature film version. However, McDermott does not receive onscreen credit. An article in the 24 May 1978 HR reported that Sir Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment listed The Legend of the Lone Ranger on their new slate of projects. And according to the 10 Sep 1979 HR, the film would be distributed by Associated Film Distribution (AFD), Grades’ distribution company that was formed in Oct 1979 to distribute all films produced through ITC Entertainment, Marble Arch and EMI. The 2 May 1979 DV announced that Walter Coblenz would develop and produce The Lone Ranger for Marble Arch Productions, and reported that Martin Starger would executive produce the film which was co-financed by Grade and Wrather. Coblenz began preproduction the week of 2 May 1979 and expected to start principal photography late in 1979. The 2 Aug 1979 DV reported that Rob Thompson wrote the screenplay; however, Thompson does not receive onscreen credit. The 7 Feb 1980 DV and the 18 May 1980 LAT reported that Michael Kane wrote the screenplay, while the onscreen credits read: “Screenplay by Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts and Michael Kane and William Roberts,” and “Adaptation by Jerry Derloshon.”
       Prior to the start of ... More Less

       The film was also referred to as The Lone Ranger.
       An item in the 3 Aug 1977 Var reported that Jack Wrather had owned the rights to The Lone Ranger since 1954 and announced that his Wrather Corporation was teaming with Thomas J. McDermott to produce a new feature film version. However, McDermott does not receive onscreen credit. An article in the 24 May 1978 HR reported that Sir Lew Grade’s ITC Entertainment listed The Legend of the Lone Ranger on their new slate of projects. And according to the 10 Sep 1979 HR, the film would be distributed by Associated Film Distribution (AFD), Grades’ distribution company that was formed in Oct 1979 to distribute all films produced through ITC Entertainment, Marble Arch and EMI. The 2 May 1979 DV announced that Walter Coblenz would develop and produce The Lone Ranger for Marble Arch Productions, and reported that Martin Starger would executive produce the film which was co-financed by Grade and Wrather. Coblenz began preproduction the week of 2 May 1979 and expected to start principal photography late in 1979. The 2 Aug 1979 DV reported that Rob Thompson wrote the screenplay; however, Thompson does not receive onscreen credit. The 7 Feb 1980 DV and the 18 May 1980 LAT reported that Michael Kane wrote the screenplay, while the onscreen credits read: “Screenplay by Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts and Michael Kane and William Roberts,” and “Adaptation by Jerry Derloshon.”
       Prior to the start of production, a legal situation with Clayton Moore, the star of the television series The Lone Ranger, created a public relations problem. As tracked in articles in the 11 Jan 1981 LAT, the 24 May 1981 LAT, the 23 May 1981 LAHExam, and the 24 Jun 2013 Var, Moore had spent years playing the character on promotional tours. Wrather, who owned the rights, had allowed Moore to wear the Lone Ranger’s mask, but in 1975 they informed Moore that they were going to make a new film version and asked Moore to refrain from making personal appearances dressed as the character. Moore refused and in 1979, the Wrather Corporation took Moore to court and won a temporary restraining order that prevented him from wearing the mask in public. Moore’s fans protested and the actor was subsequently offered a small part in the new film. However, Moore refused and stated that he should have been offered the lead role, seemingly insulted by the lawsuit’s contention that the actor, in his sixties, “no longer is an appropriate physical representative of the trim nineteenth-century Western hero.” Moore also refused to participate in any promotional activities for the film. The 24 Jun 2013 Var noted that before Wrather died in 1984, he gave Moore the right to wear the mask again.
       An item in the 25 Jul 1978 HR announced that Grade was seeking an unknown actor for the title role and, as noted in the 27 Nov 1980 LAT, the 23 May 1981 LAHExam, and the 24 Jun 2013 Var, Klinton Spilsbury was cast in the lead role. The Legend of the Lone Ranger was Spilsbury’s feature film debut and remains his only screen credit as of Apr 2014. Michael Horse also made his feature film debut as “Tonto.”
       Production notes in AMPAS library files reported that the film’s locations included Monument Valley, UT, the Valley of Fire in NV, and Santa Fe, NM. Twenty miles outside of Santa Fe, the filmmakers built the border town of Del Rio, and constructed several “practical” buildings so that exterior and interior shots could be filmed on these sets. As tracked in articles in the 11 Jan 1981 Albuquerque Journal, the 23 May 1981 LAHExam and the 24 Jun 2013 Var, principal photography in the Santa Fe area took place from May to July 1980, and during this time, Spilsbury’s off-set behavior, including fights and allegedly slapping a waitress, generated negative publicity.
       The 18 May 1980 LAT reported that the film’s stagecoach stunt in Monument Valley, UT, paid homage to the movie Stagecoach (1939, see entry). However, during filming of the sequence, stuntman Terry Leonard was seriously wounded. The stunt required Leonard to be shot off the lead horse, work his way through the tunnel created by the horses’ legs, then climb onto the back off the stagecoach where he would be shot again by the driver. While performing the stunt, Leonard was accidentally hit by one of the horses and subsequently run over by the stagecoach’s wheels. Both of Leonard’s legs were badly injured, but he returned to work three weeks later, wearing a special brace and claiming he did not have any sensation in his leg, but that for stunt work it would “be an asset.”
       The 29 Oct 1980 Var reported that The Legend of the Lone Ranger was originally scheduled to be released 19 Dec 1980, but AFD claimed that “unspecified post production delays” were responsible for postponing the release until summer 1981. The 29 Oct 1980 HR noted that Pinnacle Books was forced to delay release of their tie-in book. However, articles in the LAT on 11 Jan 1981 and 11 Mar 1981, reported that General Mills could not reschedule its Cheerios promotion. Although General Mills learned of the delay in Sep 1980, the Cheerios boxes promoting The Legend of the Lone Ranger were already completed, as originally planned. The cereal’s short shelf life forced the Dec 1980 release of the Cheerios boxes, even though the film was not yet in theaters.
       The 27 Nov 1980 LAT reported that a representative of AFD blamed the film’s postponement on the 1981 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike, and according to the 11 Jan 1981 Albuquerque Journal, an assistant to producer Coblenz stated that two weeks of post-production shooting were delayed by the SAG strike, and added that the ongoing 1981 musicians strike against the studios forced Coblenz to score the film in Europe. The 9 Aug 1981 LAT noted that one “well-publicized” reason for the six month delay was the hiring of actor James Keach to re-record all of Spilsbury’s lines. The 11 Mar 1981 LAT reported that Spilsbury refused to participate in promoting the film, while also noting that AFD “in effect went out of business” in Feb 1981, leaving Universal Pictures to handle the film’s release.
       An item in the 10 Mar 1981 HR reported that audiences were enthusiastic at sneak previews of The Legend of the Lone Ranger in Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, UT, and San Diego, CA. The 7 May 1981 HR noted the film premiered on 15 May 1981 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
       In the Dec 1981 Rolling Stone, The Legend of the Lone Ranger was cited in the article “Big Bucks, Big Losers – Twenty-four Films that Bombed in 1981.” The article listed the film’s production budget at $18 million and domestic film rentals at $7 million.
       The Legend of the Lone Ranger was preceded by several filmed projects featuring the “Lone Ranger,” including a 1939 Republic Picture serial, also released as the cut-down feature Hi-Yo Silver (1940, see entry). The Lone Ranger television series ran intermittently from 1949-1957, and upon purchasing the rights, Wrather aimed to capitalize on the success of the television series with two films, The Lone Ranger (1956, see entry) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958, see entry). Later, a television movie, The Lone Ranger, aired on 26 Feb 2003, and a feature film The Lone Ranger was released in 2013 (see entry).

      End credits include the following statements: "Portions of this picture were filmed in the Santa Fe National Forest, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Carson National Forest, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Valley of Fire, Nevada, Division of State Parks”; “Various scenes were filmed on the J. W. Eaves Ranch, Santa Fe, New Mexico”; and “Special thanks for the cooperation from the Film Commissions of the States of New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada, during the filming of THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Albuquerque Journal
11 Jan 1981
Section D, pp. 1-2.
Daily Variety
2 May 1979.
---
Daily Variety
2 Aug 1979.
---
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1981.
---
LAHExam
23 May 1981
Section A, pp. 1-2
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1980
Calendar, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1980
Section VI, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jan 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 May 1981
p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
24 May 1981
Calendar, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1981.
---
Rolling Stone
Dec 1981
p. 44.
Variety
3 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
29 Oct 1980.
---
Variety
20 May 1981
p. 20.
Variety
24 Jun 2013
p. 46.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Lord Grade and Jack Wrather Present
A Martin Starger Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Addl photog, Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MUSIC
Orig mus
Mus scoring consultant
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dial ed
Wallaworks
Supv sd ed
Rec mixer
Rec mixer
Rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles
Titles
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Casting
Casting
Casting assoc
Asst to the prod
Asst to the dir
Scr supv
Prod coord
Post prod supv
Transportation
Unit pub
Pub consultant
Livestock supv
Horse trainer
Loc auditor
Prod assoc
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on stories and characters created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker.
SONGS
The story of "The Man In The Mask" sung by Merle Haggard, all lyrics by Dean Pitchford.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Lone Ranger
Release Date:
22 May 1981
Premiere Information:
Washington, D.C. premiere: 15 May 1981
Los Angeles opening: 22 May 1981
Production Date:
Spring/Summer 1980 in UT, NV and NM
Copyright Claimant:
ITC/Wrather Productions
Copyright Date:
15 July 1981
Copyright Number:
PA108672
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1854 Texas, Tonto, an Indian boy, is chased by several outlaws. He falls off his horse and over an embankment where young John Reid helps hide him. The criminals ride to the Reid family’s ranch and murder John’s parents. Tonto takes John to his village where the elders care for the boy and teach him their ways until John’s older brother, Dan, arrives to send the boy to live with an aunt in Detroit, Michigan. Tonto calls John “Kemosabe,” meaning trusted friend, gives him a special necklace, and they become “blood brothers.” Years later, as John returns to Texas, the stagecoach picks up Amy Striker, who plans to work at her uncle’s newspaper in Del Rio. En route, they are attacked by members of the notorious Cavendish gang. While trying to outrun the thieves, a driver and passenger are killed, and John climbs outside, takes the reins and brings them safely to a stop. The bandits steal their possessions, but when a thief fondles Amy, John takes action, captures the thieves, and hands them over to the sheriff when they arrive in Del Rio. Amy and her uncle, Lucas, invite John to dinner, but he goes to the Texas Ranger’s post to visit his brother. Dan wishes John would choose a less dangerous place to live, but John insists on staying. Dan reveals President Ulysses S. Grant is visiting soon, then tells John about Butch Cavendish, a former major in the Union army who was dishonorably discharged and now leads an outlaw army in Texas. Meanwhile, the sheriff takes the thieves to Cavendish, instead of ... +


In 1854 Texas, Tonto, an Indian boy, is chased by several outlaws. He falls off his horse and over an embankment where young John Reid helps hide him. The criminals ride to the Reid family’s ranch and murder John’s parents. Tonto takes John to his village where the elders care for the boy and teach him their ways until John’s older brother, Dan, arrives to send the boy to live with an aunt in Detroit, Michigan. Tonto calls John “Kemosabe,” meaning trusted friend, gives him a special necklace, and they become “blood brothers.” Years later, as John returns to Texas, the stagecoach picks up Amy Striker, who plans to work at her uncle’s newspaper in Del Rio. En route, they are attacked by members of the notorious Cavendish gang. While trying to outrun the thieves, a driver and passenger are killed, and John climbs outside, takes the reins and brings them safely to a stop. The bandits steal their possessions, but when a thief fondles Amy, John takes action, captures the thieves, and hands them over to the sheriff when they arrive in Del Rio. Amy and her uncle, Lucas, invite John to dinner, but he goes to the Texas Ranger’s post to visit his brother. Dan wishes John would choose a less dangerous place to live, but John insists on staying. Dan reveals President Ulysses S. Grant is visiting soon, then tells John about Butch Cavendish, a former major in the Union army who was dishonorably discharged and now leads an outlaw army in Texas. Meanwhile, the sheriff takes the thieves to Cavendish, instead of prison. Cavendish has the men killed for disobeying his orders and threatening his plan. At a Day of the Dead celebration in town, John introduces his brother to Lucas and Amy, and as Lucas returns to the newspaper office, John gives Amy a book and they kiss. At his office, Lucas is confronted by Cavendish’s men who murder him for writing negative articles about the gang. After the newspaper editor’s body is discovered, John consoles Amy, then joins his brother and the Rangers tracking the gang. The next day, as they ride through a canyon, Dan gives John a badge, making him an honorary Ranger. Ranger Collins rides ahead to “scout,” but is working with Cavendish and lures the other Rangers into an ambush. Cavendish sends Collins to ascertain that all of the Rangers are dead, then wounds Collins so it will not appear suspicious that he survived the massacre. As the gang rides off, Tonto appears. He notices John’s necklace and realizes it is his childhood friend. Tonto saves John’s life, then takes him to hide at the Indian camp. The elders are upset that Tonto has brought a white man into their camp and Tonto professes his hatred for the white men who murdered his wife and child, but insists John is his brother. As John heals, he perfects his shooting skills, and Tonto gives him a silver bullet, claiming it is more accurate and also represents justice and purity. They discover a wild white stallion, which John eventually tames and names Silver. To avenge his brother’s death, John realizes that “John Reid” must die and asks Tonto to create another grave next to the murdered Rangers. At their graves, John promises to make Cavendish pay for his brother’s death, and pledges his life to justice in the West. Wearing a white outfit and a black mask, John yells, “Hi yo, Silver,” then rides into Del Rio with Tonto by his side. He confronts Collins in the bar. Collins laughs at John Reid’s mask, and denies knowing Cavendish. John tosses a Ranger’s badge on the table. But before Collins can divulge any information, he is shot by someone outside. When the sheriff enters, holding Tonto as a prisoner, Collins is dead and there is no sign of the masked man. The sheriff plans to hang Tonto and is happy that the townspeople are riled up about killing an Indian, with no one questioning his guilt. Tonto is led to the gallows, but John shoots the rope free. Tonto jumps onto Silver and they ride away. Meanwhile, Cavendish is disturbed by rumors of a masked man, but will not let it interfere with his plans to attack the President’s train. In town, Amy receives a message to visit a “padre” at the church, and the hooded priest tells her of the masked man who will bring Cavendish to justice. He warns her to stop writing about Cavendish, but she insists it is her only weapon. When she speaks of the President’s visit, John realizes Grant is Cavendish’s target. He tells Amy to trust the masked man, and leaves a silver bullet for her. As the train carrying President Grant, a Mexican general, General Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, and Buffalo Bill Cody nears town, Grant takes a nap in the rear car. Cavendish and his men ambush the train, separate the President’s car, switch it to a different track, and take the President hostage. John and Tonto arrive too late. They follow the trail to the Cavendish fortress, where Tonto asks if John’s priority is to rescue the President or get Cavendish. Inside the fortress, Cavendish reveals plans to form his own country, the Republic of Texas, and demands that Grant and the United States recognize his new nation. He plans to hold Grant prisoner for thirty days, during which time he will be given ownership of Texas or Grant will die. John and Tonto sneak into the fortress and hide in a shed of dynamite until everyone goes to bed. They find the sheriff and threaten to scalp him unless he reveals the President’s location, then knock him unconscious and tie him up. When they reach the President’s room, they give Grant a gun and promise to rescue him, although he is doubtful. The next morning, Tonto releases all of Cavendish’s horses, except one for Grant. Then the three light fuses on the explosives Tonto and John, “The Lone Ranger,” have placed around the fortress. A guard notices the horses leaving and alerts the gang. As explosions go off, Cavendish and the sheriff run outside and shoot at the President. John rescues Grant and hides him in a tower, then continues fighting the gang. The fortress explodes around them, and Cavendish is furious when the gates blow apart, allowing the cavalry to enter. The sheriff jumps on a horse and tries to escape, but Tonto captures him. Cavendish also tries to ride away, but John calls Silver, and gives chase. He knocks Cavendish from his horse and down a hill, where the two fight. John prevails, puts a silver bullet in his gun and aims at Cavendish, but does not shoot him. Instead, John brings his prisoner back to the fortress where President Grant judges Cavendish guilty and he is taken away. Grant wants to know the name of the man who saved his life, but John asks to remain anonymous and Grant agrees. The President thanks Tonto who asks that he honor his treaties with the Indians, and Grant promises to try. As John and Tonto ride off to continue their fight for justice, the President wonders aloud about the identity of that masked man. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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