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The Lone Ranger

(1938 Serial)


Release Date

February 12, 1938

Directed by

William Witney
John English

Written by

Franklin Adreon
Ronald Davidson
Lois Eby
Barry Shipman
Fran Striker
George Worthing Yates

Produced by

Sol C. Siegel


Republic Pictures

Number of Chapters


Followed by

The Lone Ranger Rides Again (1939)

The Lone Ranger (1938) is a Republic Pictures movie serial. It was the ninth of the sixty-six serials produced by Republic, the fourth Western (a third of Republic's serials were Westerns) and the first of 1938. The serial was lost of a long time but decent versions have been assembled from discovered footage (particularly a Spanish version, in English with subtitles).

Plot[edit | edit source]

In 1865, Captain Mark Smith of the Confederate Army leads a band of deserters to conquer Texas and rule it as a dictator. In one their first actions, they ambush and apparently wipe out a contingent of Texas Rangers, although they leave one injured survivor. The survivor, nursed back to health by Tonto, swears to avenge the massacre and defeat Captain Smith (who has assumed the identity of Texas' new Finance Commissioner, Colonel Marcus Jefferies, after having the real man murdered).

Cast[edit | edit source]

Main cast[edit | edit source]

Supporting Cast[edit | edit source]

Additional[edit | edit source]

  • Billy Bletcher as voice of The Lone Ranger
  • Earle Graser as the voice of The Lone Ranger when calling "Hi-Yo Silver!", Graser was the voice of the Lone Ranger on the original radio series.

Production[edit | edit source]

A contract between Republic and George W. Trendle for a Lone Ranger serial, and the right to release a condensed version, was signed in June 1937. Trendle and The Lone Ranger Inc. were paid $18,750 plus 10% of any rental share above a $390,000 minimum. There was some disagreement between Republic and Trendle but the contract gave Republic authority over the script and characters. Republic planned that the Lone Ranger would unmask in the last chapter, revealing himself to Joan Blanchard (Lynn Roberts) as Allen King (Lee Powell). Prior to this the issue was confused by two voices for the Lone Ranger (mainly Billy Bletcher but with Earle Graser from the radio series providing the signature cry of "Hi-Yo Silver") and his stunt double (Dave Sharpe). Trendle objected to Republic's plans for the serial. However, he could not prevent it as the contract gave Republic the right to do whatever they pleased with the character. Republic were notorious for making changes in their adaptations, the worst case of which was Captain America (1944). Prior to the reveal, the audience had been presented with several candidates who may have been the Lone Ranger but only one survived to the end. A similar approach was taken with The Masked Marvel (1943).

The dispute between Republic and Trendle was solved by Republic giving Trendle the rights to the serial's music, which was later used on the radio.

The Lone Ranger was budgeted at $160,315 although the final negative cost was $168,117 (a $7,802, or 4.9%, overspend). It was the most expensive Republic serial until the release of Dick Tracy Returns later in 1938.

It was filmed between 28 November and 31 December 1937. At nineteen days, this was the shortest production for a Republic serial until Zombies of the Stratosphere in 1952. The serial's production number was 794.

The Lone Ranger was the biggest serial event since Universal's Flash Gordon.

Following the end of his contract with Republic, Lee Powell toured with a small circus as "The Lone Ranger of the Movies". This was not successful, possibly because he had never actually been billed as the Lone Ranger due to the element mystery in the script. He was eventually forced to stop by the copyright holders.

Stunts[edit | edit source]

Release[edit | edit source]

Theatrical[edit | edit source]

The Lone Ranger's official release date is 12 February 1938, although this is actually the date the seventh chapter was made available to film exchanges.

A 69-minute feature film version, created by editing the serial footage together, was released on 10 April 1940. It was one of fourteen feature films Republic made from their serials. The working title of this film was Return of the Ranger but it was released as Hi-Yo-Silver.

The Lone Ranger was a huge financial success for both Republic and Trendle. The serial also created new interest in the radio version and an additional hundred or so stations picked up the show. King Features even came out with a comic strip.

Critical reception[edit | edit source]

In the words of Harmon and Glut, the serial contains "tight plotting that became certainly atypical of Republic serials." Most serials introduced all the characters and plot elements in the first chapter. The Lone Ranger, however, added new elements during the course of the serial. In chapter eight the outlaw Jeffries substitutes Confederate money for the local taxes. The tax silver then becomes one of the main focal points of the plot. Another development occurs in chapter ten when Jeffries tries to force Joan to marry him, which was an unusual plot element for a sound serial.

The Lone Ranger was superior in terms of plot and execution when compared to the average western serial, although it contained many features standard to the genre such as explosions, runaway stagecoaches and falls from a great height.

According to Cline, The Lone Ranger was probably the best of the Western serials and that it should be included in "any list of the ten best sound serials of all."

Chapter Titles[edit | edit source]

  1. Hi-Yo Silver (30 min 17s)
  2. Thundering Earth (18 min 22s)
  3. The Pitfall (16 min 43s)
  4. Agent of Treachery (16 min 39s)
  5. The Steaming Cauldron (16 min 17s)
  6. Red Man's Courage (16 min 28s)
  7. Wheels of Disaster (15 min 58s)
  8. Fatal Treasure (16 min 54s)
  9. The Missing Spur (16 min 35s)
  10. Flaming Fury (16 min 33s)
  11. The Silver Bullet (16 min 18s)
  12. Escape (16 min 22s)
  13. The Fatal Plunge (16 min 37s) -- Re-Cap Chapter
  14. Messengers of Doom (16 min 49s)
  15. The Last of the Rangers (17 min 03s)

DVD Availabilty[edit | edit source]

The Serial Squadron released a 2-disk restoration of the serial entirely in English, with significantly improved picture and sound quality, no Spanish subtitles, or frame enlargements in November 2009. This is the most complete and accurate version of the serial to date, superseding a lesser-quality attempt at restoration mastered from inferior material and restored using frame stretching and cropping released by Mill Creek Entertainment.

Serial Squadron DVD cover

External links[edit | edit source]

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