The Lone Ranger Connection by Tony Piazza
One of 2013’s most anticipated films is the Lone Ranger. A classic western adventure directed by Gore Verbinski and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. The film stars Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as Tonto. The announcement of this feature reminded me of a article I wrote some time back that mentions an early incarnation of that masked man of the plains. I present it below unedited.
I have been reading a great book, “Flights of Fantasy” by Michael J. Hayde the last few weeks. It tells the unofficial but true history of “Superman” on radio and early television. As I read through the pages I came across names that were familiar to me… not names that you would necessarily recognize, but people who I knew personally during my years in the film industry. Coming across these names, I suddenly found it exciting that I had had the opportunity to work with these people who had a role in the production of my early television favorites. Programs that helped fire my childhood imagination by bringing my favorite comic book heroes to life on the screen. As an example, in one photograph in the book there is a picture of George (Superman) Reeves during his first assignment behind the camera directing an episode of “The Adventures of Superman”. Sitting behind him by the camera was Joseph Biroc (Director of Photography). I was Mr. Biroc’s stand-in for the second unit work on Irwin Allen’s ( “Lost in Space”, “Time Tunnel”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, etc.) “Towering Inferno”. From the cast lists printed in the book I learned that one of Superman’s foes in an episode was portrayed by Lawrence Dobkin- he was a star of many radio and film productions, but also acted as Director for the pilot show of “The Streets of San Francisco.” Incidentally, Dick Donner, another director on “Streets” is a name associated with a more recent Superman!
That then got me thinking about some of the other people that had an association with my early television favorites… and I remembered that our Unit Production Manager on “Streets”, Bob Beche, worked on the “Lone Ranger” television production starring Clayton Moore. He also went on to do the disastrous re-make, “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” in the 1980s with “Streets” Production Manager, Dick Gallegly. One of our QM drivers, and a good friend, Gil, was James (Matt Dillon) Arness double for “Gunsmoke”. These are not big names by fan’s standards, but people responsible none-the-less for giving me so much enjoyment in my youth…. And it also goes to prove that even in film land one can say that it is a small world!
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.