Lone Ranger: He doesn’t ride again

Don’t get me wrong, I love Johnny Depp’s work. He is one terrific actor, and from what I read, one terrific human being. The problem is that I was raised on the Lone Ranger television show. I never missed an episode.

I have tried to base my actions, as much as possible, on what the masked man accomplished. Of course I could never live up to that paradigm of goodness. None of us could.

The Lone Ranger’s real name in the film was John Reed, the last of the Texas Rangers. His brother and his sidekicks were slaughtered by the Butch Cavendish gang. I never heard the Lone Ranger crack a joke. The man had dignity and wisdom and could shoot the gun out of any crook’s hands.

So for all of us of a certain age, this film not only stunk, big time, but was an insult to our hero. To generations of Americans, when we go to Tanglewood and hear Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” we are not thinking of a bunch of Swiss soldiers.

Our hair goes up on the back of our necks as we return with that masked rider to yesteryear often fantasizing about the great horse Silver who was also made fun of in the film. I mean, how could they?

Another reason the film stunk is that the premise that the Lone Ranger was a sort of Eastern nebbish even though his brother was the toughest of the tough Texas Rangers. That was just plain stupid.

You had to like Depp’s work as Tonto. The problem with that presentation of Tonto was that we hear in the middle of the film from a Comanche chief that Tonto was, well, crazy. Somehow, Tonto ends up on display in a museum case in some kind of an exposition and he starts talking to this little kid who refers to him as “Mr. Tonto.” That just didn’t work.

I have seen a lot of bad movies in my time. As soon as the directors see a bad movie going south, they inevitably do a U-turn with the premise and try to make it into a comedy. The Lone Ranger was not a comedic hero; he had dignity above all. I was furious as I watched this bad film that they had taken that one ingredient, dignity, away from him.

In preparation for this column, I read the reviews of the film and found them to be as insulting as the film itself. None of the top reviewers I read got it. This film was blasphemous. To many Americans, this film took an ethical figure that was basically a religious figure and made him into a joke. I’m not going to name names here, but you surely follow me. This almost 72-year-old man was insulted. The reviewers, perhaps because they are too young and raised at a different time, or perhaps because some of them are used to kissing Disney’s posterior, just didn’t get the idea that we were ticked off.

Of course, there will always be those who feel that subjugating Tonto to the Lone Ranger is insulting to American Indians. I’ve never bought that since I always admired Tonto as I saw him save the day, again and again. There were those American Indians who saw an insult in having Depp play an Indian, but the whole point about great actors is that they can play anyone. That’s what acting is all about.

As I left the Triplex Theater in Great Barrington, I was both mad and sad. All those days sitting by the radio and then the television, admiring the great man, the great white horse, the great Tonto made into a cheap knockoff that just didn’t work.

Naturally, when all else fails, fill the film with action scenes that are not only improbable but impossible. I would trade them all for one scene in which the Lone Ranger shoots the gun out of a bad guy’s hand. Even that was shown as a mistake by the film’s cruel directors. These people hurt my feelings.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 7/20/13

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One Comment on “Lone Ranger: He doesn’t ride again”

  1. Harvey Brody Says:

    Alan, I am disappointed with your critique. You took the wrong boat at Bayshore and stayed at the seafood restaurant instead of getting to Fair Harbor. We saw the Lone Ranger and thought it was terrific. The use of a Museum of Natural Hostory setting was unique. However to offer some deference the only relationship to the Lone Ranger was the title. Of course as you know there was a radio, TV, and motion picture earlier. each attem[pted to duplicate the earlier one using then newer technology. Obviously the use of the Lone Ranger title was the extent of the relationship to tjhe Lone Ranger we know. This was an original screenplay. As a poli sci prof you know that the transcontinental railroad occured during the Civil War, and the scene of the fellow hording gold and silver was a direct take-off from Godfather 2. In Godfather 2 we see the parallel, of the “industrial barons” in the Hotel Nacionale in Habana, Cuba being lecturd by Michael Corleone and the Myer L:ansky clone, now fast forward to the scene of the board meeting chaired by Alo Capone in the Untouchables. Thus this was an original screenplay except for the silver bullet. Depp demonstrated great versatility as Tonto. Of course in the actual Lone Ranger Tonto was the chielf and last survivor of a tribe killed by the US Army. This movie stands out because of the reinvemuch credit fornted Tonto, and towards the end the fellow who played the Lone Ranger comes to life. Be objective and don’t expect a better version; instead ignore the tiotle. I think you will find that the Lone Ranger is actually an original;flick, and Depp deserves much cfredit for his acting dexterity. This movie combined fiction and fact with excellent use of modern cinema technology. If you want a to see a remake see the Great Gatsby.


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