Today’s Birthday Boy 9/14

Lone_ranger_silver_1965Who was that masked man? He was Clayton Moore, born a century ago today — on September 14, 1914.

Moore grew up in Chicago, becoming an accomplished gymnast and part of the trapeze act The Flying Behrs who performed during the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. He went into modeling, moving to New York where he worked for the John Robert Powers agency.

In 1938 he made the jump to Hollywood and within a few years was a leading man in Republic Studios serials. His performance in The Ghost of Zorro prompted George W. Trendle to offer him the role of TV’s Lone Ranger, which aired on ABC from 1949 to 1957

The show’s success resulted in a salary dispute and the producers replaced Moore for the 1952-1953 season, but brought him back in 1954 and for the rest of the run. When CBS began showing reruns of the first three seasons on Saturday afternoon, Moore’s masked man was on two networks at the same time.

After the series ended production, Moore made his living doing personal appearances in the Lone Ranger regalia. However, the owner of the Ranger character, Jack Wrather, obtained a court order in 1979 to stop him, believing the association of the character with Moore would damage the market for a new Lone Ranger movie.

Moore quit wearing the mask and started to appear in similar-looking wraparound sunglasses. He also counter-sued Wrather and eventually won, allowing him to resume appearing in the Lone Ranger costume. Meanwhile, Wrather’s movie bombed.

Clayton Moore’s last acting role was in the pilot for what would have been The Greatest American Heroine in 1986. The pilot was never aired and was recut and added to the syndicated package of the original Greatest American Hero.

The CBS News Almanac has posted a fine short video with classic footage – including a snip from the famous Aqua Velva commercial Moore made with Jay Silverheels (Tonto) in the 1970s.

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