The Lone Ranger Rides Again

American Cinematographer, July 1981 | Go to article overview

The Lone Ranger Rides Again


Filming the newly released feature production based on a mythical Western character who has become part of the folklore of America

Racing past the towering spires of Monument Valley, Utah a moving dustclouded speck appears in the distance, finally bouncing and jerking into view as a stagecoach of the old west. Overhead, a camera-equipped helicopter looms in for an aerial close-up shot, and other cameras are strategically positioned on the ground. The modern equipment seems incongruous in the hauntingly familiar sights of Monument Valley. It is a typical day in the production of a film which borrows from American folklore and history for the portrayal of the hero whose time will never end. The motion picture: THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER.

A Lord Grade and Jack Wrather Presentation, THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER is an action-adventure story dealing with the legend of the man behind the mask. It stars newcomers Klinton Spilsbury in the title role and Michael Horse as Tonto.

Whether hearkening back to the days of one's youth or making a joyous discovery, THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER is an adventure, pure and simple. It is the story of virtue. Of friendship. Of daring exploits. But most of all it is the story of an American hero whose time will never end.

Also starred in the Martin Starger Production are Christopher Lloyd, Matt Clark, Juanin clay and Jason Robards as President Ulysses S. Grant.

Produced by Walter Coblenz and directed by William A. Fraker, "The Legend Of The Lone Ranger" is distributed by Universal Pictures and Associated Film Distribution Corp. The screenplay was by Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts and Michael Kane & William Roberts, adaptation by Jerry Derloshon, based on stories and characters created by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker. The music was written by John Barry.

For such a movie which is so soundly based on American folklore, the West played a crucial role in setting the exact atmosphere. Filming took place at some of the most historic locales of the region, and their visual aspects were brought out to the fullest: the spires and bluffs of Monument Valley, Utah, with its sweeping grandeur; the brilliant colors and shapes of the Valley of Fire in Nevada, and the rugged beauty of the New Mexico landscape outside of Santa Fe.

Monument Valley is the location made famous by the late director John Ford in his classic westerns. Indeed, one of the scenes in the film conceived by director William Fraker is an homage to Ford. Fraker re-staged a variation on a stunt created and tried only once by the legendary Yakima Canutt for Ford's STAGECOACH. In it, Stuntman Terry Leonard rides furiously alongside racing stagecoach horses, leaps on to the lead horse and then works his way under the team of horses. Finally, he falls off, passing underneath the racing coach. Leonard worked on the stunt for over a month prior to the start of filming.

To re-create the 1860s appearance of Del Rio, Texas, production designer Albert Brenner constructed his own set 20 miles outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A border town, the "new" Del Rio had to be built with the Mexican section at one end, its adobe influence facing into the traditional wooden construction of Texas. Building the enormous set was a monumental task, hampered by harsh weather, with the 100-person construction crew working through an eight-inch snowstorm which unexpectedly hit New Mexico in mid-April. A great many of the buildings in the town were also constructed in such a way that both the interior and exterior shots could be made directly on the set.

Brenner also created a large Indian village of over 100 full-sized tepees exact in every detail. In addition, an outlaw stronghold was built which includes a lavish hacienda and a 30-foot-high wall spanning a river leading to the compound.

The Lone Ranger debated on radio station WXYZ in Detroit in 1933 with a long history of actors portraying the legendary hero. …

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