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Radio / The Lone Ranger

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The Lone Ranger is a long-running radio series that first premiered on Detroit, Michigan’s radio station WXYZ on January 30, 1933 and ran until September 3, 1954 for over 3,000 episodes (the 20th-anniversary episode bills itself as the 3,128th adventure). The character was the brainchild of station owner George W. Trendle, program director and actor James Jewell, and scriptwriter Fran Striker. Trendle had ended the radio station's affiliation with the CBS network because it was losing money, and thus the station had to create its own programming and draw its own advertisers, and the Lone Ranger was one of the programs created by the independent radio station. According to actor/director Chuck Livingston, who began working on the show in August 1933, George Trendle wanted to create essentially a Robin Hood-type character in the old West. Other influences included Zorro and Tom Mix. The tales of his tragic origins, partnership with Tonto, and selfless heroism to defend the innocents of the American frontier led him to become an enduring icon of American culture.

Even though the radio show was aimed at children, adults made up at least half of its audience, and it was eventually picked up by the Mutual Broadcasting System, and eventually NBC’s Blue Network, which would become ABC.

While Tonto was voiced by Fred McCarthy, who went by the stage name John Todd, throughout the series (with isolated occasions when he was replaced by Raleigh Parker), the Lone Ranger himself was voiced by several actors before the producers found their star.

  • John L. Barrett, on test broadcasts on WEBR in January 1933;
  • George Seaton (under the name George Stenius) (January 31 – May 9, 1933). Seaton claimed to have originated the "Hi-yo, Silver!" cry because he could not whistle for his horse as the script required him to do;
  • Series director James Jewell, for one episode;
  • An actor known only by the pseudonym "Jack Deeds", for one episode;
  • Earle Graser (May 16, 1933 – April 7, 1941). Graser would play the role with great success for eight years until his death, voicing the character in over 1,300 episodes. The show became immensely popular during his time playing the role, and other than vacation days he never missed a show, which went out live three times a week. Ratings reached 15 million listeners a week. However, tragedy struck when on April 8, 1941, Graser died in a car accident; forcing the producers to quickly choose a replacement.
  • Brace Beemer (April 9, 1941, to the final original episode on September 9, 1954) was given the role after Earle Graser died. For five episodes, the Lone Ranger, shot while trying to stop a range war, was unable to speak beyond a whisper, with Tonto carrying the action. This approach eased the transition from Graser to Beemer, who would go on to play the Lone Ranger from then until the series ended. He became one of the show's narrators for several years and can be heard as narrator in the last few years that Graser played the Ranger before he took over the lead role. Brace Beemer became as well known and successful as Graser had been, and like his predecessor, rarely missed an episode.
  • Fred Foy (March 29, 1954), also an announcer on the show, took over the role for one broadcast when Beemer had laryngitis.

Other regular actors on the show included Paul Hughes, Raleigh Parker, Jay Michael (who also starred in Sgt. Preston of the Yukon), Bill Saunders (noted for voicing Butch Cavendish), Jane Fae, Rube and Liz Weiss, John Hodiak, Frank Russell, and Ernie Winstanley. Other supporting players were primarily regional actors from Detroit and WXYZ staff. Directors included Jim Jewell, Chuck Livingston (also an actor on the show in the early days), and Fred Flowerday, who preserved many of the recordings of the show. Ernie Winstanley was one of five or six actors who played the Lone Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid until he aged out of the part. Others who played Dan were child actors Bob Martin, James Lipton, and Dick Beals. Jay Michael was a "heavy" and often played villains. Among other characters, Chuck Livingston played the Ranger's rival Black Bart. Actors on the show would often play multiple parts per episode.

It ran in a Dramatic Half-Hour format, proving that the trope is Older Than Television.

Tropes found in the radio show:

  • 100% Heroism Rating: Anyone who learns that they're dealing with the Lone Ranger becomes friendly and helpful because they've all heard of him and know his reputation for solving problems and for fair play.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: The announcer in the Cheerios commercials that play during some episodes pronounces proteins as "pro-tee-ahns".
  • Adventure Towns: The Lone Ranger and Tonto are constantly on the move and visit many, many towns and cities around the West. Sometimes they are real towns like Osage, Dodge City, or New Orleans. Sometimes they're fictional towns like Frontier Town or Alkali Bend.
  • And This Is for...: Any crook who mistreats Dan Reid will get this from the Lone Ranger, accompanied by a beating. Sometimes if a crook has Tonto tied up and is beating him, the Lone Ranger takes great exception to this cowardly act and will give it back to the offending crook until the guy is begging him to stop hitting him.
  • Anticlimax: The Legion of the Black Arrow is an epic-length story arc that took months to tell. At the end of that, there are five top men still at large who were involved and have to pay for their part in the conspiracy to overthrow the US Government in the West. The problem is, the evidence linking them to the Black Arrow was destroyed, so they have to be caught for other illegal activities. The Lone Ranger and Tonto get four of them after four or five episode story arcs for each man in which they struggle to find evidence on which to convict and jail them for something. So audiences might have expected the final boss to be the biggest challenge of all. No, he's forgotten for a few weeks, and then finally captured in a single episode in a very low-key way.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: One of the givens of the Lone Ranger is that crooks or law enforcement who try to unmask him will fail. There are rare exceptions to this when they do manage to remove his mask, but almost without fail if he is unmasked, he's wearing a disguise beneath the mask for one reason or another, so his true face is still unseen. In these instances whoever has taken his mask has no idea who he really is.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: the characters within the show often employ Western slang. "Slap leather" means drawing a gun, to "dry gulch" means ambushing someone, "nesters" for homesteaders, "owlhoots" are outlaws, a "sky pilot" is a preacher, etc.
  • Apron Matron: Mustang Mag, who talks tough and puts up a tough front, but underneath cares deeply for Missouri, and for the Ranger and Tonto.
    The Narrator: Years of struggle against drought and famine, rustlers and Indians, gave Mag the aggression of a man. Yet her rough manner concealed a soft heart.
  • Artistic License – History: various episodes depict the Ranger operating in and meeting historical figures from as early as the 1830s (where he's involved with Sam Houston while Houston is President of the Texas Republic) to as late as the 1880s. The Ranger would be an old man by the 1880s if any sort of logical chronology was applied to his life, so obviously the writers prioritized story over logical consistency.
  • Artistic License – Law: Normally trials happen within days, evidence is often extremely circumstancial, and lawyers rarely appear. The show handwaves this as primitive courts in the early west. But the slowness of the legal system is invoked for once in an episode where a rancher is witholding access to the sole waterhole in a region during a drought. He plans to buy all the cattle from the surrounding ranchers for well under their value since the alternatives are for those ranchers to lose most of their herds. The Lone Ranger persuades those ranchers to sell, then he and the ranchers divert the underground river feeding the pond so suddenly the crooked rancher is the one with all the cows and no water for them. He will have to sell the cattle back at a loss,or watch them all die of thirst and lose everything. When the crooked rancher protests that he'll take this to court, the Lone Ranger admits that he would probably win the case, but by the time the case came to trial, months down the road, all his cows would be dead. The rancher agrees to sell the cows back to the original owners and take the financial hit.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Any time someone speaks in an Indian language.
  • Automaton Horses: Silver can sometimes seem like this, given just how far and how fast the Ranger often rides him without stopping. But sometimes this is averted, with Silver and Scout explicitly needing to rest or get some water.
  • Back for the Dead: Butch Cavendish escapes from prison and comes hunting the Lone Ranger in the 20th anniversary story, but does not survive the episode.
  • Baritone of Strength: the Lone Ranger and Tonto both have deep voices that go with their physical prowess. The Ranger in particular is often described as tall and broad-shouldered, and he's a very strong man, often physically picking up another man and hurling him, or hitting him extremely hard.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The opening narration often informs us, speaking of the Ranger, "It was he, more than any other man, who made possible the winning of the West."
  • Best Friend: The Lone Ranger and Tonto. The Ranger in particular will often describe Tonto this way. Tonto often refers to the Ranger as "friend" or "white friend" when discussing him with others.
  • Best Served Cold: several episodes revolve around someone taking revenge after years of waiting. In one case a man deliberately befriended the men he wanted revenge on just so he could get close to them and hurt them more after years of feigned friendship. In another episode, a man was convinced a ranch owner had killed his brother, and spent years under another name, working for that rancher, waiting for his chance to hurt the rancher as much as possible. In both cases, the men ultimately find that they no longer have a taste for revenge once they actually take it, with the Lone Ranger helping them see the mistake they are making.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: The Ranger does this frequently, either by outdrawing someone trying to shoot him, or to save someone else from being shot. When the person who just lost their gun would complain about their hand, the Ranger almost invariably insisted without any sympathy "You're not hurt!"
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Usually a gunfight is short enough that those involved have enough ammunition to keep their guns loaded. When there is a protracted gunfight, there is almost always discussion about the ammo running low and the need to "make every shot count!".
    • In the episode "The Last Bullet", the Lone Ranger rations the few bullets he has on his belt, firing three shots into the air several times a day. He's saving his last bullet to put the injured Silver out of his misery. He figures on about enough ammo for four days of firing three times a day before his ammunition is exhausted.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In some Wheaties ads in the 1950s, the Lone Ranger speaks directly to the audience.
  • Brutal Brawl: There are times when the Ranger uses his fists to teach a lesson to some crook, and he won't stop until the crook is begging for him to stop hitting him. Sometimes Tonto has to step in and stop him. Anyone who threatens Dan is certainly going to be on the receiving end of a brutal beating.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Missouri almost always runs his mouth and gives away secret information that he really shouldn't.
    • More than one episode deals with characters who make a gold strike, and rather than keep it quiet until they've established the claim as their own, brag about the gold strike all over town. This gives potential claim jumpers a chance to move in and attempt to steal the claim before it can be registered.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The June 27, 1947 episode "Pete and Pedro" completely ignores all the previous episodes featuring Pete and Pedro and plays out as if this is the first time the Lone Ranger and Tonto have ever met the lazy pair. This episode was adapted for the television series.
    • Missouri and Mustang Mag get engaged at the end of their first story arc. This is never mentioned again in any of their subsequent appearances and no marriage ever takes place.
  • Cast as a Mask: During the eight-part "The Stage Line Challenge" storyline, Earl Graser was on vacation for six of the eight episodes. The solution: the Lone Ranger impersonates a different character, the stagecoach driver, for those six episodes, down to imitating his voice perfectly. The actor playing the stage driver plays the Lone Ranger in disguise as that character, and even imitates some of Earl Graser's vocal mannerisms to remind the audience that he's supposed to be the Ranger in disguise.
  • Catch the Conscience: the Lone Ranger once caught a murderer because he knew a man who looked a lot like the murder victim, so he had the lookalike stare at the murderer, who was living with his mining partner in a lonely cabin in the woods, from the shadows for weeks, until the killer's guilty conscience finally drove him to confess so he could get some peace from the "ghost" who was looking at him accusingly.
  • The Cavalry: turns up to save the day on numerous occasions, usually because the Ranger or Tonto have gone to get them when a problem is simply too big for the two of them to handle.
  • Characterization Marches On: The Lone Ranger did not appear in January of 1933 fully formed. Recordings of the episodes do not exist, but scripts indicate that he was a "laughing daredevil" early on rather than a serious, sombre crime-fighter. He was also sometimes willing to kill and was not always as tolerant and respectful towards others as he later became. George Trendle wanted to make him a more fitting figure for children to admire, so the early rough edges were removed as time went on. He had no origin story at first, he simply appeared and left without anyone knowing where he came from. He even hid his face from Tonto at first. It is likely that listeners familiar with the later Brace Beemer or Clayton Moore characterization of the Lone Ranger would find the character as written and performed in the early episodes hard to reconcile with what he later became.
  • Chaste Hero: neither the Lone Ranger nor Tonto have any time for romance. On rare occasions a woman will express interest in one or the other, but even when this happens it's not reciprocated.
  • The Chief's Daughter: At one point, Chief Thundercloud wanted Tonto to marry his daughter and to lead his tribe after the chief died. Tonto had agreed to do so, despite wanting to continue traveling with the Lone Ranger, but in the end the daughter lets him out of his promise because, "if you love someone let them go." She knew Tonto didn't really want to get married, but would have kept his word to Chief Thundercloud.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Wherever he goes, no problem is too small for the Lone Ranger to step in and attempt to help out.
  • Civil War: Abraham Lincoln appears and the American Civil War is an important part of the plot of the August 1949 episode "White Man's Magic" about the necessity of the telegraph for rapidly conveying news and information.
  • Clear Their Name: the Lone Ranger finds new evidence and is able to clear a deceased army Captain, Jim Carslake, of a murder conviction. Carslake gets a posthumous medal for valor and his wife is informed of the exoneration by his colonel.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Happens to Dan Reid, the Lone Ranger's nephew. He's a regular character after his first appearance, but at some point only starts appearing from time to time, with the reason given that he's off at school, or visiting some friends. No doubt the writers had a difficult time working the 14 year old into every storyline, so it was easier for him to be absent more often than not.
  • The Confidant: Tonto is this for the Lone Ranger. Tonto is the only one who knows his secret identity and why he keeps that identity hidden.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: several episodes feature a crook impersonating the Lone Ranger, usually to try and frame him for their crime. You can be sure the Ranger will not just let this attempt go without showing the disguised crook who the real Lone Ranger is.
  • Cool Horse: Silver, almost always described by witnesses as the finest horse they've ever seen. He's faster and can go far longer without getting tired than any other horse. He even gets his own origin story episode.
  • Cool Mask: even on radio, the Ranger is never without his mask, unless he's wearing a disguise. The only exception would be when Tonto is helping him put on a disguise, when of course Tonto can see his face. There are very rare exceptions, but almost no other character, other than his nephew Dan, ever sees the Ranger's face.
  • Cops Need the Vigilante: Hundreds of outlaws are brought to justice thanks to the Lone Ranger stepping in and employing methods that the local Sheriffs can't, although the law is admittedly less stringent in the old West as depicted in this series than it would be in a modern police drama.
  • The Corpse Stops Here: Happens frequently. The standards of evidence practiced by various local sheriffs are very low.
  • Creepy Crows: In the episode "The Medicine Bird", a trader teaches his crow to repeat a few phrases in the local Indian tribe's language so he can con the Indians into making raids and bringing him the proceeds. Everyone, white man and Indian alike, is creeped out by this crow, including, in the end, the dishonest trader himself. The Lone Ranger sets it free to return to the wild and find other crows at the end of the episodes.
  • Crimefighting with Cash: It's almost never brought up, but the Lone Ranger is part-owner of a silver mine, meaning he's got more than enough money to travel the West without having to earn any sort of living.
  • Crossing the Desert: this is an obstacle in several stories. In one, a crook makes his escape across the desert, blowing up the only water hole on his route to stop the posse from following him, knowing they'd be counting on the water to replenish their supplies. In another story, crooks use camels to make their escape across the desert and are able to return time and time again to rob the same town because the men on horseback can only follow them so far before having to give up the pursuit, while the camels can make the entire trip across a three day desert ride without a problem. In yet another, some crooks being taken to jail across a desert overpower the sheriff and his deputy and leave them stranded by the water hole. Without horses or canteens, the sheriff doesn't dare try and walk across the desert, leaving him effectively trapped until help arrives.
  • Cultured Badass: The Lone Ranger is not only able to dish out a beating to crooks when it's warranted, and shoot better than anyone, but he can also be quite gentle and sometimes quotes literature or poetry. He is often depicted as just as much of a thinker as he is a fighter.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: after Breed Latham and his gang murder a train engineer and fireman, the Ranger and Tonto dish out some justice of their own. It's two versus four, and the crooks don't stand a chance.
    The Ranger: I'll talk, you just listen. We couldn't save the life of the engineer and fireman of this train. I'm sorry for that. There have been a lot of times in the past when I've felt dissatisfied handing members of your Black Arrow legion over to the law. I felt that I wanted to administer a little punishment myself. So has Tonto. There are four of you and just two of us. I'm not going to draw my guns, and you're not going to get the chance to draw yours. We're going to hogtie you, but first we're going to give you a thrashing you'll remember until you hang!
  • Damsel in Distress: Many examples, but a good one is found in the first part of the story "Thomas Christy's Wife". She comes west to meet her husband, only to find his lawyer and a man impersonating her husband are attempting to fraudulently sell the Christy ranch and abscond with the money. These crooks manage to convince the local sheriff that the wife is crazy when she accuses them, and she's given over to a doctor's care. The doctor is in on the plot and is slowly poisoning her. Only the intervention of the Lone Ranger and Tonto saves her life.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Tonto gets to be the main character during episodes where the Lone Ranger is absent, usually when Earle Graser was on vacation.
  • Death by Origin Story: The Lone Ranger's brother and fellow Texas Rangers all die in an ambush by the Cavendish gang. This is what motivates the Ranger to put on the mask so that he is believed dead along with them.
    • There is also an element of this in Silver's origin episode. He's born to the leader of the herd of wild horses in a secluded valley. When a couple of criminals attempt to capture him and his father and kill his father, the narrator informs the listeners that Silver leaves the valley because there is nothing to hold him there.
  • Death Faked for You: The Lone Ranger does this for the Smiling Kid. The Kid had spent about a year stealing from banks and other sources, but had since anonymously paid back everything he stole. The Lone Ranger decided that meant he had made up for his crimes, and helped him fake his death in a mine cave-in so the law would stop trying to arrest him.
  • Decoy Getaway: The Lone Ranger and Tonto are trapped in a cabin with escaped convict Hal Perry, who only got sent to jail because he could not prove he shot in self-defense. They're trapped and under attack by Dandy Jim's gang, who attempt to destroy the cabin with a black powder charge. Debris from the first explosion knocks the Lone Ranger unconscious. The convict, grateful that the Ranger had earlier saved his son's life, takes his extra mask and clothes and decoys the gang away, getting badly wounded in the process. This gives Tonto a chance to get the Ranger out, and once the Ranger recovers they round up the gang, who are shocked that the Lone Ranger is still alive and unhurt.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: There is a lot of anti-Indian prejudice in the various towns that the Ranger and Tonto travel to, ranging from casual to vitriolic, and the term "redskin" is used frequently, often without any malice intended. Generally it's the villains who end up on the more vitriolic end of the scale, to the point they hate, abuse or manipulate Indians when they get the chance. Tonto is sometimes affected by this attitude, and though he usually avoids a conflict, he will not stand for mistreatment.
  • Determined Homesteader: Many, many plots revolve around homesteaders (referred to as "nesters") determined to preserve their land, often from cattlemen who resent their presence on the formerly open range.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Joan Barkley/"the girl", an agent of the U.S. government who covertly helps the Ranger all through the Black Arrow storyline. She gathers the information and passes it along to the Ranger and Tonto, who take care of the actual confrontations with the criminals. She doesn't hide her face from anyone but the Ranger himself, and she does this because she's the sister of one of the Texas Rangers killed in the ambush by the Cavendish gang, and she's afraid she'll remind him of his old life and change who he is. There are hints that she was in love with him as well, but doesn't want to be an impediment to his life of fighting for justice and the future of the West.
  • Dramatic Unmask: in the 20th-anniversary episode, Butch Cavendish returns and attempts to kill the Ranger at Bryant's Gap, where his gang had ambushed the six Texas Rangers years before. Over the course of the fight, Cavendish ends up falling from the cliff and as he lies dying, the Lone Ranger takes off his mask and shows his face to Cavendish so he would know not only who finally beat him, but that Cavendish had helped create the Lone Ranger, the scourge of criminals in the West. Cavendish recognizes him right away, calling him "Reid" and wishing he'd died without learning the truth.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The Lone Ranger fights to stop unnamed drugs being brought across the border from Mexico in the September 1938 episode "Border Dope Smuggling".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Tonto was only half-Indian when first introduced, and he was depicted as older and physically weaker. Over time he evolved into the familiar younger, far more wise and physically able friend of the Lone Ranger, and the "half Indian" idea was dropped in favor of Tonto being a full-blooded Potawatomi Indian.
    • The Lone Ranger actually working alone. This was the case for only 12 episodes, because Jim Jewell and Fran Striker quickly realized that the character needed someone to talk to. In addition, he was constantly having to remove his mask and put on a disguise to go into town because otherwise he could not interact with people who were suspicious of his mask. Once Tonto was added to the cast, he could go to town and gather information, with no one paying much attention to a wandering Indian.
    • The Lone Ranger concealing his face even from Tonto. In the early years, even Tonto didn't know what he looked like, and the Ranger wanted to keep it that way. It took a crook grabbing the Lone Ranger's mask and tearing it off to reveal the Ranger's face to his faithful Indian companion.
  • Engineered Public Confession: a favorite tactic of the Ranger. He often tricks one villain into thinking another has betrayed him, and when the first confronts the second, he and the Sheriff are nearby to hear the whole thing.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Mustang Mag sees Tonto choosing to water his horse before coming inside for food as one of these. It tells her a lot about Tonto's character even though they've just met.
  • Everytown, America: after years of traveling all over the west to actual towns (and a few fictional ones), around 1948 the series spends a long time in Frontier Town, a fictional town located somewhere in the west. Why the Ranger and Tonto stay in this vicinity so long is never explained in-story. In real life, it was part of a promotion by Cheerios cereal to celebrate the program's 15th anniversary.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: one of the Ranger and Tonto's favorite (and effective) tactics is to listen at open windows to learn important information.
  • Faking the Dead: there are several occasions when the Lone Ranger allows himself to be believed dead so he can operate more freely. This type of storyline was usually employed when Graser or Beemer was on vacation, for obvious reasons.
  • False Confession: In a May 1939 episode a man calling himself "Fisheye" does this constantly because he's too lazy to work, and hopes to get a few free meals and a place to sleep by being thrown in jail if he confesses to whatever the most recent crime happens to be.
  • Fauxreigner: On occasion, the Ranger will disguise himself as a Mexican, if such a disguise fits the situation.
  • Feathered Fiend: the eagle trained to kill in "White Medicine Man" from August 1939. Not only has the titular medicine man trained the eagle to attack anyone wearing his gift "wampum" around his neck, but the eagle has iron spikes attached to its claws, guaranteeing death when the victim is impaled. The Indians in the area are terrified of it.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: the Ranger employs this tactic on multiple occasions when he knows someone is guilty of a crime but can't prove it.
  • Frontier Doctor: several episodes feature a doctor having to fight the distrust and prejudice of the local population when it comes to more modern medicine compared to what they're used to on the frontier. Sometimes the population of a town are so stubbornly ignorant that it seems like they deserve to suffer rather than have the services of a competent doctor.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Averted, characters clearly drink alcohol, though that aspect of their behavior is minimized, and saloons are never called by name, being referred to as cafes instead. Indians are sometimes driven to destructive behavior by "firewater" sold to them by unscrupulous types. However, the Lone Ranger and Tonto never drink alcohol.
  • Folk Hero: This is how the character is presented in many early episodes, as someone whose exploits were not recorded by historians, but who we know about because the stories have been passed down through the generations.
    Narrator: His heroic deeds were recorded in the memories of the people of seven states. Even today, cowboys sit around the campfire and relate stories of his daring... history does not record his many adventures, but the West will always remember the shout which has come down through the years...
  • General Ripper: General Canfield from a 1950 episode. When the territorial governor is recalled to Washington, Canfield sets himself up in the Governor's place, raises a militia, declares martial law, and tries to massacre Chief Thundercloud's tribe and give his tribe's land to his followers. He utterly disregards Constitutional rights, attempting to kill the Lone Ranger without a trial and imprison the local newspaper editor for printing the truth. He doesn't respect a flag of truce and tells Thundercloud to his face that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian... and you'll be one of the best soon." It takes the actual governor showing up and Canfield's own troops turning against him to put an end to the situation.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Tonto sometimes plays the role of bad cop with crooks he and the Ranger are trying to get information from, hinting that he's willing to torture or kill someone. That's not actually true of course, but plenty of criminals are willing to believe an Indian would act this way and they sing like a canary.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: There's no profanity on this show, which given the era it was written and performed in and the demographic it was aimed at, should be no surprise. Characters express themselves with phrases like "Jumping catfish!" or if they're really angry, "Go to blazes!"
  • Group-Identifying Feature: All the members of the Legion of the Black Arrow have a small tattoo of an arrow on their wrist, often used by members to identify themselves to other members of the conspiracy.
  • Guile Hero: The Ranger's plans can often involve manipulating the criminal of the episode into revealing his guilt, often by correctly predicting how he or she will act in a given situation, and setting up that situation to occur.
  • Guilty Until Someone Else Is Guilty: with the primitive state of law and the courts, this is often a problem. Someone will be arrested and convicted of a crime on very flimsy evidence, and the only way out is for the Lone Ranger to find and produce the real guilty party.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Applies to Tonto, of all characters, in an example of Early-Installment Weirdness. Tonto, who is usually a full-blooded Indian, began in 1933 as an older, half-Indian, half-white character. Over time, ideas about Tonto began to change, and the half-Indian element of his character was dropped. In a Retcon, his depiction changed into someone younger who had always been a full-blooded Potawatomi Indian. Tonto's tribe is rarely mentioned, but does get referenced occasionally, such as in a May 1950 episode where another Indian whose life he saves recognizes what tribe Tonto is a member of.
  • Hanging Around: Westerners in this series are often ready to lynch someone at the drop of a hat, and even lawmen speak with relish to a crook when informing them that after a fair trial, they'll hang.
  • Henpecked Husband: there are a few examples over the course of the series. They usually learn to be more manly and assertive after an adventure catching crooks with the Lone Ranger.
  • Hidden Depths: Loud, blustering, boisterous mule-driver Thunder Martin once studied law in the East before coming West, something most people did not know and would never have guessed given the way he spoke and acted. The Lone Ranger tipping town leaders off to his education and background leads to him becoming a judge for a while.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Tonto and the Lone Ranger sometimes communicate information they want to keep secret in Tonto's native language, which none of the crooks they typically encounter can understand. Tonto once convinced some crooks that the long Indian word he wrote on a note was his name, but it was actually a warning to the Lone Ranger.
  • History with Celebrity: the Ranger once states that George Armstrong Custer is the only person who knows his true identity. Custer appears in several episodes and dies offscreen in another. Billy the Kid also appears in an episode. Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok and "the President" (probably Ulysses Grant, though he's not named) appear during the Black Arrow storyline. Later on the Ranger meets a number of famous names from the old West, including Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Teddy Roosevelt, Sam Bass, Pawnee Bill and Bat Masterson, among others. President Rutherford B. Hayes comes west to visit Dodge City in an episode, and of course, meets Tonto and the Lone Ranger.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Generally speaking, criminals are arrested and tried rather than killed outright, but there are times when a crook falls into his own trap. One example is a homesteader who, with the help of his fellow settlers, has discovered gold in a valley that is sacred to the local Indian tribe. He plots to kill all the other settlers and take the gold for himself, and to that end he rigs an explosion that will drop a boulder at the entrance to the valley, set to be triggered by a tripwire. When he's found out he runs for it, trips over the wire and is crushed to death by his own trap.
  • Horse Jump: On more than one occasion, Silver makes a jump that no other horse would be able to make. Tonto usually tries to dissuade the Ranger from attempting the jump, certain that he'll fall short and be killed, but Silver is invariably able to do just what the Ranger thinks he can.
  • Horse Returns Without Rider: Occasionally happens to the Ranger or Tonto, alerting whoever sees Silver or Scout without a rider that their friend is in trouble. Happens more often to Dan, who being less capable and experienced needs help more often.
  • Iconic Item: The Lone Ranger's silver bullets, often used to identify him to a skeptical lawman or someone he's trying to help.
  • Identity Amnesia: the Ranger has a temporary version brought about by a bullet grazing his scalp in "When Memory Failed".
  • Idiot Ball: Dan Reid is a fairly smart and capable young man, but in a series of 1948 episodes he makes the same mistake over and over of spotting the crook, following them out of town, getting caught, and then not having the good sense to keep his mouth shut about knowing who they are. He does this over and over, and never seems to learn to go get the Lone Ranger or at least keep quiet about what he knows, even after narrowly escaping death multiple times.
  • Impersonation Gambit: From time to time the Lone Ranger will capture a member of a criminal gang and then disguise himself as that person to infiltrate the gang. Sometimes he fools the other crooks, sometimes it doesn't take them long to determine that he's a fake. The most unique instance of the Lone Ranger assuming someone else's identity was when he took the identity of a stage driver for a small company in order to fool a rival stage company whose agents were using criminal methods to try and steal the business from the smaller company.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The Lone Ranger simply does not miss if he shoots at something or someone, whether he's on foot with a steady aim or riding Silver at full gallop from half a mile away. In earlier episodes he is constantly shooting the guns out of someone's hand, while later he will often shoot them in the arm instead.
  • The Infiltration: numerous plots involve the Lone Ranger disguising himself so he can get into a gang by pretending to be a criminal. On rare occasions he'll try to pass himself off as an existing gang member, while on other occasions he'll pretend to be a crook from elsewhere and he'll try to get himself recruited.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The non-lyric theme is part of the William Tell overture by Gioachino Rossini. It's very long, taking up nearly two minutes at the beginning of every episode.
  • Intellectual Animal: Silver sometimes falls into this category, reacting to trouble or other situations in ways that even a trained animal probably would not, though these instances are kept to a minimum so the writers generally get away with it without being too unrealistic.
  • Invisible President: the Ranger meets with him several times, but the President is never named (though given the time period this storyline takes place in, he's almost certainly Ulysses Grant). He's just "the President". Even though this is a radio program, he's often described with his face "hidden in shadows", meaning some of the agents he meets with don't see his face any more than the listening audience does.
    • Averted with the appearance of Rutherford B. Hayes, who is specifically named and who appears in public.
  • Invulnerable Horses: As often as people on horseback shoot at each other, you'd think horses would be shot, but it rarely happens. Crooks and lawmen alike shoot at the Ranger and Tonto as they're riding away, but the horses are never hit, though the Ranger or Tonto are hit on rare occasions.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: The five ringleaders of the Legion of the Black Arrow cannot be held responsible for conspiracy and sedition, due to lack of evidence. So the Lone Ranger and Tonto go after each of these men until they're able to make evidence for other crimes these men committed stick, meaning they'll at least go to prison for some crime, if not the main one they committed.
  • Keep the Reward: This is always the response when someone tries to offer the Lone Ranger and Tonto some tangible benefit for their efforts. They will turn it down, turn down thanks, or insist that a reward go to someone else.
  • Kidnapped by an Ally: The Lone Ranger often forces someone to come with him even if they don't want to, usually to keep them out of trouble while he sorts out whatever problem they're facing. They might protest, but he doesn't often give them much choice.
  • Kid Sidekick: Dan Reid, 14 year old nephew of the Lone Ranger, who rides the plains with the Ranger and Tonto when he's not off at school.
  • Knight Errant: the Ranger is a classic example. He fits the definition in almost every way, except that he's not a loner and is almost always accompanied by his Best Friend, Tonto.
  • Legion of Doom: the Legion of the Black Arrow, dedicated to breaking away from the United States and forming a new country in the West.
  • Long-Lost Relative: the Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid, located by the Lone Ranger and Tonto after the boy had been living with someone he thought was his grandmother for 14 years. Dan is the only son of the Ranger's older brother, orphaned twice on the same day when he was an infant. His father was killed by the Cavendish gang, and his mother in an Indian attack as they were traveling to meet Captain Reid in Texas.
  • Long-Runners: the show ran three times a week from January 1933 to 1956, producing over 3,100 episodes.
  • Lost Voice Plot: Used to explain a voice actor change when Earle Graser died in a car wreck and had to be replaced. Snopes has the story here.
  • Lovable Rogue: the Black Caballero, who is only committing crimes for the thrill of it. Though the Ranger captures him and sends him to jail, he is given The Pardon for his role in helping prevent war between the United States and Mexico.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: Quite a few appear over the course of the series. A few are redeemed, but most end up going to jail for some criminal activity. They often want to foreclose a mortgage to gain possession of a valuable piece of property, or cooperate in robbing their own bank and pocketing the money.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: The Ranger experiences this in "The Last Bullet" when Silver stumbles in the desert and is injured and the Ranger breaks his leg. Low on water, stuck in the hot sun for days with vultures circling, the Ranger loses himself in memories as he and Silver suffer from heat and thirst and come very close to dying until Tonto tracks them down.
  • Mysterious Past: The series never delves too deeply into the Ranger's past and who he was. This was a deliberate approach taken by George Trendle and Jim Jewell in order to keep the character interesting by preserving the mystery about who he was. Listeners knew his last name was Reid, and that he had an older brother who was also a Texas Ranger, but very little else. Hints about his knowledge and education appear in the form of the grammatically precise way that he speaks, avoiding most of the western slang that all the other characters use, and the way he quotes literature from time to time or displays skills that the vast majority of Westerners don't have. Every now and then he will casually reveal something in conversation, such as mentioning to Tonto that he had seen dragon kites in China when he was young, or talking about an old mentor or inspiration. Such revelations are few and far between.
  • Names The Same: "The Lynch Mob" features a character named Barry Allen.
  • Narrator: Every episode starts with a narrator introduction and setup, and many episodes feature the narrator describing some aspect of the story that can't be covered by the characters describing what they see or are doing. In a case of Retroactive Recognition, for the last few years while Earle Graser was playing the Lone Ranger, Brace Beemer was the regular narrator, meaning both the current and future Lone Ranger actors were regulars on the program at the same time.
  • Nephewism: The addition of Dan Reid, the "Lone Ranger's only living relative" to the series in 1943. Both of his parents are dead, so the Lone Ranger is the only family he has. He has an interesting upbringing, no doubt about it, riding around the West with the Ranger and Tonto and often sent off to school or traveling on his own to visit friends.
  • No Full Name Given: The Lone Ranger's last name is Reid, but his first name is never revealed.
  • No Name Given: The Padre is never named, he's just always "the Padre".
  • Non-Powered Costumed Hero: Even if the costume pretty much consists of a mask, the Ranger is still an early example of this type of character. His extraordinary shooting skill and his greater than average strength make him a cut above the various crooks and other dangers he faces constantly, even though he's clearly only human.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Dan Reid. With a rare exception, no matter how long the character was on the radio program, he was almost always referred to as being 14 years old.
  • Obfuscating Disability: When posing as an elderly Prospector, the Ranger would place a stone in his shoe to force himself to walk with a limp.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: when Graser or Beemer were on vacation, if the Ranger was still active rather than wounded or assumed dead, the story would often follow Tonto or other characters, and anything the Ranger did would be known only when the other characters describe it.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Sometimes said verbatim when the Ranger or Tonto get shot, usually in the shoulder or a bullet graze on the scalp. If the Ranger shoots someone it will be this, a shot in the arm or hand designed to incapacitate, not kill.
    • Averted during the storyline used to replace Earle Graser with Brace Beemer, when the Lone Ranger is shot and comes very close to dying from the gunshot wound. It takes an army surgeon and plenty of care from Mustang Mag and Tonto for him to recover.
    • Also averted in the episode "Mr. Gulliver" where the Ranger is shot and loses enough blood that he passes out and needs the help of a couple of boys to get him to their father's ranch where he can get medical help.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: Silver will not let anyone ride him except the Lone Ranger, and if he's agitated, won't even let anyone else handle him. There are rare exceptions if the Ranger coaxes Silver into allowing someone else, usually if there's a need to ride double. Sometimes Tonto and the Ranger will switch horses if the Ranger is in disguise and needs to not be seen on a white stallion, and in those instances Tonto is of course trusted by Silver.
  • Once per Episode: Someone will exclaim "You're masked!" to the Lone Ranger, and his reply will be "I'm not an outlaw." Sometimes the mask is just more trouble than it's worth, given how often people assume the Ranger is a crook because he's wearing it.
  • Only in It for the Money: The original radio show was created by a committee — station owner George Trendle, director Jim Jewell and a team of writers led by Fran (Francis) Striker — at WXYZ in Detroit. The objective was purely financial. Trendle had dropped the station's CBS affiliation and wanted original, well-written programs that would have children (a less critical audience) flocking to hear the radio (and the commercials) in droves. The station hit paydirt with the Lone Ranger.
  • Opening Narration: "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear..." It wasn't always the first line though. Usually, it was: "A fiery horse with a speed of light, a cloud of dust, and hearty 'Hi-o Silver!' (The Lone Ranger rides again!)".
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The El Mundo storyline from March and April, 1943. For six episodes, a series about stealing gold, robbing stages, cattle rustling, and other Western genre staples becomes a series about a mad scientist hiding underground in Aztec ruins, using lost tech and his inventions to wreak havoc on the locals.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: The Lone Ranger is normally someone who believes in the law, though there are times when he will choose what he sees as justice over following legal procedures. Even so, the idea that he would condone a lynching without a trial is almost unthinkable, but that's exactly what he does at the end of the July 1939 episode "The Masked Outlaw". The outlaw has killed several men during the story, but is caught by the Lone Ranger and the Sheriff and his posse. When the Sheriff and the other men talk about taking a rope and finding a convenient tree nearby, with the clear idea that they're going to hang the Masked Outlaw then and there, rather than demand a trial the Lone Ranger and Tonto leave as they typically do at the end of every episode, making no attempt to stop the forthcoming lynching.
  • Outdated Hero vs. Improved Society: The Lone Ranger sees this as the future of the West, when his methods of achieving justice will no longer be needed. He tells Dan that he wants him to go to college and study law, and that the future will belong to him and men like him.
  • Pastiche: The Merita Bread commercials featuring "The Lone Stranger" and "Pronto".
  • Patriotic Fervor: the Lone Ranger is a dyed in the wool American, who loves his country and is loyal to the people and the government and has no problem expressing his beliefs. Several stories have him helping government agents thwart the plans of foreign agents, and he's spoken directly to the President and worked on his behalf on more than one occasion.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Look! He left this Silver Bullet!" "Who was that masked man?"
  • The Plan: Many, many episodes feature the Ranger telling someone "I have a plan", usually with regard to dealing with the episode's crooked actions, with the remainder of the episode spent watching that plan play out. Often he is able to correctly predict what a crook will do and how he will react in order to trap him and bring him to justice.
  • Pony Express Rider: several episodes deal with dangers to the Pony Express, with one plot even requiring the Ranger to act as a rider for a short time.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The theme song ("William Tell Overture," second movement) was originally written in 1829 as part of Rossini's opera William Tell, but today it is inextricably linked to the show.
    • All the music on the show was classical. Kids grew up listening to Mendelssohn and Liszt thinking they were just themes for the show.
  • Power of Trust: the relationship between the Lone Ranger and Mustang Mag is built on this, to a degree not seen with any other characters on the show, with the exception of Tonto, and even there it's not expressed in the same overt way. Mag has complete faith that the Ranger will do exactly what he says he'll do, and the Ranger says at one point that she knows he would never break faith with her. This trust gets Mag through some really tough situations.
  • Preacher Man: there are a number of episodes where a preacher comes to town and fights resistance to his message or resistance from crooks who fear a new church will be an impediment to their criminal activities. These men are almost all morally upstanding characters and treated with respect by the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
    • The Padre, the Lone Ranger's most frequent and important contact, also fits this category.
  • Prejudice Aesop: In "Just Enough Rope" the local sheriff is discriminated against because he fought for the South during the Civil War. He's automatically blamed for rustling because the biggest cattleman in the area is against him due to his background, and it takes the Lone Ranger proving who the real rustler is to show the cattleman that he's been wrong to harbor prejudice as he has.
  • Prison Episode: 'Black Hole' is a rare episode set in the Hellhole Prison where the Black Caballero was sent after the Ranger captured him. The prison is only as bad as it is because Wardens Are Evil, and once the Ranger finds out the situation, he straightens it out quickly.
  • Product Placement: For the 15th anniversary of the show, Cheerios ran a promotional tie-in where pieces of Frontier Town could be clipped from Cheerios boxes or ordered, so that a model of the entire town could be constructed, while the show itself spent months in the Frontier Town setting.
  • The Promise: in "The Reluctant Sheriff" Jack Pender's dying father, Sheriff Judd Pender, pins his sheriff badge on his son and makes him promise to run down and capture the crook who shot him, even though the son has no desire to be a lawman at all. The son agrees.
  • Protection Racket: "The Sheriff of Gunstock" from October 1949 revolves around a protection racket scheme run by Rocky Hanford and his gang. It's a classic setup: pay them "protection money" to insure against damage to a business. Of course, it's the Hanford gang that will do the damage if payment is not made.
  • Proto-Superhero: A masked do-gooder with an alias, a Secret Identity, and a sidekick. The Lone Ranger first appeared in 1933, only five years before Superman made his first appearance.
  • Put on a Bus: Tonto's original horse, White Fellow, was wounded by a criminal after a long, tiring ride, and was left with Chief Thundercloud until he healed. He's never seen again. Tonto rides Scout for the rest of the series.
  • Quick Draw: No one can pull his pistol faster than the Lone Ranger, who will sometimes even draw and aim at a man who already has his gun out of the holster before that man can aim at him. Characters in the show are constantly amazed at the speed of the Ranger's draw.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In one episode, some crooks plan to rob a stagecoach by altering the road signs so the driver takes the trail towards a dangerous quicksand bog. One the stagecoach drove into the bog, they could take the money and escape, leaving the stage to sink in the quicksand, thus eliminating the evidence. Unfortunately for them, the Ranger and Tonto found the stage before it sank and were able to extract it, thus learning about the plan and exposing the crooks who carried it out.
  • Racing the Train: The Ranger has to take a stagecoach through a railroad tunnel to escape bandits after the $10,000 carried on the stage. The only problem is that the train is also heading straight for the tunnel, though the Ranger manages to reach the exit and get off the tracks in time to avoid certain death.
  • Recurring Character: A number appear in multiple episodes and storylines:
    • Mustang Mag, an older lady rancher with a fiery temper who is one of the Ranger and Tonto's best friends.
    • Old Missouri, Mustang Mag's foreman and later Sheriff of the local town
    • Arizona Lawson: a wolf-pelt bounty hunter who travels with his dog
    • Cactus Pete: a singer and storyteller. All but two of his appearances were in the first five years of the program before recordings were made, and are lost. Only the scripts tell us he was an important recurring character.
    • the Padre, a friend and contact who runs a Spanish mission. He's one of the most important of the recurring characters, being the man many people contact when they want to get in touch with the Lone Ranger. He's also one of the few who knows about the Ranger's silver mine and just how important the mine is to fund the Ranger's activities.
    • the Black Caballero: a thrill-seeking crook in his first storyline who earns the Ranger's respect, after which the two become friends
    • Bolliver Bates and Hacksaw Hawkins/Hastings (his last name changes in his second appearance), down on their luck Confederate vets who claim to have ridden with Jeb Stuart
    • Chief Thundercloud, an Indian chief who is friends with the Ranger and Tonto, and who gifted Tonto the paint horse that Tonto later named Scout.
    • Pete Lacey & Pedro Martinez, a couple of drifters who rarely hold a job for long, but are nonetheless friends with the Ranger and Tonto. They also appear on the television series, albeit for only a single episode.
    • Torlock, one of the leaders of the Black Arrow who appears in a number of episodes during the first half of the storyline before being poisoned to silence him.
    • "The Girl"/Joan Barkley, an agent working for the President to help the Ranger fight the Legion of the Black Arrow. Her brother Bob was one of the Texas Rangers killed in the same ambush at Grant's Pass that almost killed the man who would become the Lone Ranger, and she found and tried to help him before Tonto arrived, possibly saving the Ranger's life. By the time she brought help back the next day, six graves had been dug and she assumed at the time that he must have died just like the others. She later learns otherwise, meaning she knows who the Lone Ranger is beneath his mask. She never lets him see her face during the Black Arrow storyline, but later the President introduces them and the Ranger recognizes her.
    • "Peaceful" Parker, U.S. Marshal
    • Barnaby Boggs - starts out as essentially a snake-oil salesman and a bit of a con man, though he generally reforms in subsequent appearances. One of the few characters to cross over and appear on the television series.
    • "Pop" Hendricks, teller of tall tales about his past and constant chewer of tobacco.
    • The President - never named, but probably Ulysses Grant.
    • "Thunder" Martin (played by Paul Hughes)- a mule driver and good friend of the Ranger and Tonto
    • Clarabelle Hornblow - a strong-willed lady rancher who employs Thunder Martin.
    • The cast of characters who live in Frontier Town, including Sheriff "Two Gun" Taylor, Judge Brennan and Mother Willard. Since the series spends months in this town, the company of actors often get to play the same character in multiple episodes.
    • "Cannonball" McKay, a woman stagecoach driver, and her husband Clem.
  • Ret-Canon: The Lone Ranger's origin story where the troop of Texas Rangers is ambushed and he's the lone survivor came from the 1938 Republic movie serial and was adapted into the radio series. The Lone Ranger was not given an origin in the earliest episodes, he simply appeared with no one knowing who he was or where he came from.
  • Retcon: in later retellings of Dan's origin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto happen across the wagon train massacre where Dan's mother Linda was killed. They're days too late to help, but they do learn about Linda's death from the burned wreckage. This also makes the massacre later than the massacre of the Texas Rangers by the Cavendish gang rather than having it occur on the same day.
  • Right Under Their Noses: In the episode "The Hole in the Wall" three crooks have managed to carve away the mortar around some of the bricks in their cell so they can escape. In order to get money and supplies needed to get away, they decide to use the jail cell as a temporary base, so they can rob the bank and get back to their cell and thus have the perfect alibi.
  • The Rustler: a constant villain type in this series. Many, many episodes revolve around cattle rustling.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Tonto is said to be one of the best trackers in the west, although he's not infallible.
  • Searching for the Lost Relative: a storyline in 1943 sees the Lone Ranger locate his nephew Dan Reid, son of the Lone Ranger's older brother.
  • Secret-Keeper: the Lone Ranger has three: Tonto of course, but also the Padre, and "Granddad", an old friend who lives in a cabin at the Ranger's secret silver mine. Granddad mines the silver and makes the silver bullets that the Lone Ranger uses. He uses carrier pigeons to communicate with the Padre when he needs something.
    • "Granddad" is called Jim in the Dec. 11, 1950 episode "Deadly Silver". The name change may be a case of the radio show changing things to more closely align with the television show in which the man who mined the silver for the Lone Ranger was named Jim Blaine.
  • Secret Relationship: The townspeople can't understand why Cannonball McKay took ex-con Clem as a partner in her stage line business. It's because the two are secretly married, and that never occurs to the townsfolk because they don't even realize that Cannonball is a woman.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: a pair of crooks discover the Lone Ranger's secret silver mine. One of them shoots the other and takes as much of the silver for himself as he can. When the Lone Ranger and Tonto track him down and trap him, his only escape route is via the river. No points for guessing that the weight of the silver in his money belts drags him down to his death, as he is too heavy to swim and drowns. The Lone Ranger, who intended to take him alive and turn him over to the law, muses that Fate has stepped in to protect his secret.
  • Settling the Frontier: Many stories deal with people traveling West to put down roots and the many conflicts that arise from their decisions. Threats can range from cattlemen resentful of homesteaders on the formerly open range, hostile Indians, or outlaws out to make some quick cash. Sometimes the weather or terrain is an obstacle. The Lone Ranger is always ready to get involved and help the settlers, because he's dedicated to ensuring the future of the West as a civilized and law-abiding region.
  • The Seven Western Plots: With several thousand episodes, you can be sure variants of these plots appear many times over.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Former Confederate Colonel O'Connell in the April 1950 episode "O'Connell's Charge". The character seems to be a fictional version of General James Longstreet who constantly relives and regrets "O'Connell's Charge" (a fictional version of Pickett's Charge) and all the men under his command who died during that battle. When he is wounded during a fight with Indian renegades, he feverishly rides toward the main Indian camp, reenacting the charge with only the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding with him, trying to save his life. Only the timely arrival of the cavalry saves them from death.
  • The Sheriff: the local Sheriff is a constant element in nearly every episode. The Lone Ranger has no legal authority to arrest anyone, so he almost always has to get the Sheriff on his side to jail the crooks he's after. In some episodes, a retired Sheriff has to come out of retirement to clean up a town. In others, the Sheriff is crooked, or under the thumb of a local criminal boss.
  • Shoot the Rope: given his incredible shooting skills, the Ranger has pulled this off to stop a hanging on a few occasions.
  • Sidekick: Tonto clearly plays a secondary role to the Lone Ranger, and looks to the Ranger for plans and direction.
    Tonto: You got plan, kimosabe?
  • Silly Animal Sound: Unintentional, but the roar of the buffalo that fights Silver in Silver's origin story is clearly a human roaring and not a stock recording, unlike the horse vocalizations.
  • Silver Bullet: The Lone Ranger makes his bullets from silver as a reminder that they are to be fired only when necessary. He rarely identifies himself by name, preferring to hand someone a silver bullet and ask if they know what it means.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 3, subtle continuity. By and large an episode from 1938 is indistinguishable from an episode from 1949, but there are occasionally new characters introduced who become a permanent part of the show. Dan Reid is the biggest example, along with his horse, Victor. Sometimes there are references to past episodes, or a character introduced for a story might become a recurring character. There is a Story Arc from time to time, but afterwards the show goes back to being episodic.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This show overall is on the idealistic side. This plenty of injustice and crime in the west, and some often vicious criminals, but the Lone Ranger almost always captures whoever he's after, straightens out any unjust treatment or overcomes an unjust judgment, and generally makes wherever he goes a better place.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: So says the preacher staying with Mustang Mag in "The Evils of Tobacco", much to Missouri's chagrin. He keeps trying to sneak around the ranch and smoke his pipe, only to be caught and lectured by the visiting sky pilot.
  • Sole Survivor: Reid, the future Lone Ranger, is the only survivor out of the six Texas Rangers ambushed by the Cavendish gang. Hence the name.
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: A number of episodes of the series were adapted for the television show with appropriate changes made for the different medium, including "Pete and Pedro", "The Legion of Old Timers", "Million Dollar Wallpaper", and "A Lady Named Cannonball."
  • South of the Border: The three part story "Mexico" takes place here as the Lone Ranger helps the Black Caballero fight an an attempt by a foreign government to install the emperor Maximillian in Mexico. Numerous other adventures take place around the US-Mexico border, and the Ranger knows a number of Mexicans who are grateful for his help in the past. At times the Ranger seems to have an affinity for the country and its people.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • The Lone Ranger often removes his mask and disguises himself to avoid drawing attention. His disguise is usually effective, but there have been times when someone sees through it. On one occasion, a man with a background in theater recognizes that the Ranger is a man in disguise because he's familiar with the stain used to change skin color that the Ranger is wearing.
    • Whenever the Lone Ranger attempts to join a criminal gang to break them up from the inside, odds are that someone will figure out that he's not who he seems to be. It's a rare thing when the disguise works flawlessly with a gang of crooks.
  • Starting a New Life: Several characters do this in various episodes, changing their name and moving to a new town, usually to escape some seemingly criminal past. Sometimes a wife or children are left behind. They often end up having to face the past and come clean about whatever mistake they've been running from.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: The Phantom Figure of the Plains, the Masked Rider of Justice
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Bolliver Bates and Hacksaw Hastings still wear their tattered Confederate uniforms, but in their case it's because they have nothing else to wear.
  • Story Arc: most episodes of this series are standalone half hour stories, with the occasional three part story, or in rare instances, a longer story arc, such as the eight episode "Stage Line Challenge". The exception is the months-long "Legion of the Black Arrow" story arc which ran for over 60 episodes from Oct 13, 1941, to the end of February 1942.
    • Immediately following the Black Arrow storyline's conclusion is a series of connected episodes where the Ranger and Tonto hunt down the five leaders of the Black Arrow and though the there is no evidence linking them to that organization, the Ranger manages to get them all convicted for other crimes.
    • The Iron Spur series, about a gang of criminals trying to stop the transcontinental railroad from being built, also ran for many weeks.
    • The Ranger spends weeks in San Fransisco investigating the Barbary Coast and then logging problems in northern California.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: During a trip to New Orleans, the Lone Ranger takes the place of the son of one of his fellow Texas Rangers to fight a duel to the death using rapiers. The Ranger displays a never-before mentioned skill with a sword and defeats his opponent, said to be one of the best swordsmen in New Orleans.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Clarabelle Hornblow and Thunder Martin fill the roles in the series previously filled by Mustang Mag and Old Missouri, down to scripts that were originally used for Mag and Missouri being repurposed for Clarabelle and Thunder. Mustang Mag and Missouri do occasionally show up after the introduction of Clarabelle and Thunder, but not very often.
  • Sworn Brothers: The Lone Ranger and Tonto took an oath of lifelong friendship and both stick by each other no matter the circumstances.
    Tonto: (while at the grave of the Lone Ranger's brother) That where you, me, pledge friendship, many year ago.
    The Lone Ranger: This is a good time to renew that pledge.
    Tonto: Kimosabe, long as you live, long as me live, me ride with you.
    The Lone Ranger: Yes Tonto. I couldn't carry on without you. As long as we ride, we'll travel together.
  • Temple of Doom: El Mundo's hideout is a deathtrap filled "Aztec" temple. The Ranger and Tonto even get caught in one of the traps and have to work fast to avoid being drowned.
  • That Man Is Dead: The Ranger leaves his name behind when he decides to put on the mask and let the world think that he's dead.
    Reid: I'll do it, Tonto. I'll wear a mask. No one will know who I am. Let them think all six of those Rangers have... gone west. There'll be one who is still riding. I'll have no name. My name is beneath the mound of earth you built beside the graves of my friends. I'll just be... the Lone Ranger.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: The Lone Ranger will not kill, though as the series goes on he is certainly willing to shoot opponents in the arm or leg to put them out of the fight, something he would not have done early on. Tonto occasionally expresses more willingness to kill than the Ranger, but he also abides by the no killing rule.
  • Thrill Seeker: this is what motivates the Black Caballero. He lives for the thrill that the danger of the criminal life provides him. He doesn't really care about the loot, and generally gives it all to his men.
  • To Absent Friends: During the 20th anniversary episode, the Ranger revisits the graves of his fallen friends to remember them and show his nephew Dan the grave of his father. He names them all: Captain Reid (his brother), Jim Bates, Sam Cooper, Jack Stacy, and Joe Brent. The Ranger's name is on the sixth cross. As an aside, different names are sometimes given in earlier episodes. Long term continuity is not always perfect on this program.
  • Tonto Talk: Every Indian in the series talks this way. Even the ones who were raised by Whites from infancy and would thus be expected to speak flawless English.
  • True Companions: the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
  • Undying Loyalty: there's a reason Tonto is often characterized as the Lone Ranger's faithful friend. He cares deeply for his friend.
    Tonto: Tonto stay.
    The Ranger: I think not, Kimosabe.
    Tonto: You best friend Tonto got. You stay, Tonto stay.
    The Ranger: Even if you know it may mean your life, Tonto?
    Tonto: Tonto stay.
    The Ranger: You're a good friend, Tonto.
    Tonto: You my friend.
  • The Unmasking: The Ranger actually takes off his mask and reveals his face to the President of the United States in the episode "A New Mission" which begins The Legion of the Black Arrow storyline, after first telling him why he wears the mask. No one else is present in the secret meeting between the two.
    • When Dan's adoptive Grandma Frisbee is dying, she puts Dan into the Ranger's care and then asks to see his face before she dies. He obliges her and removes his mask.
    • The Ranger shows his face to Butch Cavendish as Cavendish is dying, so the outlaw will know who finally beat him and that Reid had survived the ambush so many years earlier.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Cactus Pete, in the episode "The Origin of Tonto". As he relates the story to the cowboys around him of the supposed first meeting between the Ranger and Tonto, the details he gives cannot be reconciled in any way with later accounts of their first meeting. He even notes at one point "some say this and some say that", so even he would not claim that his story is the definitive account. However, with the early years of the program unavailable for listening, it may be that his retelling is accurate and was simply retconned later.
  • Victory Through Intimidation: Another common tactic. The Ranger can often stand off crowds or win without a fight by showing no fear and making an enemy back down. He's even escaped a firing squad using this technique.
  • Wanted a Son Instead: Bart Frazer loves his daughter, but wishes he had a son to take over the ranch after his death. During some trouble with a neighboring rancher who wants Frazer's spread, his daughter says she's going to visit a friend, but disguises herself as a young man and gets hired to work her dad's ranch in order to prove that she's every bit as capable as a son would have been.
  • White Stallion: Interestingly, in the early days of the show both the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode white horses. The Ranger had Silver of course, but Tonto rode a horse named "White Feller". White Feller would eventually be wounded and left with Chief Thundercloud to recover, while the Chief gave Tonto his paint horse that Tonto would later name Scout.
  • The Western
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: The Lone Ranger often uses a disguise when he enters a town to avoid drawing the kind of negative attention he usually gets because of his mask. Sometimes he uses a disguise to impersonate a criminal. His disguises are of the "hair and makeup" variety, never Latex Perfection, and they don't always work. Since this is a radio show, emphasis is given to the accent, though the other visual components of the disguise are of course mentioned.
  • Worthy Opponent: This is how the Lone Ranger comes to view the Black Caballero, and he even admits that he is one of the few men he's responsible for imprisoning that he has respect for. The feeling is mutual, the Caballero feels the same about the Lone Ranger, holding no resentment against the Ranger for putting him in prison. When there is a possibility of war with Mexico over border disputes, the Ranger even breaks the Caballero out of prison (with the implicit sanction of a local military officer) for his help in settling the dispute and catching the men responsible, after which the Black Caballero is given a pardon.
  • Would Hurt a Child: There are several villains over the course of the series who are willing to kidnap and threaten children in order to silence or otherwise pressure their parents. And of course, the various crooks that capture and threaten 14 year old Dan Reid fall into this category.

Alternative Title(s): The Legend Of The Lone Ranger