Actor Clayton Moore left behind three masks when he died in 1999. Each one dated back to the 1950s, when Moore starred as the heroic Lone Ranger on TV and in two feature films, riding off into the sunset with a yell of "Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!"
One of those masks ended up in the Smithsonian, another belongs to a private collector, and the last still resides with his daughter, Dawn Moore. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, she marks the 100th year since her father's birth by sharing that mask with visitors to the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour in Burbank, where she will talk about her father and the famous Western crime-fighter amid a larger collection of Ranger memorabilia. She plans to auction off the mask later this year.
Dawn Moore, whose own career is in luxury retail and marketing, expects to spend more time this year remembering her father's career and his commitment to the old "Lone Ranger Creed," which declared, "That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world."
What will you be doing at the Warner Bros. event?
I hope to share some fun behind-the-scenes — I should say, behind-the-mask — info about my father as a man. This being his centennial year, it really is all about Clayton Moore, who loved the character but really had a great sense of humor, was a great dad, and was an all around wacky guy.
What is it about the character that people remain interested?
So many of his fans who write in are policemen, firemen and teachers. I get fan letters to this day, saying they chose a profession of service because of his portrayal of that character, and of him as a man. He chose to live up to the "Lone Ranger Creed." The creed's pretty powerful stuff. How many actors actually inspire people to give back in their choice of careers?
When he did public appearances, did anything about his demeanor change when he put on the mask?
He easily got 2 inches taller. There was a very clear difference. I went with him to many events, award galas and those kinds of things. When we'd be eating dinner, he was my father, he was dad. But the minute he was introduced and he stood up, you instantly could see the light switch flick on.
The Warner Bros. tour will have one of his masks on display?
The mask is mine. It was a tough decision, but the centennial seemed like a good time to pass that stewardship onto someone who wanted it even more than I do, to care for the mask. So the mask is being auctioned this year — Oct. 17, with Profiles in History. I'm bringing that, and Warner Bros. has a costume in their archives. I'm super-excited about seeing it — they have a costume with a bullet-hole! Sounds like fun.
Did your father also keep a costume or two?
Yes, he absolutely did, and gun belts and hats, the tools of his trade.
Back in the late '70s, he was in a court battle for the right to continue wearing the mask in public appearances, and was forced to stop wearing it until he countersued and won. What was his personal reaction to that?
He was hurt and he said as much. I think the public was very aware of his intentions and his sensibility — that it wasn't just, "This is what I do for a living," which obviously is there. But also, this was a man who really believed in the creed, and enjoyed being able to continue that character for kids. He saw the positive reactions he got from children of all generations. The public understood that about him. Otherwise, it would have just been an actor trying to sue the studio for money, and that's clearly not how this played out.
This all happened just before a big budget film came out in 1981. Last year, there was "The Lone Ranger" with Johnny Depp film as Tonto. Neither was successful, but they at least showed Hollywood's ongoing interest in the character.
The character is of tremendous value, whether it's associated with my father or not. The bigger question is, why does it keep failing? The 1980 movie was almost comical in its failure. The most recent film I very much hoped would work. The character has so much to offer. I don't think the character should die with my father. The "Lone Ranger Creed" is as relevant today as it was when it was written, and it will continue to be relevant. We need to have a moral compass. My father saw that in the Lone Ranger, and wanted to embody the character to influence kids in a positive way.
Your father and co-star Jay Silverheels continued their relationship for years after the show ended, and often appeared together.
They had a very, very deep bond. My father had tremendous respect for Jay. Jay had been a big star long before my father was. Jay had been in "Key Largo" and was a featured actor in many westerns when Clayton Moore was a bit player. Jay was raised in Canada, a full-blooded Mohawk Indian, and was the son of an elder, a chief. So he had a very strong sense of self and tremendous dignity. He took a stand on several occasions during the filming that my father would never have taken — my father learned about standing up for his own rights and for others from Jay.