Clayton Moore grew up in Chicago, Illinois and although his father wanted him to become a doctor, he had visions of something a little more glamorous. Naturally athletic, he practiced gymnastics during family summer vacations in Canada, eventually joining the trapeze act The Flying Behrs at 19. During the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, Clayton performed in the position of catcher. Playing off his good looks, he was signed by the John Robert Powers modeling agency and enjoyed a print career in NY for several years. But a friend urged him to make the move to Hollywood in 1938 where he entered films as a bit player and stuntman. In 1940, at the suggestion of his agent Edward Small, he changed his first name from Jack to Clayton. Beginning with Perils of Nyoka (1942), he eventually became King of the Serials at Republic Studios appearing in more than cliffhanger star Buster Crabbe. During this period, he also worked in many B westerns earning his acting chops along side Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and interestingly Jay Silverheels. Later in 1942 he entered the military, was stationed in Kingman, Arizona and assigned entertainment duties including the production of training films. While in Arizona, he asked his future wife Sally Allen to marry him; she said “yes” and joined him in Kingman for the balance of his enlistment. After the war, he returned to these supporting roles while concentrating on westerns. His turn as Ghost of Zorro (1949) came to the attention of the radio’s hugely successful Lone Ranger producer George W. Trendle who was casting the lead role for the new television series. After the interview, Trendle said, “Mr. Moore would you like the role of the Lone Ranger?” Moore replied, “Mr. Trendle, I AM The Lone Ranger.” The premiere episode appeared on ABC on September 15, 1949 and was the first western specifically written for the new medium. Although Moore’s voice was a natural baritone, Trendle insisted he sound more like the radio actor Brace Beemer, so Moore worked with a voice coach to mimic both the speech pattern and tone. He starred in television’s The Lone Ranger from 1949-1952 and 1953-1957. Along with William Boyd (“Hopalong Cassidy”), Moore was one of the most popular TV western stars of the era. Because of a salary dispute, he was replaced by John Hart, for one season. It was during his time away from the TV show that Moore returned to the big screen (as Clay Moore) to continue his movie career with such memorable movies as Radar Men from the Moon (1952) and Jungle Drums of Africa (1953). where he co starred with Phyllis Coates, TVs first “Lois Lane”. Hired back to the series, at a higher salary, Moore remained as The Lone Ranger until the series ended in 1957, after 169 episodes. He appeared in two color big-screen movies continuations of that character, in The Lone Ranger (1956) and The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958). After a lifetime of “B” movie parts, Clayton Moore finally found success in a TV series and continued to make commercials and personal appearances as “The Lone Ranger” for the next three decades. The commercials for Gino’s Pizza Rolls and Aqua Velva have become legendary in their own right. At his appearances, he recited The Lone Ranger Creed, which he deeply believed in, and that image was never tarnished by the types of personal scandals that often affected other stars. In 1978 the Wrather Corp., which owned the series and the rights to the title character, obtained a court order to stop Moore from appearing in public as “The Lone Ranger”. The company planned to film a new big-screen movie of the popular hero and did not want the public to confuse its new star with the old one. It would be the only screen appearance for Klinton Spilsbury, this “new Lone Ranger”. Although the former “Arrow” shirt model appeared rugged and handsome in the “umasked” sequence, his voice projected so poorly it was overdubbed by the more melodious voice of James Keach. The film was one of the biggest flops of the 1980s and The Lone Ranger story wasn’t attempted again until 30 years later with Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as Tonto. Again, however the film flopped without a nod to the original tenets of the integrity of the character. After his death in 1984, Wrather’s widow actress Bonita Granville dismissed the lawsuit allowing Moore to continue to appear as the masked man. Moore’s legacy to the entertainment industry and western film genre has been cemented with the installation of his legendary mask in the Smithsonian, his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and a United States Postage Stamp bearing his image alongside Silver.
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