Clayton Moore, who reigned as the star of TV's "Lone Ranger" for nearly a decade and continued to wear his character's trademark getup for years after, died today of a heart attack in a Los Angeles hospital. He was a reported 85.
Moore originally held down the title role in "The Lone Ranger" from 1949-1952. His run ended when he was fired in a salary dispute. Briefly replaced by actor John Hart, Moore made films (more Westerns) until he was hired back in 1953 -- at a higher salary. He stayed on as the Lone Ranger until the syndicated series ended in 1957, after 169 episodes.
But even as the show ended, Moore endured as the Old West crime fighter. His persona played out first on the big screen with "The Lone Ranger" (1956) and "The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold" (1958). Moore went on to make numerous personal appearances and TV commercials as the Ranger for the next three decades. In the late 1970s, he became embroiled in a lawsuit when the copyright owners of the character, prepping what turned out to be the ill-fated "The Legend of the Lone Ranger" (1981), sought to bar the actor from appearing as the masked cowboy. Moore won back the right to wear the mask in 1985.
Born Jack Moore in Chicago on Sept. 14, 1914, he spent his youth as a circus acrobat. After a brief modeling stint, he embarked on a career as a stuntman and an extra in Hollywood. Moore went on to win small roles in films such as "Kit Carson" (1940) and "The Son of Monte Crisco" (1940). In 1949, he co-starred with singing cowboy Gene Autry and future sidekick Silverheels in "The Cowboys and the Indians."
CLAYTON MOORE FACTOIDS:
References alternately list his birth year as 1908, 1914, 1916 and 1920. Most biographies cite 1914. Starred on "The Lone Ranger" from 1949-52, 1953-57. Voiced "The Lone Ranger" cartoon series in 1966. Inducted into the Stuntman's Hall of Fame (1982). Author of the 1996 memoir "I Was That Masked Man." Worked as a pitchman (often as a masked pitchman) for everything from cars to snack-sized pizzas.