Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tonto

  
     On the Radio program Tonto was played by Shakespearian actor called John Todd, an elderly Irishman who was born with the name Fred McCarthy.  For the Television program, Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels, a Canadian Mohawk who was born with the name Harold J. Smith.  And I can almost guarantee that in no single episode of the Lone Ranger, whether on the television or the radio, did the plot line suddenly reveal The Masked Man to be the product of a broken home, several unsuccessful marriages, or struggling with a substance addiction, an irrational relationship with an almighty, or that he shared a genius that could have gone on to become brain surgery, a solution to the problem of world hunger as well as world peace, but preferred silver six guns, white horses and the company of an indigenous soul who for some reason wore long trousers on even the hottest day.  More recently, I'd say, it's pretty much impossible to spend four or five hours with the television without being dragged into a mawkish nonsense surrounding characters that in no way resemble the plight of hero, or for that matter heroine.

      Some will naturally look to Star Trek, where the character of Spock would have made absolutely no sense had The Captain been more like the Lone Ranger, and ever since it's been downhill.   My own mood tends toward an idea that audiences were becoming totally depressed by actors and their proclivity to become apparently stricken by a mental palsy whenever in public with no script to read from.  Consequently program producers, rather than risk losing the audience completely, demanded characters that were already half baked and soapy, this way expectation from public appearances would already be low. And who really knows, but I give you all this, because more and more interesting to me is the account of the Radio Station owner, back in the nineteen forties or fifties, who wanted to replace a bald and stocky Irishman in the role of Tonto with a real Native American so that public appearances might be more true to life, which in the case of the Lone Ranger would have been the American West of the Nineteenth Century.  But a real Native American chosen for the role, refused the lines "Him Go," and "Me Do," which is why the former Shakespearian actor  kept his radio gig for almost twenty years and when in public he'd wear a wig. 


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