Dennis McLellan writes obituaries for the Los Angeles Times, and last week he had one on an actor with an interesting legacy in television: John Hart wore the familiar mask of the Lone Ranger and rode across the small screen with Jay Silverheels (Tonto) for 54 episodes, but will always be remembered as the other Masked Man. Here’s an excerpt. — Geoff Boucher
Most TV fans of a certain age know the answer to the question, “Who played the Lone Ranger?”
Those who say Clayton Moore are correct, at least partially.
There was another actor who played the Masked Man on “The Lone Ranger” television series, temporarily replacing Moore in the title role for 52 episodes beginning in 1952.
John Hart, 91, the handsome and athletic actor who also starred in the 1940s movie serial “Jack Armstrong: The All-American Boy” and the 1950s TV series “Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans,” died Sunday at his home in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, said his wife, Beryl.
“He had dementia in his last years,” she said Tuesday, “but he was very happy living by the ocean. He used to surf this whole coast in the late ’30s and after the war.”
A Los Angeles native who launched his Hollywood career as a bit player in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1938 film “The Buccaneer,” Hart played small roles in a string of films before he was drafted into the Army in 1941.
Relaunching his career after the war, he played the title role in the 1947 Columbia serial “Jack Armstrong: The All-American Boy,” which was based on the popular radio show.
Hart already had appeared in a couple of episodes of “The Lone Ranger” as a guest actor when Moore left the series, reportedly over a pay dispute.
“I don’t know how many other actors they looked at, but I got the part,” Hart said in an interview for the book “The Story of the Lone Ranger” by James Van Hise. “They didn’t pay me much, either. It was unbelievable. But being an out-of-work actor, to have a steady job for a while is great.”
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— Dennis McLellan
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Top photo: John Hart and Jay Silverheels in “The Lone Ranger,” from the Boyd Magers collection.
Bottom photo: Johnny Depp. Credit: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times