John Hart

December 13, 1917 - September 20, 2009

Who was that other masked man?

Autographed photo of John Hart

John Hart was also that masked man
by Joe Southern

For one season, in 1952, Clayton Moore was replaced as the Lone Ranger on the popular television series. For 52 episodes, John Hart dashed across the television screen as the man behind the mask.

John Hart played the part from 1952 to 1954 on 52 episodes when Moore held out in a contact dispute.

While Hart has done numerous television and film projects, he is often most remembered as the "other" Lone Ranger.

Before his death hart commented in an interview; "I've dined out on it forever," Hart said in a telephone interview.

"It's never bothered me at all," he said. "I went on and did 'Hawkeye' and did other things."

His counterpart, however, took to the mask and played the role to the hilt.

"He (Moore) decided to be the Lone Ranger and he made it his job and he did it very well," Hart said. Prior to temporarily replacing Moore, Hart made two guest appearances on the show as one of the heavies opposite the masked man.

After the show ended in 1957, he made two cameo appearances as the Lone Ranger on television, once on an episode of "Happy Days" in the 1970s and later in 1981 on "The Greatest American Hero."

Hart's last connection to the legendary masked rider of the plains came in 1981 in The Legend of the Lone Ranger.'

"I worked on 'The Legend of the Lone Ranger.' I played an old editor of a Western country paper," he said.

While his character was hanged by the bad guys early in the film, Hart's involvement lasted well beyond the bit part.

"The guy who played the Lone Ranger was such a disaster," he recalled. "Having been the Lone Ranger they got me into doing all his press conferences and stuff.

Working in the lead role on the television series was enjoyable for Hart. He said he made a lot of friends through it and forged a close relationship with Jay Silverheels, who played the faithful Indian companion, Tonto, throughout the series and the two theatrical releases that followed. He was with Silverheels shortly before he died in 1980 following a series of strokes.

"He was a sweetheart of a person," Hart said.

Work on the television series was challenging. The 52 episodes Hart did were all shot in a matter of weeks.

"We worked six days a week, every other week. We worked Monday through Saturday. The scripts ran 30-some pages ... We shot every (episode) in two days.

"I'd have anywhere from 15, 16, 17 pages of dialog to memorize. I'd get up at 5 a.m. with a cup of coffee to start memorizing my lines," he said.

Being a real cowboy in his younger days, Hart was able to do things that Moore and others couldn't do, especially with the great, white horse Silver.

"I was very attracted to the horse, Silver. He was half Arabian and half American saddle bred," he said.

He said Silver was very jumpy and difficult to ride.

"Clayton wouldn't ride him, the radio guy (Brace Beemer) wouldn't ride him ... I took him when I knew I had the part. I took him out and rode him for a few days ... When we started shooting he was very friendly. I wore spurs, but I didn't have to spur him," he said.

In revealing another little-known tidbit about the show, he said Silver and Tonto's horse, Scout, didn't get along.

"They hated each other, it was really funny. We'd pull up and have some dialog and the horses would start nipping at each other and dancing around," he said.

To compensate for that, the saddles were placed on sawhorses for close-up scenes. "Then, they'd bring in the real horses and we'd ride out," Hart said.

One of the biggest mysteries of the old '50s television show is why Hart replaced Moore in the middle of the series. Some sources say George W. Trendle, who created the character, fired Moore because he was becoming too closely associated with the Lone Ranger.

But Hart subscribes to the more widely held belief that Moore, in a dispute with producer Jack Chertok, held out for more money.

"I have no idea (why Moore came back)," he said. "I had long been gone and happy doing other things. Clayton was bound and determined to be the Lone Ranger. I'm sure it was over money ... He (Chertok) was the cheapest guy I ever worked for."

In addition to "The Lone Ranger," Hart has appeared or starred in many movies and television shows. He wore the hero's mask in "The Phantom" and had lead roles in "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans," "Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy," and "The Adventures of Captain Africa."

On television, he made numerous appearances in "Rawhide" and also showed up on such programs as "Sky King," "Sgt. Preston," "Dallas," "The Addams Family," "Leave it to Beaver," "Perry Mason," "Bat Masterson" and "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," to name a few.

His first film appearance was in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Buccaneer." He went on and did several projects with DeMille.

"He took a liking to me and kept me on the show," Hart said.

He has worked with several old Hollywood greats, including Lon Chaney Jr., who was his sidekick in "Hawkeye," and Olympian/actor Buster Crabbe.

"Buster and I were old friends. I knew him before the '32 Olympics," he said.

He also recalled the time he had a "nice scene with Elizabeth Taylor."

He said he considers his work as Hawkeye to be his favorite part.

"The stories were good, the thing was a wonderful show," he said.

But only 39 episodes were made, despite the show's popularity, because of a dispute between the producer and the advertisers.

In more recent years he wrote a cookbook called "Cowboys in the Kitchen." He also sold autographed pictures for $20 each (plus $4 shipping).

John Hart
This is John Hart in 2004. He is posing with a "John Hart as the Lone Ranger" action figure given to him for his birthday by his fans in the Lone Ranger Fan Club. The figure was made by Ben Molina of Legends Reborn.