John Hart: Actor who played television's 'other' Lone Ranger

Destined to go down in history as television's "other" Lone Ranger, playing the masked man riding his trusty white horse Silver for 52 episodes, John Hart stepped into the role in 1952 when Clayton Moore was replaced amid reports that the original star had walked out in a pay dispute.

Hart had not only movie-star good looks and athleticism but also the riding skills needed to act the patriotic dispenser of justice in the Old West, having worked as a cowboy during summers in his youth – and he decided to play the character his own way. "I got a lot of bad advice about playing the part," he recalled. "I tried the bad advice for about one or two shows and then I said, 'The hell with that. I'll do it my own way.' They wanted me to be like a stiff Army major – and it was all wrong. So I just forgot that and slipped into the part."

However, television viewers were not so accepting of the "new" Lone Ranger, who brought them rushing to the small screen with his shout of "Hi-yo, Silver!" and his native American companion Tonto (Jay Silverheels) on horseback by his side. Eventually, in 1954, American television executives brought back Moore, who continued in the role until The Lone Ranger ended in 1957 after an eight-year run, denying that his departure had been caused by disagreements over money.

Despite this disappointment, Hart went on to other starring roles on screen. First, he played the hero of the title in the 15-part cinema serial Adventures of Captain Africa, Mighty Jungle Avenger! (1955). Then, he was seen on television, also as the title character – an 18th-century fur trader in New York's Hudson Valley during the French and Indian War – in 39 episodes of Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans (1957). Again, he had a native American companion, this time Chingachgook, played by the horror film star Lon Chaney, Jr.

Born in Los Angeles in 1917, Hart grew up in San Morino, attended South Pasadena High School, then acted at the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his film début as a sailor in the crime drama Daughter of Shanghai (1937), shortly before joining dozens of bit-part players in the director Cecil B. DeMille's romantic swashbuckler The Buccaneer (1938), which earned him a contract with Paramount Pictures – and enabled him to give up an eight- dollars-a-week job as a truck driver. Hart later worked with the celebrated film-maker on North West Mounted Police (1940) and the biblical epic The Ten Commandments (1956).

The actor took a string of small, uncredited screen parts before serving in the US Army during the Second World War, rising to the rank of first sergeant in the Coast Artillery. After time in the Philippines and Okinawa, he was transferred to the US Air Force in Texas to organise entertainment shows. He also went to Hollywood to make training films at the Hal Roach Studios.

Returning to acting after the war, Hart landed work as a stunt double. His break appeared to come with the title role in the cinema serial Jack Armstrong (1947), based on the radio version, Jack Armstrong: The All American Boy, featuring the comicbook-style, globe-trotting adventures of a high-school student during travels with his Uncle Jim.

However, Hart continued to find himself consigned to bit-parts – appearing in up to a dozen films a year – and started to act on television. In 1950, he played two different characters in episodes of The Lone Ranger – two years before being offered the title role.

In 1957, while filming Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans in Canada, Hart met the actress Beryl Braithwaite. They married 10 days later and remained together until his death.

Although he never became an A-list star, Hart found plenty of roles on the big and small screens over the years, including that of a minister in the Alfred Hitchcock film thriller Marnie (1964). He voiced Billings, the Stage Manager and the Milkman in Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962), American television's first animated Christmas special, and even reprised his performance as the Lone Ranger for episodes of The Greatest American Hero (1981) and the sitcom Happy Days (1982), in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) meets his childhood hero.

Hart also appeared occasionally as Senator Carson in Dallas (1979-81). His final film role was as a newspaper editor in The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981).

The actor was also a post-production supervisor for the television series Quincy, M.E. (starring Jack Klugman as a medical examiner at the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office) from 1979 to 1981 and produced educational and travel films. His cookbook, Cowboys in the Kitchen, featuring favourite recipes of his own and of other actors such as Jay Silverheels, was published in 2000.

John Hart, actor: born Los Angeles 13 December 1917; married 1957 Beryl Braithwaite (one daughter); died Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico 20 September 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'