Sieg Heil, Kemosabe!
I LIKE TO START OFF MY DAY IN SLOW MOTION. I do not want or need to be jarred into actual thought before I have had my coffee. Before that first influx of caffeine into my system I am not capable of digesting information or spatial-temporal incongruities.
That is why I am in recovery today after a surprise challenge to my cranial lobes the other day.
One of my early, early, early morning rituals is to slowly crawl into consciousness with the TV lighting the way as I try to figure out how socks work. My heart is beating sporadically and my brain is clicking away at an invertebrate level. I don’t need surprises.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed planning my next breath. I had the TV tuned to The Cowboy Channel. I love the sound of The Lone Ranger in the morning. It sounds like cheap victory.
That particular episode was entitled “The Brown Pony” for some reason I couldn’t determine. This was one of those 54 episodes where an actor named John Hart played the Lone Ranger. Clayton Moore, the Real Lone Ranger, was in a salary dispute with the producers and refused to don the mask again until they ponied up with some bigger paychecks. Tonto (Played by “Jay Silverheels” – real name Harold Smith.) was still on the job, but he didn’t look too happy about it all. Of course, he never looked too happy. He did all of the dirty work. The Ranger never soiled his powder blue ensemble.
Playing the main Bad Guy in this episode was a young Lee Van Cleef who went on to a long career being the villain in countless motion pictures. His fame peaked when he was a vile heavy-duty scumbag in Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns.
In this Lone Ranger saga Lee and an unknown bit player were two escapees from the “Territorial Prison” riding their horses at top speed onto The Lone Ranger soundstage in Los Angeles.
At about a minute and thirty minutes seconds into the script, Lee Van Cleef and his henchman stopped to make camp and to catch a few Zs. That was the point in this little Morality Play when I just about slipped off the edge of the bed.
The two Bad Guys dismounted and took their blankets off of their saddles. When Lee unfurled his blanket what do my fuzzy eyeballs see on one side of his blanket but an array of large SWASTIKAS.
“What the heck…?” I said that out loud. I knew that Lee Van Cleef was the villain, but a Nazi??? A Nazi in 1870??? A Nazi in the Old West???
Lee quickly turned over his blanket and that was it for the Swastikas.
I know that the Swastika was an ancient symbol used in various cultures, but this show was filmed in 1951 and at that point in World History the Swastika meant only one thing – and it wasn’t The Lone Ranger Show.
I have included the You Tube link at the end of this posting so that you can see what I saw and that I’m not just blowing smoke up your tutu.
Later, after coffee and a bagel, I did a little research and discovered that I wasn’t the first person to spot this anachronistic boo-boo. One viewer did some actual digging and learned that when this episode was being filmed there was a World War II drama being filmed on the soundstage next door. Lee Van Cleef
was short a blanket and an Intern was sent to fetch a blanket from the neighbors. Lee was told to make sure that the Swastikas stayed hidden. He blew it. He waved his new blanket with the Swastikas clearly visible.
According to TV legend the director, rather than yell “Cut!” figured that nobody over the age of eight was going to watch the show anyway and they wouldn’t notice the Swastika blanket. Close to seventy years later “The Brown Pony” is being aired again and this time the audience is a bit older than eight.
I know that the blanket was a harmless faux pas, but it sure did wake me up. I only wonder what else I might spot while watching from the edge of the bed?
YYou know I could not resist watching the episode of The Lone Ranger. Our family got introduced to the Lone Ranger listening to an old, taller than I was, standing radio. As I watched that little “morality play” the memories of simpler times swirled around. The tears started streaming down.
Most would have missed the swastikas, John, but not you. I am sure that it was just a bad day for the prop manager who did his best to get VanCleef to hide the swastika reasoning, “Well, it was a native symbol long before Hitler’s Brown Shirts got a hold of it. Maybe it was just a Navajo blanket.”
This got me to thinking here we have a symbol that was around for thousands of years and yet in 10 years the meaning of the symbol was changed. A symbol with positive connotations and interpretations from multiple cultures was changed to something evil. A dark force of the worst kind took this symbol and now it symbolizes man’s inhumanity to man. This begs the question: What else in our society is being changed by this dark force?
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The director and anyone else involved with this nazi symbol should have been immediately fired. No excuse for this disgraceful oversight. The insensitivity is just plain anti semitic.