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That other Lone Ranger bomb

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The Lone Ranger‘s beleaguered production culminated in a disappointing July 4 weekend at the box office. But it’s not the first time the franchise suffered a calamity in theaters. In May 1981, just about everyone involved with The Legend of the Lone Ranger wanted to wear a mask after an expensive reboot tanked with audiences and was savaged by critics. That notorious film seemed doomed from the start once producer Jack Wrather successfully sued 65-year-old Clayton Moore, who had famously played the Ranger on television, to stop him from wearing the iconic mask at public appearances. Making matters worse, the producers’ attempt to create their own movie star — à la Christopher Reeve in Superman — backfired when their handsome new Ranger, a complete unknown named Klinton Spilsbury, couldn’t deliver. His unruly behavior hindered the production, and his performance was so deficient that actor James Keach was hired in post to dub all his lines. Needless to say, the movie bombed, grossing only $12.6 million, and Spilsbury never acted in Hollywood again. ”In retrospect, I think [Klinton] was scared of the whole thing — of this picture sort of resting on his shoulders,” says producer Walter Coblenz. ”I realize now that he was not ready for that.”

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