The Conqueror 1956 with John Wayne and Susan Haywood


The Conqueror was written for Marlon Brando but he did not want to do it – he had a film  contract with another studio.


Meanwhile, John Wayne was at the peak of his career – virtually his next film was one of – if not his best – The Searchers  – and producer Howard Hughes knew that John Wayne wanted to play Genghis Khan.


So he got the part


The Conquerer 1956 6


There was no denying the sweep and spectacular production values of this expensive epic which was made in Cinemascope and stereophonic sound and Technicolor’- and it was an epic even though it tends not to be well regarded.

It is also well documented that many of the actors in the film and crew, suffered with Cancer in later years probably as result of the filming being done in the Utah Desert – the scene of a number of Above Ground Atomic Tests –  done in that location a few years before.


The Conquerer 1956


The Conqueror was filmed in the Utah’s Escalante valley in 1954, just downwind of a lake bed where the Atomic Energy Commission had tested 11 nuclear weapons the year before. During shooting, levels of radiation were high. By 1980, 91 of the 220 cast and crew had been diagnosed with cancer. Forty-six had then died of it, including John Wayne and director Dick Powell. Though journalists have often linked the radiation exposure and the disease,  a 41% diagnosis rate and 20% death rate from cancer is about the same as in the general US population – though more cases may have occurred since 1980.

 Either way, The Conqueror will probably never live down its reputation for being not only poor, but perhaps literally toxic as well.


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ABOVE:   Great Action Scenes from the Film

This was described yesterday in the Daily Express as a flop but the Box Office figures state that the Budget for the film was 6 million US Dollars and the Receipts were 9 million US Dollars – so not really that much of a flop it seems.



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