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The Conqueror


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I just got done waching "Murder, My Sweet" and Robert O. mentioned that Dick Powell directed a movie called The Conqueror with John Wayne and some other big names in Utah about Howard Hughes. I am VERY interested in this movie. Did it ever get made? Does any one know where I can get a copy?


Please please please any information would be GREAT.

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The movie is called The Conqueror and it starred John Wayne, Susan Hayworth, Pedro Armendariz and Agnes Moorehead. Dick Powell directed it.


The film is not about Howard Hughes but about a Chinese warlord and the woman he falls in love with. It is not a very good movie but is well known because the director andall four stars later died of cancer.


The film was shot in Southern Utah during the summer of 1956 when above ground testing at the Nevada Test Site was in full swing. One of the tests was larger than anticipated and a radioactive cloud was tracked all the way to the east coast.


Southern Utah was in the direct path of the cloud and a number of downwinders developed cancer over the years. One ranching family was all but wiped out financially when they and the sheep they were herding home from summer grazing got caught in the cloud.


After filming was completed on The Conqueror, the prop department had a great deal of the red soil dug up and transported back to the studio so that it could be used for filming on the soundstage and they wouldn't have to try to match the colors.


Wayne died of lung cancer, Powell, I believe, died of lung cancer, Susan Hayworth died of a brain tumor and I am not sure what types of cancer claimed Pedro A and Aggie Moorehead.


So, in a way, the story of the filming of The Conqueror is better known than the film.

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The film was obviously not about Howard Hughes (it's not about much of anything, really), it was personally produced by Hughes who, at that time, owned RKO Studios.


And the problem of the actors' and crew's exposure to the radioactive soil at the film's St George, Utah, location was exacerbated when tons of the dirt was trucked back to Hollywood so that the soil's distinctive color would match sets built at the studio.


That dirt is probably still somewhere around here; considering the radioactive half-life of many of the byproducts of a fission-bomb detonation, the soil's undoubtedly still somewhat "hot."


My advice: live on a high floor, and hope that that dirt didn't get mixed in with the concrete used to make the building you're in.

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