The Selling of John Wayne … Smoke … Part 3

the sound of silence / disturbed




When Legend Becomes Fact

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
– From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence / 1962

Some urban legends have been around so long that they have eventually become fact. john-wayne-the-conqueror-poster-2

The Legend:

In 1954, John Wayne starred in the ill-fated big budget movie The Conqueror, (RKO Pictures, Howard Hughes Productions) filmed in the Utah desert.

Location: about a hundred miles from a former Nevada nuclear test site and where wind blown radioactivity had supposedly infected the whole area. Legend has it that this resulted in a large number of the film crew and Stars of the movie dying from various cancers. Nobody challenged this story for decades. By that time, the Legend had become Fact and is still being propagated today. So much so that there still several sources – particularly on the Internet – still propagating this myth. It’s so ingrained by now that I can’t imagine it will be dispelled any time soon.

But it’s not hard to see why this myth is so powerful and durable: As Urban Legends go The Conqueror Cancer Legend is one of the best of all time. It’s ingredients are purely fantastical:

The Top movie Star of the day (and possibly all-time) – Mega Star,
John Wayne;
a bizarre madman genius Movie Mogul Inventor Test Pilot billionaire,
Howard Hughes;
A beautiful tragic femme fatale Star Actress,
Susan Hayward;
a huge, expensive Epic Hollywood production (9 million dollars!!!) that was also a BOMB – about an Historical figure – Mongolian mass murdurer tyrant:
Ghenghis Khan;
Deaths – seemingly many people dying horribly from cancer …

You can’t make this stuff up.

So there it was – just waiting to be explored; exploited; exploded.

And it lived up to the Billing.

The Fact:

Health News Digest
September 14, 2009 / Was The Movie The Conqueror Really Cursed? A Look At Radiation Paranoia By  Michael D. Shaw

Worth a read.

To John Wayne‘s credit, he never bought the bomb theory. He always admitted that his cancers and related illnesses (and eventual death) was directly related to his prolific smoking.

He never copped out.


“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.
Comes into us at midnight very clean.

It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.
It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”
– John Wayne  

The Selling of John Wayne … Smoke … Part 4

Author: jcalberta

Howdy! I love Westerns. ... and the intent of is to celebrate Western Movies/Film - old and new. This site will eventually show my top 30 favorite Westerns - or more. I will have original graphic work with regular updates. All this - and more ... Yee Haw ... !! - jcablerta / Moderator / Administrator

2 thoughts on “The Selling of John Wayne … Smoke … Part 3”

  1. Along with ISIS (the one with Dustin Hoffman), this had to be about the worst movie ever made and for the most money, too. It was the movie he wanted to forget. Fortunately, they never ever play it on cable.

    1. OMG !!! Ishtar (1987). Yeah … I haven’t figured out how they pulled that off. Money and Power I guess? Has that similarity with The Conqueror. Yep, John truly regretted this movie. I suppose every Star has a clunker of two. But some say it’s so bad that it’s fun to watch. ??? I’ve never seen it on TV either.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: