The Conqueror (1956)
The Conqueror was included as one of the choices in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.
It was Howard Hughes' final motion picture project, ending his 30-year involvement with the film industry. Jet Pilot (1957), a film he produced in 1949, was not released until 1957.
John Wayne was about to make the last film of a three-picture deal for RKO Radio, and Dick Powell had been assigned to direct. They were going over various scripts in Powell's office when Powell was called away for a few minutes. When he returned, he found Wayne enthusiastically looking over the screenplay for "The Conqueror", which Powell had intended to throw away. Powell tried to talk him out of it, but Wayne insisted that it was the film he wanted to make.
John Wayne plays the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan.
The exterior scenes were shot on location near St. George, Utah, 137 miles downwind of the United States government's Nevada National Security Site. In 1953, extensive above-ground nuclear weapons testing occurred at the test site as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. The cast and crew spent many difficult weeks on location, and in addition Hughes later shipped 60 tons of dirt back to Hollywood in order to match the Utah terrain and lend verisimilitude to studio re-shoots. The filmmakers knew about the nuclear tests but the federal government reassured residents that the tests caused no hazard to public health.
The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By 1981, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46 had died of the disease. In addition several of Wayne and Hayward's relatives also had cancer scares as well after visiting the set. Michael Wayne developed skin cancer, his brother Patrick had a benign tumor removed from his breast and Hayward's son Tim Barker had a benign tumor removed from his mouth.
Dr. Robert Pendleton, professor of biology at the University of Utah, stated, "With these numbers, this case could qualify as an epidemic. The connection between fallout radiation and cancer in individual cases has been practically impossible to prove conclusively. But in a group this size you'd expect only 30-some cancers to develop. With 91, I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set of The Conqueror would hold up in a court of law." Indeed, several cast and crew members,
(Wikipedia & IMDB)