The Cancer That Killed Him

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  • I remember reading that the government conducted an underground nuclear test located on the other side of a mountain range that the Duke was on set filming near. As i recall the story went that the majority of the the cast and crew are since deceased most of them from cancer. The article was suggesting that fallout from the test caused cancer in the people who made that movie. Has anyone else heard anything to that effect?

    Greetings from North of the 49th

  • Hi kilo 6,
    The film you mentioned, was THE CONQUEROR,
    filmed in the Escalante Desert near St. George, Utah.
    about 140 miles from the atomic testing site in Nevada.
    The crew spent six weeks there, in heat hovering around 120 degrees, working in radioactive sand, that may have been lethal.
    'We were in the direct path of the fallout, of the nuclear testing range'
    stuntman Gil Perkins said.
    'A tremendous number of people have contracted cancer and died'
    Certainly the deaths from cancer among the cast and crew,
    ran alarmingly high:
    John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Dick Powell,
    Pedro Armendariz and Thomas Gomez.
    Agnes Moorehead, the Chief of special effects,
    and at least thirty-four others!
    It is true that many of them were heavy smokers, Duke particularly.
    and others who were there, Pilar and Gil Perkins for example-lived long lives,
    but most of them were non-smokers!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi Kilo 6 -
    There have been other discussions on this subject. Right above Main View, there is a box on the right that says "type in subject ... GO." Type in "Conquerer" and that will lead you to several topics that covered this information.
    Cheers - Jay :D

    Cheers - Jay:beer:
    "Not hardly!!!"

  • That was a tradegy, and so many died from the cancer. I tend to beleive that it was a combination of things. Duke was a heavy smoker, and I believe that did him in more than anything.

    I had a neighbor who worked for the federal government and was at the test site back in the 50's. He smoked a pipe but quit before I met him some 30 years ago. He died of cancer over 4 years ago, and thought that he might have contacted the cancer from the desert.

    We did have a discussion on this subject before.

    Cheers B)


    "When you come slam bang up against trouble, it never looks half as bad if you face up to it"

    - John Wayne quote

  • Hello Hondo Jay and EE thanks for the info I can't think smoking helped but the test may have contributed to an early demise.

    Greetings from North of the 49th

  • MythBusters, a scientific investigative television series, borrowed a costume from The Conquerer and subjected it to 21st Century testing. There would have been a great deal of residual radiation remaining on it if the crew had been exposed to carcinogenic radiation in the desert. There was only background radiation on the garment.

    Cleaning and storage would not have removed nor reduced contamination from the clothing.

    We're burning moonlight.

  • Hi

    We were in St George last year and it was mentioned by the courier who had read the story in the local museum. Although the fall out was significant, I believe that after location filming to maintain the effect of the desert large parts of it was dug up and shipped back to Hollywood.



    Walk Tall - Talk Low

  • There's been a great deal of speculation about radiation from that site contributing to the deaths of the actors working on that film. Their smoking habits caused their cancer without the need for a contribution from residual radiation from bomb testing. Had there been any significant radiation remaining on site, it would have remained closed.

    John Wayne smoked five packs of cigarettes per day. :omg: IMHO we were lucky to have him around as long as we did.

    We're burning moonlight.