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John Wayne’s Passion Project Ended Up Being His Biggest Flop

John Wayne’s Passion Project Ended Up Being His Biggest Flop

John Wayne has appeared in several films based on history, such as 1960’s The Alamo. However, one such biopic was a flop to end all flops.

The Alamo, directed by Wayne, cleverly blends iconic Western and War themes. It depicts the one-sided struggle for Texas freedom in 1836. This epic took fourteen years and twelve million dollars to create. The movie showcases the Duke’s trademark elements, like jovial camaraderie and playful banter.

However, the 1960 film truly shines in the second half with intense battles between the brave resistance and the tyrannical army. It brilliantly portrays the heroic last-ditch efforts of Texas resistance soldiers, led by General Sam Houston, against the formidable Mexican army commanded by Santa Anna. The film captures the chaos and sacrifices made by these fighters in their quest for a brighter future, making it a must-see.

The Flop That Reportedly Made John Wayne Shudder

Perhaps one of the reasons The Alamo was such a success is a hard lesson John Wayne learned four years earlier. Of course, we’re talking about 1956’s The Conquerer. It’s a film so infamous, that it reportedly made the Duke shudder every time he heard the title uttered.

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Something feels off about Wayne playing this historical figure…(Photo by RKO Radio Pictures/Getty Images)

Directed by Dick Powell, The Conqueror is widely regarded as one of Wayne’s biggest flops. It depicts the story of Genghis Khan, the former Khagan of the Mongol Empire. Of course, the historical accuracy is thrown to the wayside.

The film’s numerous shortcomings include Wayne’s casting in the lead role, disregarding his non-East Asian background. Additionally, the script for this lackluster drama is simply dreadful. Meanwhile, the on-set safety issues proved to be tragically fatal in the long run.

The film was more than just a career mistake; it had a devastating impact on Wayne’s health. Despite the absence of modern safety protocols, Dick Powell chose to film The Conqueror in the deserts of Utah, a location that had been used for nuclear bomb testing by the army just years before. Although the consequences were not immediate, in the years following the film’s release, 91 members of the cast and crew succumbed to cancer-related complications.

The Conqueror currently ranks with a dismal 10% on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. The film is highlighted in The Official Razzie Movie Guide by John Wilson, the creator of the Golden Raspberry Awards. In the book, it is recognized as one of the “100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.”