John Wayne might have lived an extraordinary and, in some cases, devil-may-care kind of lifestyle, but it’s been the belief that one film, The Conqueror, was responsible for his eventual demise. Whether that’s true or not is kind of irrelevant since it would obviously be seen as a contributing factor at the very least. The Conqueror was filmed in southwestern Utah, and it’s believed that the leftover radiation from the nuclear testing sites in southeastern Nevada were responsible for poisoning the cast and crew of the film as they were shooting. 91 individuals, including John Wayne, were on the set working or acting developed cancer at some point in their life that was attributed to this, so it’s kind of hard to ignore. Filming downwind from a former nuclear testing site doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea even back in the Duke’s day, but obviously that concern didn’t hold a lot of weight with those that wanted the exact scenery they needed for their movie.
Today if such a thing happened the director, the filmmaker, and even the producers might be in a world of hurt if they did such a thing knowingly. I would imagine that criminal charges would be brought up and careers would be ruined over this. Back then however nothing immediate seemed to happen, at least not in such a way that people noticed, that it was able to pass without comment. Of course John Wayne was heard to state that he believed his lung cancer was caused more by the six packs of cigarettes he would smoke per day, but in all likelihood that and his stomach cancer, that was a result of the exposure, only colluded to make his passing even more miserable.
It’s one thing to want to get the perfect shot, it’s another to ignore possible health warnings that could lead to the kind of risks that would affect people in this manner later on. Obviously the radiation wasn’t so obvious that it affected everyone in the same manner right away, but after the film was done shooting I would imagine that people started noticing problems with their health that couldn’t be avoided or remedied. It doesn’t sound so much like a cover-up as it does a giant ‘whoopsie’ that Hollywood managed to get away with. A scandal of this magnitude you would think might make massive headlines and seek to put the faces of those responsible on the front page for all the world to see.
Being as it was before my time however such a thing could have happened, but it would have still been something you might have seen in every documentary that’s come along detailing the Duke and his many exploits. In any case it’s something that wouldn’t have a chance of happening now, unless a director though themselves to be ironclad and bulletproof enough to believe that they could get away with it. At this point and time some directors are walking on eggshells with certain people and are hoping to keep their reputation intact on a daily basis.