Sunday, November 10, 2013

“The Conqueror” Comes at End of Golden Era

More Vegas production number than Mongolian tribal ritual, is the dance of the scantily clad ladies in the 1955 Howard Hughes RKO Radio spectacular “The Conqueror.”  But then this should be expected in a Hughes movie.
In a classic bit of miscasting, John Wayne plays Genghis Kahn and Susan Hayward is the object of his lust who is featured in the sensuous dance sequence which is probably a reason to watch.
Special mention goes to Victor Young for a thrilling soundtrack and to Utah’s Escalante Desert, which, according to the Halliwell book, was the site of nuclear bomb tests.  Much of the movie was filmed in Utah and several of the actors, who also were smokers, died of cancer including Wayne, Hayward and Dick Powell, the director. 
“The Conqueror” came two years after the first Cinemascope film, “The Robe,” also a big budget epic.   Wayne was believable in “Back to Bataan” (RKO) and was good in “Flying Tigers” (Republic) but John Carroll  was the scene stealer in the later.
With a better actor in the lead, “Conqueror” might have been decent.  Wayne was intrigued by the script when he saw it on a desk at RKO Radio studios.  Wayne apparently decided he would play it as an Asian cowboy.  
Powell capped a distinguished movie career with “Conqueror,” having been in ‘30s Warner Brothers musicals and in the ‘40s RKO Radio film noir.  He is remembered for the “Four Star Theater” on TV.

YouTube features “The Conqueror.”

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