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Friday June 22nd 2018

The Conqueror | 1955

The Conqueror filming location: Snow Canyon, Utah
The Conqueror filming location: Snow Canyon, Utah | wikimedia / David Jolley

John Wayne as Genghis Khan? In a Howard Hughes clunker? What should have been simply a hoot turned into something much more sinister due to 'Dirty Harry' ­ not the Clint Eastwood movie, but the nickname given to a nuclear test explosion at Yucca Flats in Nevada which dumped fallout around the area, including St George in Utah.

And it was in Snow Canyon State Park, 11 miles to the northwest of St George, that The Conqueror was filmed the following year. To make matters worse, lorryloads of the local red earth were shipped back to RKO in Hollywood for studio filming.

By 1979 all of the stars – Wayne, Hayward, Armendáriz ­ the director Powell and many of the crew had succumbed to cancer. Wayne was 72, Hayward 57, Agnes Moorehead 68, Armendariz 52 and Powell 59. The official line is coincidence.

This was more than 50 years ago, though, so it’s perfectly safe now to visit the canyon. St George is way down in the southwest corner of Utah near the Arizona border on I-15. In fact, Hollywood returned in the 60s for the filming of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.