-Did Utah Kill John Wayne?

-Brigham Young- the DVD

-Utah Icons on Film

-Making Brigham Young

Weird and Wonderful


Did Utah Kill John Wayne?

The Conqueror is one of those legendary cursed Hollywood movies. It was a bad idea from the start. The brain child of eccentric billionaire and aviator Howard Hughes, the historical epic cast John Wayne as Temujin aka Genghis Khan. It was doomed for failure.

Box office crash and critical derision aside, The Conqueror has a more troubling legacy. Its main players seemed to kick the bucket early. Veteran character actors Pedro Armendariz (suicide) and Lee Van Cleef (natural causes) were causalities. However it was the deaths of the three leads and its actor turned director that raised eyebrows. Susan Hayward, Dick Powell, Agnes Moorehead and the duke himself, John Wayne, all died from cancer.

Was this a macabre coincidence or was there some other factor? Something that not only affected the cast and crew of the movie, but involved everyone in the southern Utah area it was filmed

The rural Utah townsfolk weren't use to having such tinsel-town luminaries invade their drab agricultural lives. Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendariz, Dick Powell (the director) and John Wayne would be hanging with the commoners. Hollywood dollars would be flowing into the small community. It took the town's mind off of other problems that had sprung up recently. MORE>>


Brigham Young: The DVD

Released in 1940, Brigham Young is the only film dealing with Mormonism ever made by a major studio. The brainchild of 20th Century Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck, Brigham Young was one of the biggest budget films released that year. Coming in at a mammoth $1.4 million (huge for the 1940s), it starred Fox’s main box office draw, Tyrone Powers.

Though it had the largest Premiere attendance in history, opening in Salt Lake City in a record seven theaters with 215,000 moviegoers attending, it was a huge box office failure. The movie disappeared from theaters and dropped into limbo. Fox has recently released the DVD loaded with tons of cool extras, especially an audio commentary by BYU film historian James D’Arc.

The big question is, does this movie really deserves the royal treatment? The answer; not really. Three words sum up a big studio’s one and only look at Mormonism –- bland, bland, and bland. Despite a top notch cast of Fox biggies, including the delicious casting of Vincent Price as Joseph Smith and John Carradine as Porter Rockwell, this is one blah retelling of early Mormon history. MORE>>


Utah Icons on Film

Brigham Young has three famous icons of Mormon legend, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Porter Rockwell. Two extraordinary and one rather ordinary actors play these roles. In this article we will rate their performances and compare them with other movie portrayals.

Vincent Price

Joseph Smith: Vincent Price assayed this most famous of Mormons, and to my knowledge, he is the only name actor to cover this role. It is a good thing too, because Price comes off the best of the three leads. Vincent’s version of Smith captures both the ethereal nature of the Prophet and his folksy backwoods charisma. Price admitted an admiration for Smith and lobbied for the role. It shows. It is hard to imagine anyone better suited for Joseph. After his murder in Carthage it is all down hill for “Brigham Young.” Rumor has it that actor Val Kilmer could assume the role in Richard Dutcher’s proposed bio of the Mormon founder. One can only wonder what an actor with Kilmer’s oddball reputation could bring to Peep-stone Joe. My mouth waters at the prospect. MORE>>

The Making of Brigham Young

In 1939, when 20th Century Fox announced it was making a big budget movie about Brigham Young, Mormon Church president Heber J. Grant and his officials were worried. After all, movie portrayals of the Mormon experience in the past cast a less than stellar view of the Church. During the silent era, Hollywood ground out over 30 exposes such as Trapped By The Mormons which depicted young innocent girls lured into polygamous weddings with lecherous Mormon patriarchs. As entertaining as these ventures might be, church officials felt they were a less than fair representation. I mean, the orthodox Mormons hadn't been practicing polygamy for damn near 50 years. To make sure the Church had some input in the story of it’s second greatest icon, Grant assigned Elder John A. Widtsoe to influence the outcome of the film. MORE>>