Conqueror (1956)



Director:  Dick Powell

Starring:   John Wayne (Temujin, later Genghis Khan), Susan Hayward (Bortai), Pedro Armendriz (Jamuga), Agnes Moorehead (Hunlun), Thomas Gomez (Wang Khan), John Hoyt (Shaman),  William Conrad (Kasar), Ted de Corsia (Kumlek), Leslie Bradley (Targutai), Lee Van Cleef (Chepei), Peter Mamakos (Bogurchi), Leo Gordon (Tartar captain), Richard Loo (Captain of Wang's guard).

Would you believe John Wayne in the role of Genthis Khan?  The Khan fights the Tartars.  (Made in Utah; a lot of the crew later came down with cancer, probably because they shot the film near an atomic test site.)


Poor movie.  The film opens in the 12th century in the Gobi Desert (in northern China and southern Mongolia).  Here there is a struggle between at least four warring parties: Mongols, Merkits, Tartars and Karkaits.   John Wayne with heavy, weirdly shaped eyebrows to make him look Asian one supposes, plays the role of Tamujin (later named Genghis Khan).  And the very white, middle class American looking Susan Hayward plays the role of Tamujin's love interest, Bortai.

There is little history here and much of it is wrong, just the names of the different characters and tribal people have any relevance or truth.  But it does give one a chance to deal with the crucial historical role of the Mongols in history. 

Tamujin uses force to take Bortai away from the Merkit chief, Targutai (Leslie Bradley).  She is the daughter of Kumlek (Ted de Corsia) of the Tartar people who killed Tamujin's father.  Once Tamujin has Bortai, he also has a difficult time in keeping her.  In fact, if he had as much trouble in his later military adventures as he had in keeping Bortai, he never would have conquered half the known world. 

While trying to get and keep Bortai, he also fights and conquers the other tribal peoples of the areas.  So the focus of the picture revolves around the hate/love relationship between Tamujin and Bortai.  (In real life Tamujin and Bortai were promised to each other when they were 9 and 10 years of age respectively.)



Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See Genghis Khan  (1965) .

Tartar, according to Wikipedia, is "a collective name applied to the Turkic speaking people of  Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The name is derived from Tartarus, the Greek god of the underworld, as a reference to the brutality of Turco-Mongol hordes in Europe. It was first used to describe the peoples that overran parts of Asia and Europe under Mongol leadership in the 13th century. It was later extended to include almost any Asian nomadic invader, whether from Mongolia or the fringes of Western Asia."

Merkit, according to Wikipedia, were most likely Mongolic-speaking people (related to Mongols, Naimans, Keraits and Khitan). 

The Kereit people are thought to be Turkic, but with heavy Mongolian influences.  West of these people were the Naimans. 


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