John Wayne Once Suffered 3 Broken Ribs Filming a Movie: Here’s What Happened

by Madison Miller

John Wayne was no stranger to action and thrill.

During his career, “The Duke” was in 179 film and television productions. He starred in a number of Westerns like “True Grit,” “The Quiet Man,” and “Red River.”

While Wayne was undefeatable with his role as the most popular Western star, he certainly wasn’t invincible. He even suffered from three broken ribs while he was filming one particular film.

John Wayne Breaks Three Ribs

According to Factinate, Wayne fell off his horse while filming the 1969 movie, “The Undefeated.” It was a nasty fall that ended up breaking three of his ribs and “defeated” him at the time. The fall also tore a ligament in his shoulder which kept him from working for two weeks.

Andrew V. McLaglen had to film Wayne from an angle for the duration of the film due to the injuries.

“The Undefeated” is about the French Imperial Intervention that happened in Mexico during the 1860s. It is based loosely on Confederate States Army General Joseph Orville Shelby and his escape to Mexico after the Civil War.

Other Injuries for Wayne

Unfortunately for “The Duke,” he had suffered other injuries throughout his life as well.

For example, he had a bodysurfing incident that caused him to switch to show business. He lost his University of Southern California football scholarship due to the shoulder injury that resulted from the incident. As a result, he left school to instead pursue acting.

He would eventually work his way up to becoming one of the biggest actors of his time.

John Wayne Dies from Cancer

The infamous cowboy ended up passing away from stomach cancer in 1979.

A part of his death is tied to a conspiracy theory. There were 220 people who worked on the film “The Conqueror” with Wayne. Years later 91 of these people passed away from cancer.

According to The Guardian, the U.S. had turned a lot of the desert radioactive during the cold war. However, they would deny using certain areas of land. Some believe this is the case when they said it was safe for Wayne and others to film in their remote St. George location.

The show would take on a darker reputation as people speculated why so many involved were getting sick.

A People magazine article from 1980 shared the statistics from the film. It also said that no bombs were tested during filming. However, radioactivity from other blasts probably lodged in Snow Canyon. The same article quotes a scientist from the Pentagon’s Defense Nuclear Agency saying, “Please, God, don’t let us have killed John Wayne.”

According to IMDb, the movie was filmed where eleven tests were carried out the year before and the set was contaminated by nuclear fallout. Wayne is even photographed holding a Geiger counter.

While this theory has a lot of eery connections, the reality is that cancer was far more common back in the day. Wayne smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day. Other cast members were also heavy smokers. If anything, radiation exposure might have been a small factor in his death.