Salome, the daughter of Herodias, seduces her step-father/uncle Herod, governor of Judea, with a salacious dance. In return, he promises her the head of the prophet John the Baptist.

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, (uncredited)

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(play), (scenario) (as Peter M. Winters)
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Cast

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Nigel De Brulier ...
Mitchell Lewis ...
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Earl Schenck ...
Arthur Jasmine ...
Frederick Peters ...
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Storyline

Salome, the daughter of Herodias, seduces her step-father/uncle Herod, governor of Judea, with a salacious dance. In return, he promises her the head of the prophet John the Baptist. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

15 February 1923 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Salome  »

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Budget:

$350,000 (estimated)
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1.33 : 1
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The women courtiers are played by men in drag. See more »

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Narraboth, Captain of the Guard: How strange the moon seems! One might fancy she was looking for dead things.
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Featured in The Casting Couch (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
SALOME' (Charles Bryant, 1923) **1/2
8 December 2011 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This is extremely faithful to the spirit and letter of Oscar Wilde's play (at least, judging by Ken Russell's 1988 interpretation of it in SALOME'S LAST DANCE). While I rated it higher than the latter, this is mainly because it is visually redolent of the Biblical spectacles of the Silent era (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS {1923}, BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE Christ {1925} and THE KING OF KINGS {1927}, to name the more obvious examples), being a straight adaptation as opposed to a 'performance' – even so, while it may have readily jumped on the spectacle bandwagon, the result is unsurprisingly verbose for a non-Talkie and, in any case, its real raison d'etre was apparently as a paen to Wilde's transgressive lifestyle since it has been stated that the entire cast was homosexually-inclined (with several prancing courtiers and even minor female roles being filled by men)!

The star is Alla Nazimova (billed only by her surname) who, at 42, appears in the title role – a character who was supposedly all of 14 years old! Though her real age is undeniably betrayed in close-ups, for the most part, her lanky figure supplies the requisite illusion of youth; to get back to its proximity to Wilde's text (and, by extension, Russell's rendition), Salome is made out to be something of a nymphomaniac, if not quite as gleefully wicked as Imogen Millais-Scott in the later version. For the record, of the remaining cast members, only Nigel De Brulier's name – in the part of a rather scantily-clad John The Baptist and actually referred to as Jokanaan(!) – was familiar to me, from a number of swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks vehicles and even THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK (1939; as it happens, directed by the gay James Whale), with the woman playing Herodias being noted, if anything, for her disheveled hair-do (though, when the scene shifts to the terrace, it then appears inexplicably combed!).

Again, the narrative of the two films are very similar: from The Baptist's wardens pleading with Salome (by the way, an accent is inconsistently placed throughout over the 'e') to leave the prophet alone, with the soldier (whom the girl blinds with false promises of affection) eventually committing suicide because, as he says, he "cannot endure it". Likewise, the latter's servant being jealous of his attentions for the Princess and, ditto, Herodias berating her husband for his incestuous leering over the girl (having already assassinated his own brother and usurped the throne in order to win the Queen's favors!). Perhaps the film's mainstay are the incongruously outlandish costumes (created by Natacha Rambova, noted wife of the even more famous Rudolph Valentino – the silver-screen's Latin Lover prototype whom Ken Russell would himself deal with in a 1977 biopic!), from Nazimova's bejeweled hair to the over-sized outfits of her ladies-in-waiting, which conveniently obscure Salome while she is changing into her dancing attire (though the film-makers seem to have forgotten all about the Seven Veils in this case)! For the record, Rambova (who is said to have been Nazimova's lover before she was Valentino's) also designed the sets and did the screen adaptation herself, the latter under the assumed name of Peter M. Winters!

The climax is somewhat confused, though: first, we have a Nubian giant (who had stood guard by the castle walls all through the picture) being asked to behead The Baptist but, when he goes down to the pit where the prophet is incarcerated, the latter's Holy words apparently convert him. Yet, all of a sudden, we cut to Salome already with the proverbial silver platter (or "charger", as it is called here) in hand, albeit covered-up – however, it was only after she has put in on the floor and bowed down beside it, all the while pining for Jokanaan's red lips, that I realized the deed had already been done! Finally, after Herod gives out the order for Salome to be slain (and his spear-sporting minions dutifully oblige), the film simply ends on a long-shot of her corpse and Herodias looking upon it in horror (at least, Russell's theatrical framework lent the whole a better sense of closure and, if anything, given the propensity of the foreword here, one would have expected at least a matching coda!).


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