Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


Rita Hayworth as Salome
SALOME (1953). Director: William Dieterle.

Salome (Rita Hayworth) falls in love with Roman soldier Marcellus Fabius (Rex Reason), but his uncle Tiberius Caesar (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) not only forbids the union, but banishes Salome from Rome. Sailing to Galilee where her mother, Herodias (Judtih Anderson), awaits, Salome encounters another Roman soldier, Claudius (Stewart Granger). The two fall in love, but there are complications. Claudius is secretly a Christian and a friend to John the Baptist (Alan Badel), who preaches compassion versus Roman tyranny. Herodias is furious that her husband, King Herod (Charles Laughton) allows John to live after his attacks on her morals, but he is afraid that if he kills John it will result in his own death due to a prophecy. Salome takes her mother's side ... at first. It seems incredible that with those characters and storyline Salome is a big technicolor bore for much of its length, but, sadly, this is not based on Oscar Wilde's controversial play. Instead it was cobbled together by Hollywood scriptwriters anxious to turn this into just another pious biblical spectacle to impress the rubes, even though the movie's main selling point is not religion but the sex appeal of Rita Hayworth. As usual in films of this type, the Roman hero is turned into a "good guy." At least we have the performances. Hayworth is really quite good as the heroine, and she does a very sexy "dance of the seven veils" near the end. Granger [Blanche Fury] is fine, although it might have been better had his part gone to Rex Reason [This Island Earth], who isn't even credited in the film. Laughton, Anderson, Hardwicke, Badel (who was "introduced" in this film), Arnold Moss [Hell's Island] as Micah, and Basil Syndey as Pontius Pilate, are all excellent. The film perks up in the final minutes with the sudden appearance of a severed head. In this version it is Herodius who calls for the beheading of John, not Salome. Al Pacino starred in and directed a very creditable version of Wilde's Salome many years later.

Verdict: Despite fine actors and some good scenes, this is a distinctly minor biblical "epic." **.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I love Rita Hayworth and I also love biblical epics, but you are right, this combination does not work, even with the great Charles Laughton in it. The script is tepid; this story is better told within the movie King of Kings than here. But Rita's dancing is wonderful as always...

William said...

Yes, it's no surprise this isn't better-known even with those players.