This overwrought and often downright silly Biblical story, given the standard lavish mounting, amounts to nothing but second-rate Cecil B. DeMille, lacking any real energy or Roman decadence. Here Columbia head Harry Cohn combined two of the sauciest, most erotic femme fatales the world
has known--Salome, New Testament flame famed for the revealing Dance of the Seven Veils, and Rita Hayworth, famed for the passionate "Put the Blame on Mame" dance of GILDA (1946). In this version of the Bible according to Cohn, Hayworth's Salome tries to save John the Baptist (Badel) from losing
his head to the sword of King Herod (played with marvelous scene-chewing by Laughton) reversing the traditional story that she was responsible for his death. In biblical Galilee under Roman occupation, Hayworth plays the stepdaughter of king Laughton, who has been promised by his evil wife, queen
Anderson, that the girl will be his if John the Baptist's head is presented on a silver platter. Laughton is deathly fearful of a prophecy that Badel is a holy man and must fight against Anderson, who insists Badel be killed for speaking out against the throne. While Laughton drools over Hayworth,
she is making a play for Granger even though the two were initially at odds. Anderson tries to further upset life in Galilee by pressuring Granger to kill Badel, but he refuses, secretly citing his recent discovery of Christianity as his reason. Eventually, Hayworth is persuaded to dance for
Laughton, performing a jaw-dropping strip-tease. The eroticism then turns macabre when Badel's head is brought in on a platter. Disgusted, Hayworth retreats from Galilee with her true love, Granger, and heads for the Sermon on the Mount.
Grossly bending the traditional tale, the film still presents its version in a moderately entertaining fashion. Without Hayworth, however, SALOME would have been a long-forgotten Columbia flop. As if waiting for the invention of cinema in order to be liberated from the pages of the Bible, Salome
quickly found a home on the screen. Finding her way from the pages of Oscar Wilde (written as a Sarah Bernhardt vehicle) to the operatic score of Richard Strauss, Salome was first memorably portrayed by the ultimate vamp Theda Bara in 1918, then in 1923 by the legendary Russian actress Nazimova,
before Hayworth took the honors. Although the story was completely distorted to fit Hollywood guidelines, at least it could boast some authentic location footage--18,000 feet of the Holy Land. With SALOME it was Harry Cohn's hope to regenerate the DeMille style epic, so he hired former DeMille
scriptwriter Jesse Lasky, Jr. to bang out, over a weekend, a vehicle for Hayworth. Unfortunately, however, Cohn handed the final scriptwriting chores over to Harry Kleiner, who was unfamiliar with the essential exploitative and lusty ingredients of the biblical epic.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This overwrought and often downright silly Biblical story, given the standard lavish mounting, amounts to nothing but second-rate Cecil B. DeMille, lacking any real energy or Roman decadence. Here Columbia head Harry Cohn combined two of the sauciest, most… (more)