Thursday, April 05, 2012

Salome (1953)

I admit it: I'm a sucker for Biblical epics. Good or bad, overblown or great, melodramatic or understated or just perfect... I tend to enjoy them all. I love the vivid colors, the sumptuous costumes, the setting, the hair styles. Salome was more enjoyable than I expected. Hard to go wrong with the cast: Charles Laughton, Judith Anderson, Stewart Granger, and Rita Hayworth in the lead roles. But the script surprised me with some really good dialogue. That's not to say it didn't have its over-the-top factor (John the Baptist... I'm looking at you and your wild eyes!), but that's also part of the fun of Biblical epics.

(Charles Laughton makes a most excellent Herod. I also really love this shot of him.)

(Judith Anderson is perfect as the cold, desperate, scheming Herodias)

I wasn't quite sure how Stewart Granger would fit in when I started watching, but they worked him in all right, and he had plenty of screen time in his Roman outfits to keep me happy. And really, they certainly paired Granger up with some of the most lovely women in Hollywood! What a handsome couple he and Rita make!

Spoilers follow...

The plot surprised me a bit. I guess I've gotten used to Rita playing the femme fatale types, and Salome and her dance of the seven veils for the head of John the Baptist just all fit together nicely with that image... only they changed that. In this version, she dances to save him! Knock me over with a feather, what?? That was unexpected. I was also expecting her to somehow get Stewart Granger's character killed... she's good at that, and he's good at picking the wrong women and getting killed because of it... nope. They both seem to live happily ever after, and together, no less! The entire ending rather shocked me. Not that I object to happy endings, quite the contrary, it just didn't fit with the story of Salome I was expecting. I mean, who thinks "good girl" when they think of Salome?

(Good Salome?)

(no, this is more like it!)

Granger's character was also a good guy, though that I was expecting. His Roman Commander Claudius has secretly converted to Christianity, so he helps slaves, John the Baptist, and whoever else he can, getting himself kicked out of the Roman army when he openly admits it to his boss (Pontius Pilate, played with strength and unexpected compassion -- at least when around Granger -- by Basil Sydney, who I last saw playing Captain Smollett in the 1950 version of Treasure Island, really like him!). That was one of the small things that bugged me though. Claudius is ordered to take ship for Rome, and he promptly goes AWOL instead, returning to Galilee. And nothing comes from this open defiance of his orders. It's only his friendship with Pilate that prevented him from being executed for treason in the first place, and no one follows to arrest him or anything?? And he's still looking awfully Roman in the last shot of the film, no hiding out by blending in with the natives. Too bad. I'd kind of like to see a few consequences from his desertion. But, of course, I daydream. This movie is not called "Claudius," it's called "Salome."

All in all, it was a diverting couple of hours, and definitely better than quite a few other movies in this genre, and it fits the season. I think I automatically start looking for these types of movies come Easter, as television stations used to run the gamut of Biblical epics this time of year.

(Okay, I also admit that when Stewart Granger looks this good, I wasn't paying much attention to anyone else in the movie...)


  1. I, too, enjoy Biblical epics. I mean, I can't even count the number of times I've seen "The Ten Commandments," "Ben-Hur," and the 70's "Jesus of Nazareth."

    I have never heard of "Salome," but thanks to your review, I am going to look for it. I have come to love Rita Hayworth, and Stewart Granger is a man on the move for me, so I know I would enjoy them together. And Judith Anderson...well, she is completely wonderful in nearly everything I've ever seen her in. She definitely plays the nasty to the hilt!!

    Speaking of Biblical epics, my beloved Robert Ryan was in one..."King of Kings." He has the role of John the Baptist. I read where he was shocked when he was told he was being offered that role...he expected to be offered the role of Judas!!

    I love how you unashamedly declare that Stewart Granger's looks are part of the draw for you. Since I am always swooning over the looks of my faves, you are a gal after my own heart!!

    Have a great day!!!

    1. I think you'd like this one! And yeah, SG's looks are something to swoon over. That man was ridiculously handsome.

      I remember Robert Ryan in "King of Kings." Always kind of cracked me up that he was in there.

  2. oh.. gee.. I was preparing a post for this film on the blog I do together with Monty Hawes.. Now I think I better skip that one.. Enjoyed your review!

    1. Oh please don't skip it! I'd love to read your post on it, particularly as we tend to pick different things out of the movie to focus on. Usually after I've seen a movie, I go hunting to see if anyone else has seen it, to compare notes, to find out things about the film, to hear about things I missed. So please go ahead and continue with your plans!!

  3. Well, I finally saw Salome, and I quite enjoyed it. I know some people get worked up when a film doesn't line up with the historical facts (or with a book), but that never bothers me. I realize a film isn't necessarily supposed to be a history lesson, so I can just enjoy it for what it is---entertainment.

    Wow, was Rita's dance extremely sensual! I read where she said it was the most demanding dance routine of her career.

    SG was gorgeous!!!!

  4. Great review!

    We're linking to your article for Rita Hayworth Wednesday at

    Keep up the good work!