Starring Alla Nazimova
MOTION PICTURE MAGAZINE
We feel quite sure you will quarrel with Madame Nazimova's screen version of Oscar Wilde's "Salome." You may declare that it is ultra-modern in treatment besides being super-exotic and then dismiss it.
However, we think it is more likely that you will consider it further. And because it is what it is, it merits consideration. To give it further consideration, it is too long. The first two or three reels unwind without anything whatever happening. It would have made an infinitely finer offering had it been produced as a short length subject.
Nevertheless, it took courage to select this as a screen production in the first place. The exquisite beauty of Oscar Wilde's "Salome" lies in the music of its colorful phrases and the color of its musical cadences. The screen version is beggared by the loss of these, and the super-erotic and decadent values become uppermost.
The tale is faithful to the "Salome" of Wilde. Even the subtitles have a Wildian flavour. This is encouraging, for producers with faith in the works of any master are rarities. For Madame Nazimova's fidelity we are grateful, even while we doubt the wisdom of her choice of "Salome" as a screen production.
In the title role Nazimova permits herself only one opportunity in which to convince her audiences that the art she possessed in "Revelation" and on other occasions is still her own. This is the episode in which she bends over the silver charger that holds the head of Jokanaan. Here she rises to indisputable heights. As a matter of fact, the whole episode is adroitly handled. No papier-mâché head is evidence. With her sweeping cloak Salome covers the charger, sinking with it to the ground. On her face is the mute cry of desire; desire intermingled with pain, and love and hate. Then comes the titles: "They say that love hath a bitter taste . . . Ah! I have kissed they mouth, Johanaan. I have kissed thy mouth."
The settings and costuming deserve a paragraph in themselves. They are undoubtedly important -- sometimes they are permitted to be more important than the action. Nastacha (sic) Rambova, or Mrs. Rodolph Valentino, as you will, is responsible for the bizarre note. It is a symphony of what seems to be black velvet embroidered in and painted in great and fantastic figures of silver. Undoubtedly this sort of thing is effective but only when skillfully handled. Here it often obtrudes upon the action. And we have always been led to believe that the first requirement of any setting or background was to suggest the atmosphere of the action in an unobtrusive manner.
On the whole, Nazimova's production of "Salome" is, if anything, a trifle more erotic, somewhat more decent, and several times more exotic than the "Salome" of Oscar Wilde.
But there are, in several instance, moments of rare and poetic beauty. And these go far in capturing he exquisite beauty of the lost verse.
We hope that Madame Nazimova will not be discouraged if her "Salome" is not received with open arms - -
We hope that Charles Bryant will realize that it is easier by far to direct someone other than your wife --
That Madame Nazimova will give the screen more Ibsen, or other fine drama --
And that she will have a director other than a husband.
Video availability: Movies Unlimited, Grapevine, Facets, Nostalgia
Return to review page