Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Salome (1953)

Now that it’s August 17, that means that we have another Rita Hayworth film! This time, it’s her 1953 movie Salome co-starring Stewart Granger!

Now, before I get too much further, I have something else to say (mainly addressed to my fellow bloggers). As I stated in my first “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” post this year on Music In My Heart, I was considering hosting a three-day blogathon around Rita Hayworth’s birthday (October 17). It’s been a long, rough year so far, and I have, for the time being, decided not to go forward with it. However, there is still nearly two months before that time, and, if there is enough interest in the idea, I may reconsider, so chime in if you would like a Rita Hayworth blogathon (just do it within the next month, as my decision will be final after September 17). That’s all I have to say on the subject. Now, back to your regularly scheduled program…

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pink Paradise (1967)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)

When the Pink Panther comes upon a tropical island, he finds himself trying to avoid the Little Man doing some hunting. This is another short featuring the Little Man and his dog (with the dog constantly getting in trouble because of the unseen Panther). Due to its similarity to other shorts of the same type, it’s hardly original, with the setting being the main change (and the types of gags that can be done with it). In spite of its lack of originality, it’s still a funny cartoon. At least, I don’t mind coming back around to it here and there (as long as I haven’t watched any of the similar shorts in short order).

And Now For The Main Feature…

In the Roman province of Galilee, John The Baptist (Alan Badel) denounces the “marriage” of King Herod (Charles Laughton) to his brother’s wife, Queen Herodias (Judith Anderson). Herodias wants John silenced, but Herod doesn’t want to do anything, for fear that John might be the prophesied Messiah. In Rome, Herodias’ daughter, the Princess Salome (Rita Hayworth), wants to marry Marcellus Fabius (Rex Reason), who is the nephew of the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). However, the emperor wants his nephew to marry a Roman, and has Salome banished from Rome. She is sent back to Galilee on the same boat as the newly-appointed governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate (Basil Sydney) and Commander Claudius (Stewart Granger). Claudius attempts to flirt with her, but she is still bitter over being rejected and wants nothing to do with any Romans. Once the boat arrives in Judea, they have to travel across land to get to Galilee. Along the way, they come across John the Baptist preaching. Pilate orders his men to attack him, but Claudius (a secret convert) saves him. Later that night, Claudius secretly leaves to go see his friend, John, who tells him that he is planning to go preach in the city (and warns Claudius not to protect him any longer). Soon thereafter, the caravan arrives at Herod’s palace. Herodias is happy to see that Salome has returned, but is not as thrilled at the fact that Salome also caught the attention of her stepfather, either (although she figures that to be a possible advantage in her favor, if used right). Salome soon learns of John and his preaching (mainly through Herodias’ biased view), and goes to hear him herself. John recognizes her, but refuses to allow the crowd to harm her, instead warning her to be careful about becoming as wicked as her mother. Upon listening to her mother again, Salome implores Claudius to arrest John. Meanwhile, on her own, Herodias attempts to have John killed, but her assassin fails because of Claudius. When Herod learns of this, he decides to have John arrested, hoping to keep him safer in prison. Claudius tries his best to have John freed, even going to the governor, Pilate, but with no success. However, he learns of someone else performing miracles, and goes to see Him. Meanwhile, Herodias is disturbed by the people shouting for John’s release just outside their palace, and tries to convince Salome to dance for Herod at his birthday celebration in order to have John beheaded (much to Salome’s horror). When Claudius returns, Salome tries to convince him to take her away with him. First, he stops to tell John about Jesus, and Salome realizes that there is still some good to be found in the world. Upon leaving, Claudius decides to gather some of his troops to help free John, while Salome decides to dance for Herod (but to FREE John, not have him killed, like her mother wanted). Both fail, as Herodias takes advantage of Herod’s lust, and orders John beheaded (which, as I said, is successful). So, Salome leaves with Claudius, and the two find Jesus, taking His words to heart.

The story of Herod’s stepdaughter Salome has been told many times in the movies, sometimes with films devoted exclusively to her side (with the 1923 silent starring Alla Nazimova being one of the best-known versions), or with her having smaller parts in films focused on Christ’s life (like King Of Kings). The genre of the biblical epic was enjoying a resurgence in the early 1950s after the likes of 1949’s Samson And Delilah, and Quo Vadis and David And Bathsheba from 1951. The idea of doing a film on Salome was suggested to Harry Cohn (the head of Columbia Pictures), who was looking for another vehicle for his recently-returned star Rita Hayworth. Of course, in order to do the story of Salome with her, Harry Cohn wanted to change the story, making Salome more of a heroine than the villain she was known to be. Salome was produced by Rita Hayworth’s production company (Beckworth Corporation), although it would be the last one they produced.

I will thoroughly admit that I enjoyed Salome. I didn’t know too much about the movie going in, but, from the moment I heard the the music by George Duning during the opening credits, I knew for sure it would be a biblical epic, as the music just had that feel to it. I will say, though, that Rita Hayworth is both an asset and a detriment to the movie. I think her performance works well, and it’s fun to see her do some more dancing. That being said, the historical differences do pull me out of it, with her being older than the real-life person was supposed to be, and the changes to make her more of a heroine as opposed to being as evil as her mother and stepfather are a slight negative side to the film. Still, she shows how some of Jesus’s contemporaries could come to Him. Charles Laughton and Judith Anderson are both great as Herod and Herodias, respectively, both managing to creep you out and make you dislike them intensely. I think Alan Badel’s performance as John the Baptist could use some work, but I blame that on the reverence shown for some of the bigger biblical characters at the time that sometimes resulted in some of those characters not being well-portrayed. Regardless, the movie was very enjoyable (and, given its biblical connections, makes me wish I had watched it sooner so that it could have been my April review in the “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” series to go alongside Easter, but it is what it is). It’s certainly one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Salome (1953)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. For the most part, this transfer looks very good. The color looks pretty vivid, and the detail is wonderful. There are some issues along the edge of the frame here and there, but nothing really distracting. The picture has been cleaned up of dirt and other debris. It’s certainly the best way to see this movie, in my opinion!

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Affair In Trinidad (1952) – Rita Hayworth – Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952) – Charles Laughton

Affair In Trinidad (1952)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionMiss Sadie Thompson (1953)

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