Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Salome. Biblical drama. Alla Nazimova as Salome.
"A great menace in the Palace of Herod - Tetrarch of Judea". A stylish court scene with guards and courtiers. The set is based on Beardsley and therefore sort of modern, 1920s, and nouveau or deco, all in one. A banquet scene with long tables. Slaves stand behind with large feather fans, A gauze curtain in front of the scene. Black servants, almost naked place plates on the tables. Two black boys with wild wigs or head dresses sit beneath the top table where Herod, Herodias his wife and Salome sit. Salome looks away, Herod looks at Salome. There is a pit with a light shining from it with a cage over the top. Two guards stand either side and look towards the light. The title says John the Baptist has been imprisoned in a cistern for criticizing Herod for marrying Herodias, his brother's wife. Head and shoulder shot of pure looking man with his eyes closed and his head raised to the light. Herod and Salome talk. Herod looks likes a Bacchus - type figure, large and corrupt. Salome has an amazing headdress, almost longish Afro, with white large pearls that shimmer and wobble. Close up of Herodias with long wild bushy hair and lots of rings. She holds a large goblet. Herod holds a cup out to Salome. He entreats her. She refuses in a very haughty manner turning her head, pearls wobbling. Herodias looks daggers. She grabs Herod and wags her finger at him. Close up of Salome with wild eyes. Herod and Herodias argue. Herodias turns to flirt with a courtier sitting next to her. Two courtiers outside the banquet stand in exotic poses. Close up of Salome's lover who has a large pearl necklace, trousers with a shell motif and painted nipples.' He sighs for Salome. He worries about Salome to his friend. The friend says he mustn't look at her. Four old men with white beards and large wizard-like conical hats debate and argue furiously. Two young men in large white cloaks and very high hats and Egyptian stylised beards watch serenely. " The ladies of the court" are all men in drag with crazy hair styles and Roman style togas.
Herod asks Salome to dance. Salome refuses and hides her face behind her fan. Herodias kicks Herod, they argue. Salome looks on with distain. She storms out of the banquet. The black boys put back the gauze curtain and the servants kneel as she leaves. She wears a short tunic and sparkly material. Her lover kneels before her. She shakes her head and looks at the moon. She praises the moon as chaste and undefiled. Her lover sighs at her while his friend holds him back. Salome lies on the balcony and looks at the moon. She hears the John the Baptist in his prison. She questions a guard who kneels before her. She is attracted by his voice. She rejects her lover and looks into the Baptist's prison. The back of the Baptist with the bars of his tomb as shadow's on his back. He raises his head, she is enthralled. Herod plays with Salome's fan. Herodias flirts with a courtier. Herod demands a servant gets Salome back to the feast. The servant lies flat at Salome's feet. Salome puts her foot on his head.
She is angry. She spits on him. She returns to gaze on the Baptist. The servant is afraid and throws himself off the ramparts rather than return to Herod without Salome. Herod is sulking and pulls feathers from Salome's fan. Close up of the lock of the prison and the key in Salome's lover's belt. Close up of Salome's eyes. The lover's friend recoils in horror. The lover is called Navraboth. She demands the key with a smile. The lover is afraid as Herod has returned it. But he casts the key away and kneels. A guard opens the prison. The lover and his friend sit with heads down. John the Baptist comes up the stairs of the prison. He is in a fur loin cloth and naked. Salome runs and clings to the lover. John the Baptist curses Salome. Salome says she is 'enamoured of his body'. John the Baptist reviles her. She tries again. Salome wants to touch his hair. John the Baptist curses her again. The lover is upset and she looks very grumpy but tries again. She wants to kiss him. The lover stabs himself. She ignores him. John the Baptist looks very angry and disgusted. Salome pleads and begs him. He returns to the prison.
Herod and Herodias leave the feast. Chairs are placed for them. The lover lies dead on the floor. Herod sees the lover's body and is horrified. It is an omen. The body is removed. Herod and Herodias sit. Salome stands by the prison. Herod offers her wine and fruit. Herodias kicks a servant. Salome agrees to dance. Dwarves form an orchestra to play. Four servants form a curtain around Salome so she can change into a short costume, which is white and with long thin veils. Herod is very excited. Salome also puts on a white wig. She loses the veils and dances a flapper type dance in her all white costume. She dances under a floating large veil. All the men watching lust after her. She spins under the veil. Herod looks happy. Herodias is very cross. Wrapped in the veil, she asks Herod for the head of the Baptist. He is appalled and holds his hands up in horror. He offers her his jewels. He taps his head as he tries to think. He offers her a mountain of pearls. Close up of her face as she's tempted but resists. Naaman the executioner. Herod weeps. Close up of his ring with a skull and cross bones on it. Herodias takes the ring and the black boys take it to the executioner who is unwilling. But he descends the steps of the prison. Salome is now dressed in a turban and an exotic long cloak. The executioner with John the Baptist in prison. She watches. Salome demands Naaman strikes John the Baptist but he drops his sword and kneels instead. Salome carries a plate with the head. She kneels, covers it and herself with the cloak. The scene is full of highly charged eroticism. Herod demands her killed. Salome is encircled by soldiers. Salome has kissed the head of John the Baptist. The court flees from the scene.
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