Salome, Where She Danced – 1945

Solame Where She Danced

This movie is disparaged in many places as a terrible film, one of the "worst screen debuts ever produced from a major studio" (i.e., this is Yvonne DeCarlo's first movie via Universal), and often tagged as "the camp classic of all time."

That's a lot to live up to, and I don't know if Salome does it. Instead, the film seems far ahead of its time, containing a world-spanning plot and a raft of incredibly improbable characters doing improbable things, a tangled romantic sub-plot and splashes of "high art" provided through singing, ballet and opera mixed into the story.

Salome is far from what it wants to be, an efficient, cohesive Hollywood epic. It is much more like a rambling, multi-part TV mini-series from the 1970s or 1980's, when adaptations of similar geographically-varied historical novels were special events. The major broadcast channels wanted audiences to stay night after night for three, four, or more evenings in a row, and to do that they shifted the often exotic locations each night. Though the mini-series would feature certain main characters/actors throughout, a wide variety of supporting cast would filter in through the tale providing a fresh set of pretty, handsome or unusual faces to inspect.

Salome, Where She Danced travels this same road, but the run time is only 90 minutes, sometimes feels longer, and contains a lot of scenes where characters and situations make direct appeals for emotion from the audience (for example when the bandit "Cleve" played by David Bruce quotes the famous "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion" from the Bible, only to be immediately answered by Yvonne DeCarlo singing "O Tannenbaum" in German right back at him).

Salome is certainly entertaining in an unintentional way, has some well done (intended) funny sections, lots of good art direction, and features a central dance scene that has a young Yvonne DeCarlo swirling about in a harem-girl outfit (in front of a hall of rowdy cowboys who become virtually paralyzed, as if they can't believe what they're seeing. Some film audiences may have reacted the same way. There's a similar scene later with DeCarlo in an Oriental Hollywood costume dancing on a Chinese ship).

I suspect the "legend" of this film is from it being populated with a remarkable, preposterous plot and a hodge-podge of international characters with Hollywood accents plus a remarkably detached sense of reality, even by Hollywood standards. For some this will make Salome, Where She Danced a delight, for others there will be much shaking of heads.

AMAZON: The Awful Truth - Criterion Collection Blu-ray

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Original Page Sept 20, 2015 | Updated July 3, 2017, Jan 2018