Salome; Queen Elizabeth
1162. SALOME and QUEEN ELIZABETH (1912-1923-USA-England). Alia Nazimova and Sarah Bernhardt once were two of the world’s most renowned and respected theatre actresses. Nazimova was a celebrated star of the Russian and American stage in the early years of this century, while the legendary Bernhardt’s successes were on the French stage, during the last century. Both did appear in films, and here are a pair of their most representative vehicles.
1. SALOME (1923-USA). With ALLA NAZIMOVA. This is a bold, bizarre, very gay adaptation of OSCAR WILDE’S play Salome, which he wrote in 1894, and the title role is most strikingly played by Nazimova. The setting is the palace of Herod, king of Judea. Salome’s mother, Herodias, may be wed to the king, but he lusts after his stepdaughter. He asks her to dance for him, promising her anything in his kingdom if she complies. Salome refuses, as her mind is elsewhere: she is enamored of Jakaanan (John the Baptist), Herod’s prisoner. When Jakaanan refuses to return her kiss, Salome becomes enraged; she agrees to dance for Herod only if he will present to her Jakaanan’s head on a platter. If she cannot kiss him when he is alive, she reasons, she will be able to do so when he is dead. The films highlight is Nazimova recreating Salome’s “Dance of the Seven Veils,” and the stylized sets and costumes are based on designs by AUDBREY BEARDSLEY.
2. QUEEN ELIZABETH (1912-England). With SARAH BERNHARDT, LOU TELLECEN. “The Divine Sarah” Bernhardt was 56 years old when she portrayed Queen Elizabeth for the screen; she is ably assisted by the stunningly handsome Lou Tellegen (cast as Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex), who initially gained fame playing opposite Bernhardt on stage. Elizabeth takes on Devereux as a lover, yet the Earl becomes involved with another-who happens to be married. Note the bows and curtain calls taken toward the camera, graciously accepting the unheard applause of the unseen audience. This play of love, lust, adultery, vengeance and valor was a smash hit in the theatre. ADOLPH ZUKOR acquired the rights to it, with his profits enabling him to found Paramount Pictures. “Silent” films with music score, correct projection speed. 91 minutes total. ÒSilentÓ Drama