Salome, Where She Danced (1945)
This Walter Wanger production by way of director Charles Lamont plays like a bizarre 1940’s rendition of There’s Something About Mary. From the American Civil War to a European backdrop that ends up in 1865 San Francisco, Yvonne De Carlo, takes the title of role of a ballerina/dancer/singer and all around beauty who has more than one admirer trying to win her hand in this technicolor production.
It’s a somber opening when John Litel as General Robert E. Lee is marching the troops home after surrendering to the North. Litel’s appearance is a brief but memorable one as he tells young David Bruce it’s time to return home to Virginia. Bruce wants to go on fighting and as we’ll see will descend into thievery and stagecoach robberies. It’s also at this time that we’ll be introduced to Rod Cameron as a war correspondent and all around businessman who will run afoul of German observer Albert Dekker. The two will reconnect in Vienna on the eve of the Russian-Prussian War.
It’s in Vienna that Cameron and the viewing audience will meet stunning Yvonne De Carlo in the title role as she rises on the stage from a giant clam shell to the delight of the crowd. Specifically Dekker in a theater balcony. De Carlo will allow Dekker to fall for her in order to secure military secrets and relay them to the Russians. By the time Dekker discovers her treachery, Cameron will have convinced the lovely lady to flee with him to America along with her pianist, J. Edward Bromberg. He KO’s Dekker and the trio are off to the American west.
Now that we’re back safely in the western genre, De Carlo’s talents will be needed to earn their way to San Francisco. They’ll pick up a fourth traveler when aging stage queen, Marjorie Rambeau signs on to assist. By this time Cameron has made his feelings plain for the gorgeous gal originally born in Vancouver, Canada and just as she is about to submit to his proposal, along comes outlaw David Bruce to steal the cashbox from her latest stage appearance. Not only that but he takes her along with him. Not to worry as she’ll capture his heart prompting him to return both her and the cash to the town he hijacked. And so Cameron now has a competitor for the lady’s hand when Bruce signs on for the San Francisco trip as well.
It’s in San Fran that the wealthy Walter Slezak is on hand to offer Yvonne the stage, the Rembrandt painting and the city. All he wants is her and both Cameron and Bruce now have a third party to contend with. De Carlo? She wants the stage, the fame and it would seem the love of Bruce who has gone straight. Slezak is even willing to use his influence to get the young man a pardon. But it may come at a price.
Three men in her life. What’s a girl to do? That answer will present itself when Dekker re-enters our story. He’s come to take her back to Europe to answer for her crimes against the Empire. However he’ll forgo that trip if she promises to run away with him and make a life together here in the new world. Dekker makes number four so hopefully by now you’ve connected this to the smash hit There’s Something About Mary. Seems Yvonne has the same problem that Cameron Diaz would experience 53 years later.
But this one isn’t a comedy and Bruce isn’t having any of it. He’ll stand firm against Slezak’s sneaky ploys and will take on Dekker in an exciting fencing duel. To the death. When that matchup is decided she’ll be back to three suitors but only one will be pressing his lips to hers at the fadeout.
1945 proved to be the breakout year for Yvonne De Carlo. Salome was her first starring role after appearing in a number of unbilled bits from 1941 on. She’d also star alongside Cameron in a second feature released during the same calendar year. The other being Frontier Gal also directed by Charles Lamont whom she’d work for once again on 47’s Slave Girl. She’d find herself working steady in most any genre for the balance of her career. Westerns, adventures, biblical, horror and of course as television’s Lily Munster, her most identifiable role.
Director Lamont who had worked since the 1920’s beginning in short subject comedies would find a home at Universal-International from 1949 forward directing films in the Ma and Pa Kettle series, Francis the Talking Mule series and a number of the latter Abbott and Costello flicks including some of their monster mash-ups versus The Mummy, The Invisible Man and the team of Jekyll and Hyde.
Trivia hounds will spot a couple of well known names in the credits of Salome. Jack Pierce of Universal Monsters fame did the make-up and the gowns were credited to Vera West. You’ll also spot the long time character player Will Wright as the town sheriff where De Carlo first dances after arriving in the new world.
Looking for a copy? I came across this on a budget label release in what can only be described as less then pristine condition for what amounts to my first time viewing. Will we ever see the film restored to it’s technicolor glory? Not likely but with companies including Kino Lorber around, one never knows.