Yvonne DeCarlo’s “…debut performance in this Universal programmer…sets up DeCarlo as little more than an exotic vamp with the ability to dance in gauzy costumes. Distracting the audience in the hopes they won’t realize there’s no plat to be had,” writes Kristen in the on-line column “Journey in Classic Films.” She continues, “’Salome, Where She danced” is the film equivalent of throwing bologna on the ceiling and betting on which piece sticks.”
“Postwar nihilism conquered by the Eternal Feminine, an irresistible quasi-operetta that transforms an old Chinese sage with a Scottish brogue into a spokesman for the medium’s amalgamated possibilities, “ Fernando F. Croce. He also writes, “The leering count (Albert Dekker) with monocle and rapier, the Russian aesthete (Walter Slezak) giving away Rembrandts, Madame Europe (Marjorie Rambeau) and her hoochie-coochie review, ‘all instruments of divine providence’ in a Technicolor hallucination of erudite silliness.” The critics did not like and still don’t like the film “Salome, Where She Danced.” Yet still it made money.
Yvonne DeCarlo plays a newly recruited spy whop falls in love with the person she is spying on. Rod Cameron, the Clark Gable wanna be (Jim Steed) decides to promote her act into “Salome” the legendary dancer with seven veils that takes the American West by storm. It is just after General Lee’s surrender and there is a lot of unhappiness among the soldiers from the South who want to keep on fighting for as one says, “I’ve been fighting since I was 16. I don’t know what else to do.”
These war-damaged soldiers suffering from PTSD explain why the man Salome finally falls in love with is a brigand and stagecoach robber whose name is Cleve Blunt played by David Bruce. Bruce is an expressionless Ashley Wilkes character (“Gone With the Wind’), which makes Cameron a Rhett Butler type. Imitation is the truest form of flattery, they say.
This role was DeCarlo’s first starring role and it made her a star of B pictures, until she ran into Lily Munster of the T.V. show “The Munsters” which sadly is how I see her in the picture as an old woman. Now mind you she is truly beautiful although classic ballet may not be her forte. Producer Walter Wanger did a coast-to-coast search and said she was chosen from 20,000 persons who tried out. DeCarlo’s story is she had pictures in revealing costumes taken and got two childhood friends from Vancouver, Reginald Reid and Kenneth Ross McKenzie, who had became pilots, to arrange their friends to lobby on her behalf.”
The film was a “project racing up the ladder of success before tripping and hitting every rung on the way down,” according to critic Kristen. The director was originally going to be John Ford and producer Walter Wanger’s vision was creating an “ Arabian Nights story in western setting.” Kristen again comments, “It’s safe to say Wanger never read “Arabian Nights” because outside of DeCarlo acting sultry, revealing her bare midriff and wearing harem pants, there’s little of that compendium’s storytelling.
The technical crew should be complemented including cinematographers W. Howard Greene and Hal Mohr who capture her on film as utterly breathtaking and beautiful. Vera West’s costumes, with a mix of styles including Arabian Chinese and western are beautiful and through the magic of movies, Miss DeCarlo looks marvelous even after riding in a rough stagecoach for days and days.
If there is only the typical bow to the seductive women of Orientalism in a few scenes, equal so there is little of the Alabama Hills as well. They were here according to the Inyo Independent, but in the film except for some long shots in the rocks and showing the mountains, most of the Lone Pine footage is back projected. On November 14, 1944 the II reported, “A company of 38 Universal Studio employees were in Lone Pine last weekend, shooting scenes on a technicolor (sic) film reportedly entitled ‘Salome, Where She Danced.’” The writer continued, “The company arrived on Friday and returned to Hollywood Monday. The group stayed at the Dow Hotel, and were dined by Johnny Morris of the Mt. Whitney Café.
Without belaboring the point, what a movie like this demonstrates is the power of Oriental stereotypes in Hollywood and perhaps even in the West after the Civil War. I found the film fun although it has never been official release in a good print. It can be found on youtube and would make fun to sit down and watch on a hot summer night and just chill.
By the way, Salome is a town between Quartzite and Wickenburg in Arizona. A railroad-stopping place it is about the same size as Lone Pine. Dick Wick Hall, and Arizonian humorist, claims Salome co-founder Charles H. Pratt’s wife “had taken off her shoes in the Sonoran Desert and danced to keep the soles of her feet from burning on the hot sand. Her reward was to have a town named after her. Hall drew stick figures of Salome’s dance, and like many a newspaper proprietor boosting his town, hyped it as the place where Salome danced.”