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Daughter of Herodias [1954, Chicago, St. Alphonsus Theatre]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0132
Run Time
0h 25m 45s
Date Produced
"Daughter of Herodias," sometimes also referred to as "Retribution," is a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page based on Richard Strauss's 1905 opera "Salomé", which was in turn based on Oscar Wilde's 1891 play of the same name. It represents a full-length treatment of the Salomé story, unlike Page's earlier pas de deux "Salomé and Herod." "Daughter of Herodias" premiered on January 31, 1954 at the St. Alphonsus Theater in Chicago, with Strauss's original music arranged by Isaac Van Grove and scenery and costumes by Nicholas Remisoff. This film appears to represent a full dress rehearsal, filmed the previous day: January 30, 1954. Page herself performs the role of Herodias, with Barbara Steele as Salomé, Bentley Stone as Herod, and Joe Kaminsky as John.
The film opens with a shot of a stage, lined with blue fabric, and with a variety of dancers arranged in a palace-like formation with benches, guards, royalty, etc. Costumes are mainly in red, black, and earth tones. Four court members begin dancing as an ensemble, as if announcing a prophesy. Servants then bring a woman in black onstage--presumably Herodias--and the four members of the court bow down to her. One of the servants then presents her with a large swordlike weapon which she brandishes about until a man--presumably Herod--wrests it from her. There is a bit of commotion and then a bound man--presumably John the Baptist--is brought down from his perch and seems to tell his prophesy with a brief solo. This upsets both the king and queen, but piques Salomé's interest; she approaches him. Attracted, she reaches for him but her mother steps in angrily. Salomé retreats while Herodias and John perform a semi-antagonistic pas de deux. And while they are so occupied, king Herod begins admiring Salomé's dress and hair. As Herodias and John complete their pas de deux, she places a crown on his head and two servants wrap themselves around him. But this lasts only a moment; he rejects them and tosses the crown away. This causes quite a stir; afterwards, with the king and queen both in apparently distraught states, Salomé approaches and delicately touches John, initiating a pas de deux. She veritably attaches herself to him, which is apparently against his wishes, and quite upsetting to her parents. As he removes her and she cries into her mother's arms, the king seems to call for John's beheading by a guard (with the same sword Herodias had handled earlier). The queen again takes possession of the weapon and brandishes it, but John escapes before she can use it, and guards restrain her from chasing after him. Herod takes charge of the weapon and lays it down for servants to remove; when everyone has calmed down, Salomé reappears covered in veils and embarks on her infamous "dance of seven veils." In doing so, she interacts briefly with her mother and father, is lifted to a pedestal and has her long train removed, dances very briefly alone at center, and is then assisted in her dance by two guards. During this pas de trois, Herod seems to swoon and require restraint by members of the court. Once the soldiers leave Salomé's side and Herod escapes his restrainers, Salomé approaches him and hands him two of her "scarves." She then withdraws to the other side of the room and Herodias dances at center with a large silver platter; next, she hands it off to Salomé, who hands it off to Herod. Herodias then approaches with the sword. Tensions rise and Salomé performs a variety of acrobatic feats as her parents look on; as Herodias hands off the sword and platter to servants, Salomé is once again placed upon a pedestal and Herod embraces her. Members of a court place a veil over them, and Herodias dances a somewhat crazed solo in response. When Herod and Salomé finally separate, a servant enters with John the Baptist's head on the platter. Salomé is particularly affected by this, reacting with a floor-based dance as Herodias circles the room with the platter. When she finally puts it down, Salomé approaches and seems to embrace the head, in response to which Herod empties the court of its members. All three are somewhat fascinated by the head but Herod tears Herodias away; Salomé kisses the head and outrages Herodias. He drags her away as well, and the scene ends with Herodias collapsing onto Herod while two guards try to hold Salomé back as she reaches for the severed head. The film ends here.
Additional Credit
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Strauss, Richard (is composer)
Van Grove, Isaac (music)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Steele, Barbara (is performer)
Page, Ruth (is performer)
Stone, Bentley (is performer)
Kaminsky, Joseph (is performer)