Let us start with the outlandish set designed by Rambova, based on the drawings by Aubrey Beardsley that accompanied the printed edition of Wilde’s play. This was clearly intended as the art-film of its day, and the sets and costumes—many especially created for Rambova in Paris—cost more than $350,000, an outrageous price at the time. Most of these creations are a bit like surreal versions of what the blogger for “Garbo Laughs” describes as art-deco meets Dr. Seuss. Aren’t the entries to most empty wells, in which Jokaanan is imprisoned, filigreed with metal flowers in the shape of a birdcage? Doesn’t every young teenage girl wear Christmas-tree lights in her hair to dazzle her suitors (a strange display described by some fashion connoisseurs as a “dandelion headdress”) while attired in a black almost see-through blouse and a black upper-thigh-length skirt that is so scant that when she prepares to dance she must put on a veil or two instead of taking them off?
It certainly does if the love-sick Narraboth, pining away for his chance to kiss Herod’s daughter, and his “friend” the page of Herodias (Arthur Jasmine)—a relationship stressed later in the work by Salomé—have their way. Throughout the long scene in which Salomé attempts to cajole Narraboth to give her the keys to Jokaanan’s cell, the male couple recoil mostly by holding onto one another while entwining their hands, at one point, the page even briefly stroking the Captain’s beautifully painted tits. If Narraboth is ready to kill himself over Salomé’s dismissal of him, he is also willing to stroke the flesh of his “friend” every chance he gets.