Wilde, Beardsley and Beyond. "Salomé" in the Cinema: From Charles Bryant to Al Pacino


  • Pierpaolo Martino University of Bari "Aldo Moro"




Oscar Wilde, Salome, Cinema, Aubrey Beardsley


Cinematic versions of Oscar Wilde’s works – and life, such as 2018 The Happy Prince by Rupert Everett – span the entirety of cinema history from the silent era to the present age. Salomé is undoubtedly the most decadent of Wilde’s plays; the author’s debt to the Symbolist poets clearly emerges here in the disturbing music which characterises Wilde’s literary score. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the play had an enormous influence on cinema and on popular music. The 1923 silent version directed by Charles Bryant is considered one of the first art films ever made in the history of cinema. The highly stylised costumes, exaggerated acting and minimal sets created a screen image much more focused on atmosphere and on conveying a sense of the characters’ individual heightened desires than on conventional plot development. The film was shot completely in black and white, matching the illustrations done by Aubrey Beardsley in the printed edition of Wilde’s play. The most recent filmic version of Salome – the 2011 celebrated docufilm Wilde Salomé by iconic director and actor Al Pacino – documents, instead, a period in which Pacino performed in a production of Salomé, directed by actress and theatre director Estelle Parson at Los Angeles’ Wadsworth Theatre, while he was also making a movie documenting the mounting of the show and shooting a narrative film version of the play. The film is for Al Pacino, and of course for the audience, a journey, and, most importantly, a process in which Pacino re-writes not only the play but Wilde himself. The film stages, indeed, Pacino’s ‘love affair with Oscar Wilde’ and his desire to explore Wilde’s legacy in contemporary culture.





Articles and Essays

How to Cite

Wilde, Beardsley and Beyond. "Salomé" in the Cinema: From Charles Bryant to Al Pacino. (2024). Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 4. https://doi.org/10.4454/syn.v4.906