Applause (1929)

Applause (1929)

“The kid deserves a better break. Why, this burlesque racket is no place for her!”

An aging burlesque star (Helen Morgan) with a manipulative boyfriend (Fuller Mellish, Jr.) tries to prevent her daughter (Joan Peers) — who has fallen in love with a kind sailor (Henry Wadsworth) — from following in her footsteps.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Has-Beens
  • Rouben Mamoulian Films
  • Showgirls
  • Single Mothers

Rouben Mamoulian’s directorial debut remains one of the most creatively conceived early talkies; as noted in Stuart Galbraith IV’s review for DVD Talk, “Compared with the stage-bound, bolt-the-camera-to-the-floor look of nearly all the earliest sound films, Applause is downright astounding.” A glimpse at the stills below provides evidence of Mamoulian’s (and cinematographer George J. Folsey’s) visual brilliance and effective use of on-location shooting. The film is also notable for providing torch singer Helen Morgan with one of a handful of leading cinematic roles as a Stella Dallas-like mother sacrificing all for her daughter. Unfortunately, the storyline itself is pure melodrama through-and-through, with few surprises and many cliches, making this one merely recommended rather than must-see.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Creative direction and cinematography

  • Fine on-location shooting

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Applause (1929)

  1. Not must-see.

    It’s very likely I’d seen this before because it was all looking quite familiar – but, boy, does this thing *creak*!

    Mamoulian and his DP do indeed serve up some nice location scenery and some interesting angles here and there. And the cast is not bad, really. But, goodness, that script! It’s forever trying to sabotage everything. (Or, it may have just gone over better at the time – but yikes!)

    I did rather like one long sequence: Peers figures it will probably be the ‘kind’ thing to do if she convinces Wadsworth that she doesn’t want to marry him but, instead, prefers staying on the stage. The break-up extends from a restaurant to Peers walking Wadsworth to his train. The pacing in the effectively directed sequence is so hesitant and filled equally with unease and longing, which makes it all rather moving.

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