December 23, 2015
Review #773: Applause.
Helen Morgan (Kitty Darling), Joan Peers (April Darling), Fuller Mellish Jr. (Hitch Nelson), Jack Cameron (Joe King), Henry Wadsworth (Tony), and Roy Hargrave (Slim Lamont) Directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
Two things brought me to watch this film: It was from 1929, a year I had not reviewed anything from (the 1920's is the 2nd least covered decade in the 5 years Movie Night has been around. 1930 and 1910-1914 also haven't been covered, though the former has more feature films released in that year), but the critical reason was the fact that it was an all-talking backstage musical (a musical with the plot revolving around production of a play/musical) in 1929 that shot on location in Manhattan (with shots also done at Paramount's Astoria Studios in Queens), released two years after The Jazz Singer, a groundbreaking movie that was the advent for talkie movies, though even that film was a "part-talkie", a hybrid of silent inter titles and sound. (Lights of New York, released in 1928, was billed as the first all-talking picture). With Applause however, it is a sound film, effects and all.
One thing I like is the camera shots, particularly ones low on the ground (such as the wheels of a train moving across a track), ones showing the performance of the performers, but I also like this one shot midway through the film, in which you see only the legs of a few of our characters, with dialogue being spoken through it. Yes, it pans up to show faces, but I guess I like the idea of not having to show faces to get dialogue across. One of my favorite location shots is the one of the Brooklyn Bridge, but there are other nice shots as well, especially ones showing buildings all across Manhattan like the Wolworth (if you're wondering, this is occurring during a date atop a roof by two of our characters). Shots aside, the movie certainly has a charm to it, especially with the musical aspects, but also due to Helen Morgan, a singer turned actress in one of her first films with a big role, stealing the show. While the romance between Peers and Wadsworth could be characterized as "spur of the moment", it sure makes for good quirky charm. Applause is an interesting little movie that stands out for being a sound musical not bogged down by static sound or boring locations, instead being a movie of its own worth. It's not a great musical, but it is a charming movie, and for me that's more than enough.
Happy Festivus, everyone.
Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.