Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Helen Morgan, Joan Peers, Fuller Mellish Jr., Jack Cameron, Henry Wadsworth
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts
Fine Early Talkie
Mr Peter G George | Ellon, Aberdeenshire United Kingdom | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Applause is an important film in the history of the movies. It is one of the first talking pictures which really moves. Rather than using long static shots, Rouben Mamoulian directed the film in such a way that it is full of camera movement. Moreover the film uses interesting camera perspectives from above and below and is imaginatively edited. Many early talkies look like filmed stage plays and are often hard to enjoy. Applause is not only important it is also enjoyable. This is because Mamoulian uses his imaginative direction to tell a moving and involving story. The film begins in the 1910s with burlesque star Kitty Darling (Helen Morgan) giving birth. She decides to send her daughter April to a convent. When April (Joan Peers) returns as an adult, she is pursued by Kitty's sleazy husband and against her will forced into the world of burlesque. Her mother is now a fading star and needs her, but she is repelled by the low class theatre lifestyle. April meets a clean-cut sailor and is faced with a choice, whether to go with him or remain with her mother in a job she hates. Mamoulian tells the story in a realistic way. Far from glamorising the dancing women, he accentuates all their flaws. He shows close-ups of women with gold teeth, unshapely legs and rumpled stockings. The dancing in the film is often mediocre as if Mamoulian is intent on showing that these women are just going through the motions; that they are dancing only because they need the money. Applause is not like later musicals where everyone sings and dances perfectly. It portrays the bottom rung of the entertainment ladder and tries to portray it accurately with all its faults. The acting in Applause is on the whole very good. There are some scenes where the acting is rather stiff and stilted, but generally the performances are naturalistic. Helen Morgan does well as the aging Kitty. Hers is a courageous performance, sympathetic and moving. It is great to have the chance to hear the legendary Broadway star sing her signature tune "What Wouldn't I do for that Man?" Joan Peers is delightful. Her romantic scenes are sincere and believable. Her sweet, shy performance is one of the highlights of the film.The print on the Kino DVD is very good. It seems to be complete and has only a few tiny scratches and nicks. The photography is clear and sharp with good image detail. Unfortunately the soundtrack is much less good. The problem is not so much with hiss and crackle as that the sound is at times indistinct. It is often, especially at the start of the film, difficult to hear all the dialogue. It is a pity that the sound quality is rather poor, but the story is never hard to follow and the film remains wonderfully enjoyable. The DVD has a good number of extras, including some clips of Morgan singing and galleries of production stills and promotional material. It should be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in early sound film and the beginnings of the movie musical."
Still Powerful After 75 Years!
Jery Tillotson | New York, NY United States | 05/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This nearly l00 year-old movie is still a fascinating excursion into the dark side of the Jazz Age. Made in l929 by wunderkind Rouben Maumoulian, the movie is often so seamy and dark and brutal that you still cringe. Helen Morgan has to be admired for allowing herself to play someone so repulsively weak and cringing. You see her at the turn of the century as hot little Kitty Darling, burlesque performer. She performs with a stable of "beef-trust" gals--genuine over-the-top burlesque dancers--who are all fat, sloppy and so unattractive you wonder if even the bottom of the barrel burlesque houses would have hired them. During this segment, Mamoulian lets you have it between the eyes: a montage of shots of sweating, broken-tooth lechers and bored, exhausted looking women with wrinkled tights and enormous thighs and rumps. Joan Peers portrays the innocent, convent bred daughter who leaves her cocoon and sees her mother on stage for the first time. When "Applause" was first released in late l929, the reaction was definitely ambilavent. Even then, critics and movie goers were turned off by the relentlessly down-beat tempo. Many were hoping to see a glamorous Helen Morgan, the radiant star of the Broadway smash, "Show Boat." What they saw was a flabby, weak looking entertainer who sported a head of bleached curls throughout the movie. You have to wonder why even a weak a character as Kitty Darling would tolerate a boyfriend as sleazy as the one she clings to throughout the movie. Still, this is a fascinating look at what the just emerging "talkers" could produce. Cameras were generally still frozen into place because of that new fangled gadget--the microphone. Mamoulian moves the camera all over the place and creates striking scenes of dramatic lighting and shadows. Unfortunately, this movie did nothing for careers of its talented cast. Helen Morgan made only a few more movies and Joan Peers, who plays her daughter and received glowing reviews, vanished off the radar screen."
An astounding film
Alan | New York, NY | 01/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rouben Mamoulian was one of the great innovators in film. This story of an aging burlesque queen, her daughter, and her sleazy and amoral husband-manager ought to be a cheap, silly melodrama, given the script. But under Mamoulian's stunning direction, and with Helen Morgan giving a devastating, unflinching performance as the pathetic yet ultimately noble burlesque queen--a woman completely lacking in self-esteem but who is willing to sacrifice everything to protect her daughter---it packs a surprising punch.Mamoulian focuses on the lurid and grotesque side of burlesque, but rather than making you turn away in disgust, his direction, combined with Morgan's willingness to be vulnerable and needy, make this painfully compelling to watch. Because of Mamoulian's visual style, which was way ahead of what anyone else was doing at the time, and the story's sexual frankess, the whole film seems very modern. There is some amazing location shooting in 1929 New York.Kino's transfer is about as good as it could possibly be given the film's age and relative obscurity, and there are some very interesting extras. While some dialogue in the early parts of the film is impossible to understand, this seems to have been unfixable: Mamoulian knew that if he wanted the camera to move as much he did, the sound from the movement of the large cameras (which were all that were available at that time) would make it impossible to hear some dialogue. He decided that his visuals were more important, and in the particular scenes in which this occurs, I think he was right.This film is one of the early masterpieces of the sound era. It holds up extraordinarily well. Start watching it. After five minutes, you'll be hooked in a way that few films manage."
FAME! [1929 that is!]
Alan | 06/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"HELEN MORGAN [looking somewhat like Goldie Hawn in 'Death Becomes Her' - before the transformation] shines as the burning out Star [somewhat along the lines of a weaker Madame Rose - who made it to burlesque - but not Broadway] - tied to 'heel' Fuller Mellish Jr. with saintly daughter [Joan Peers]- who brings new meaning to 'the Show Must Go On!' - quite a transformation for this very, very talented gal [strikingly like Carrie Fisher]- Henry Wadsworth as Tony, the Young Sailor brings a breath of wholesome air to this shade tale of burlesque on the skids - brilliantly envisioned and conceived by ROUBEN MAMOULIAN - who certainly went on to bigger, bigger and better things - BUT this one's a real find.PITY that the existing copy of somewhat damaged [like most of the cast ..... ] but still quite worth watching over and over again.GREAT CAMERA-WORK - rivalling the world-weary Cabaret girls in 'Blue Angel' - never before have we seen SUCH a large and tired chorus line of gals - and fittingly so - Grandmamas possibly to Fosse's unshaven KitKatClub girls of CABARET.Bit of a downer - one can see why this one did not quite work - but Helen Morgan is quite unforgettable - so's the rest - especially the very contemporary HENRY WADSWORTH [shades of Brad Pitt here....]Movie also features great vintage shots of Manhattan's sky line and sky-scrapers circa 1929."