Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Applause (1929)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Applause (1929)

In this early landmark backstage musical drama (tragedy) with innovative sound techniques and a constantly-moving camera, from director Rouben Mamoulian (his first film and first feature-length sound film) - the talkie film's main theme was to provide a realistic and cynical look at seamy backstage life:

  • Kitty Darling (real-life torch singer Helen Morgan) was introduced as a voluptuous, 1920s Broadway and nightclub burlesque ("strip and tease") singing star
  • the chorus line of cheap-looking burlesque dancers in the Zenith Opera House was composed of unattractive, pudgy, fat-legged and washed-up, middle-aged chorines wearing wrinkled white tights, rather than conventional cute blondes
  • after giving birth to a daughter named April in her dressing room, Kitty also learned through a telegram that her husband had been executed for murder; she was horrified that now, she was a single mother
  • with advice from Joe King (Jack Cameron), one of the burlesque clowns and also her suitor, the self-sacrificing Kitty was determined to save her growing 5 year-old young daughter April from more experienced and manipulative characters, by sending her away to be convent-raised and sheltered
  • years later when April (Joan Peers as adult) was 17 years old, Kitty had become a fading, boozing, aged and "washed-up" performer
  • Kitty sang the plaintive What Wouldn't I Do For That Man to a photograph of her latest boyfriend-lover - the unscrupulous, predatory, unfaithful, belittling and brutish "Bad Boy" lover and burlesque comic Hitch Nelson (Fuller Mellish, Jr.) - it was obvious that he was a two-timing cheat (and was only spending her money), as he kissed another burlesque chorine down the hall - in a triangulated split-screen view; Kitty married him to appear respectable to April
  • Hitch demanded that April return home from the convent, and made the sinister promise: "We'll be one big happy family." After leaving the convent, April was thoroughly embarrassed, shocked, and repulsed when she saw her mother onstage during a burlesque show and heard leering male audience spectators calling her 'washed-up.' She also found herself the victim of Hitch's groping, unwanted kisses, and his efforts to have her enter into the seamy and sleazy world of burlesque and sexual promiscuity. April pleaded with her mother: "Let's go away from here."
  • one night when April was walking on the street and receiving unwelcome come-ons from men, a lonely sailor-suitor Tony (Henry Wadsworth) from Wisconsin shielded her, and they went on an all-night dinner date - and ended up sitting on a Brooklyn bridge steel girder; they concluded their date with their 'first love' kiss; their next date was also high atop a skyscraper while overlooking the New York buildings and sights below
  • the young couple made plans to marry each other, but April called it off due to her despondency regarding her mother; she had overheard Hitch calling Kitty a washed-up fat old woman, who would have to live off April's earnings; feeling guilty, April decided to join the burlesque show chorus line to financially help to support her mother
  • in a disturbing and heartbreaking sequence, April reluctantly said goodbye to Tony at a restaurant and at the subway - she deceived him by telling him that she couldn't marry and live with him in Wisconsin due to her career plans to be a Broadway star

Suicidal Death of Kitty Darling

Daughter April Taking Her Mother's Place

Kitty's Death in Dressing Room
  • when April returned to her mother in the theater to tell her that she was joining the act, she saw that Kitty had suicidally poisoned herself (with an overdose of sleeping pills) and was slowly dying in her dressing room. Although despondent, she told her mother - "Nothing matters now but you, Mommy. We'll always have each other. Nothing is ever going to separate us again." She had to force herself to dance sordid burlesque (and vowed to give the crowd their 'money's worth': "I'll show them") in place of her mother, who was thought to be drunk
  • April performed in front of a male audience as her mother was slowly dying. Disgusted with herself, however, she soon realized that her needs were not met with audience applause; she became hysterical and ran off the stage
  • Tony was there to greet her and explain how he felt that she didn't really want to break up with him; they hugged and decided to go away together, embracing in front of a wall poster of a smiling Kitty. Not knowing that her mother had already passed away, April added that they also needed to take care of her mother, and Tony agreed

Burlesque Dancers Chorus Line

Split Screen: Kitty's Unfaithful Lover "Bad Boy" Hitch

Kitty On-Stage

April's All-Night Date With Sailor

Atop a Skyscraper

Last Image - Kissing In Front of Wall Poster of Kitty


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