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Applause (Paramount). It is surprising to find Helen Morgan, who only a short while ago was very much of an ingenue, cast now as a tired burlesque actress witha grown daughter. It is equally surprising to find Rouben Mamoulian, recently director of legitimate productions for Manhattan's Theatre Guild, experimenting so weakly with the cinema. He takes the life out of a routine story, always effective hitherto, by exaggerating the characters and by padding slack scenes with camera tricks. The triangle consists of , Miss Morgan, her tough pimping lover, and her daughter who, since her birth under the rose in a stage dressing room, lived in a convent until sent for to join the burlesque troupe. . Applause entertains only at certain moments when Miss Morgan becomes vividly the flabby, debauched, tender, overscented queen she is playing. Technical absurdities: high mass in the convent with some nuns in church and others idling about watching them; the uniform fatness of the chorines; the company parading round the table on which Miss Morgan has just borne the baby.
His Glorious Night (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Playing a poor soldier in love with a princess involves John Gilbert in continual changes of uniform, combined with kissing, eye-rolling and declamation that surpasses all his previous efforts at military love. Before he marries Catherine Dale Owen, a succession of amatory scenes has been enacted in arbors and balconies with a frenzy that may cause the Gilbert public, usually respectful, to titter. Dialog from Ferenc Molnar's play, Olympia, adapted by Willard Mack, is recited by Gilbert as though it were blank verse. Only good shot: a fall in a steeplechase.
They Had to See Paris (Fox). Always uncomfortable when he is being photographed, Will Rogers tried to create the easy atmosphere of the legitimate stage by extemporizing wisecracks and routine not specified in his adaptation of Homer Croy's novel. Usually his antics, having mixed up the cast and irritated his director, were halted, and the extemporized pieces shot over again. In the finished film Rogers' unassumed self-consciousness helps to make sharper his portrait of an Oklahoma oil man who takes his family to Paris to get background. The situations are conventional but fairly funny and so is the dialog which Owen Davis and Rogers worked on together. Best shot: Rogers and the Grand Duke Michael of Russia on the stairs.
Fast Company (Paramount). Ring Lardner's and George M. Cohan's story about a swell-headed baseball player differed radically, even as a stage piece, from most stories about swell-headed people. This Elmer, the ballplayer, does not play practical jokes or make himself objectionable and is not forced to undergo a change of character in the denouement so as to be tolerated by the public. He is a nice fellow, not brainy but good-natured, cocky but not ambitious, always trying to eat more than his trainer wants him to. The cinema is better than the play. Formal plot has been cut down until Fast Company is little more than a character sketch. Mildly, continuously amusing, it makes you think of Lardner's syndicated comic strips about baseball, pleasant and somehow realistic tableaux arranged around wisecracks. Best shot: Jack Oakie expounding his theory of dietetics.