Rouben Mamoulian Thornton Delahanty - Essay

Thornton Delahanty

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The] spoken word has placed a hardship on the cause of motion pictures simply because dialogue tends to slow up the action and to atrophy that panoramic fluidity of the camera which was a chief and startling virtue in the silent film days.

In view of which it is interesting to note how one director has succeeded, to an unusual degree, in freeing himself from the fetters of sound recording. The picture is "Applause" … and the director is Rouben Mamoulian. (p. 240)

[There is] constant evidence that a creative intelligence was responsible for the making of "Applause." Having been given a free rein, Mr. Mamoulian went about his business with nothing to rely on other than his own skill in showmanship and, I suspect, fairly good acquaintance with the best of the latter day silent pictures.

The fact that he had dialogue to deal with didn't disturb him at all. Instead of allowing the dialogue to intrude itself in the story or even to take a respectable place alongside of it, Mamoulian used his camera for all it was worth and made it tell the story.

The result is that "Applause" exists—to me, at any rate—as a cohesive, well integrated series of pictures. Its intensity, its sharp projections of tragedy, emerge from the eye of the camera; an omniscient, omnipresent eye that slides easily over the links of the story and emphasizes only the true and the relevant. (pp. 240-41)...

(The entire section is 524 words.)