Stage director Rouben Mamoulian jolted the (at the time) moribund sound-film industry with innovative sound experiments and revolutionary camera techniques with his electrifying feature-film debut Applause. In this backstage musical tragedy, Kitty Darling (Helen Morgan), a big-time burlesque star, sends her young daughter to a convent to get her away from the sleazy burlesque environment. Years later, Kitty has hit the skids, her best days behind her. Now an alcoholic living in the past, she has taken up with a low-life burlesque comic by the name of Hitch (Fuller Mellish Jr.). But then her now-grown daughter, April (Joan Peers) returns. Kitty, embarrassed by her condition, marries Hitch so that April won't be ashamed of her. Nevertheless, when April arrives, she is disgusted with her mother and her decrepit life. Shocked and lonely, April roams the city streets and meets an equally lonely young man --Tony (Henry Wadsworth). They fall in love and agree to marry. When April goes to tell her mother about their final plans for the wedding, she overhears Hitch belittling Kitty, calling her a has-been. Infuriated, April calls off the wedding, joining the chorus line of a burlesque show, and Kitty, thinking that April is going to be married, is deeply despaired.
by Paul Brenner synopsis