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Classical Conservative Ideology as Depicted in the 1929 Film Applause

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Vanderbilt University
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The film Applause is a 1929 black and white backstage musical talkie that was recorded by Astoria Studios of Paramount pictures, located in New York. The film is recognized as one of the few movies that were able to break loose from the restrictions of the bulky sound technology equipment, a factor that enabled it to be shot in a location in Manhattan. Applause is an exceptional ancient film that employs a monaural blended soundtrack to create a spatial profundity that was rare in the early Hollywood cinemas. The film unfolds as a melodrama backstage musical and its plot majors around Kitty Darling, (Helen Morgan), an artist who is past her prime years, and her angelic little girl April, (Joan Peer) who is grudgingly being prepared as a bankable replacement . (Choice Reviews Online). Exceptional utilization of camera movement skills in the cinema is a striking accomplishment; however, the acoustic spatial outline is a cutting edge in this meticulously portrayed film. Applause, through its ingenious utilization of sound, changed the video recording trends of the past and laid the foundation for contemporary advanced audio creation procedure. In taking a gander at strategies for film sound production, both pre and post Applause, we can appreciate the role that this film played in molding the development of sound in cinema.

By definition, classical conservatism is an ideology whose main tenet is the authority, order, and hierarchy (Murphy 204). This theory exists in both political and economic forms. Classical conservatism is regarded as the antithesis of classical liberalism. While liberalism favors the equality and liberty of individuals and limited government involvement in peoples personal affairs, classical conservatism, on the other hand, favors the authority, order, and utilization of traditional power structures in governing people. Majorly, classical conservatism includes the traditional class system and a robust top-down system of governance that conducts central planning. According to political and historical analysts, at an extreme level, the tenets of classical conservatism can lead to a tyranny of numbers and thus instigate a social, economic, and technological stagnation (Freeden 321). On the other hand, if the theory is practiced in moderation, it can act as an effective methodology of tempering other conservative and liberal forms which mostly turn out to be chaotic and idealistic in their pure forms.

Arguably, classical conservatism has been depicted in the film Applause as the default and the oldest ideology over the span of human history. In the contemporary society, the ideology has taken many forms including monarchy, dictatorship, military, aristocracy and theocracy (Braudy and Marshall 102). The ideology follows the general notion that all men are created as equal beings and are patently ridiculous and contrary to evidence. The major tenet of this theory as portrayed by Rouben Mamoulian is that humans belong to a particular social order that the societies should not disrupt. This can be exemplified by the fact that there are only a few members of the society who are fit to govern while a significant majority are not. Due to this aspects, it is essential to note that classical conservatism theory I unapologetically elitist (Braudy and Marshall 39). Conferring to this theory, the aspect of challenging this established social and political order is to instigate eons of bloodshed and chaos as depicted by the French revolution. Although scholars claim that classical conservatism is hostile to individuals who intend to leave their social positions, the theory does not necessitate the society to safeguard the welfare of the weakest members of the society (Freeden 341). In times of crisis, the principles of classical conservatism are captured by the idea noblesse oblige. Moreover, because the society is viewed as an organic whole, classical conservatism views religion and government as inseparable institutions that are supposed to co-exist harmoniously to promote the common good of the society. Moreover, the approach holds that religion should be uniform to prevent social fragmentation and that the state and the church should reinforce the strength of each other by working collaboratively. In respect to economy of a nation, the theory of classical conservatism privileges the societal needs rather than individual wants and desires thus portraying itself as a paternalistic or statist orientation concerning economic management.

Although the contemporary modern democracy majorly rejects the notion of hereditary privilege and instead embrace the aspect of legal and political equality of all citizens, the impacts of classical conservatism are prominent in many of the world's cultures (Murphy 213). For instance, Europes feudal and aristocratic heritage is depicted by the persistence of constitutional monarchies in nations such as Spain, Germany and other Scandinavian countries in which hereditary kings and queens play a symbolic role that is supported by the taxpayers money (Braudy and Marshall 40). Essentially, nations such as Britain boasts of a much diminished but very visible House of Lords, which traditionally acted as the legislative chamber for those individuals that owned lands and title deeds. Remarkably, some countries still uphold the value of state churches, for instance, the Church of England, the Church of Denmark, while other nations permit display of religious symbols in public places and such as the use of crucifixes on classroom walls of schools sponsored by the tradition Catholic Bavaria Church. Astonishingly, in some countries such as Italy and Germany, Christian Democratic Parties plays an influential role in the electoral politics.

The executive producer and director of the film, Rouben Mamoulian, declined to limit Applause to the flat discourse recording utilized by Paramount and other established studios of the time. Rather, the background of his theatre and the compelling desire to capture the quintessence of a clamoring vaudeville culture inspired him to move past the customary filmmaking hones (Mamoulian 23). Applause was created during a critical period (1927 1933) of the quiet film to sound transition. Before its release, sound creation experienced issues related to camera vociferation, character's vocal pitch, circular segment lighting murmur, amplifier and microphone design, and projection synchronization. Owing to these factors, film recording was regularly conducted within the soundproofed confines of the studio. The new environment for shooting Applause created a sterile sound condition that Mamoulian was forced to overcome through ingenious strategies and improvements of the audio recording methods that existed at the time. Lucy Fischer's, Applause: The Visual and Acoustic Landscape describes the results, "Yet on the sound stages of Paramounts Astoria studios Mamoulian managed to create an aurally dynamic film (p. 240),. Fischer's critique also merits the creation of synchronizing sound outside the studio condition and his introduction of the discerning sound-related world that is uncovered by silence. In one such scene, Kitty sits alone with just the low discourse of two darlings talking off-screen in the corridor. This sound design is demonstrative of the optical-image perspective. It is discernible to contemplate that the viewer hears the sound-related perspective of Kitty's character. Another eminent sound-image building happens in backstage as the stage show music encroaches past the changing area and the performing artist's dialogue both on and off screen.

Mamoulian's original directorial endeavor has been depicted as "trials that encompassed commotion ambient noise practices or, noisy expressionistic sounds that overpowered normal and personal discussions" (p.280). Sometimes, Applause appears caught between two universes of existing organized sound and the present real cacophony (Choice Reviews Online). The desire to replicate acoustic authenticity is portrayed in scenes stances such as when a rowdy noise of the vaudeville theatre seems to walk out through the entrance door. The film also employed a new system by recording two separate tracks and afterwards consolidating the multi-tracks into a single blended track (Mamoulian 34). This critical initial phase in film sound post-generation would soon be embraced and enhanced by other notable studios. The sound recorded in the film could now be upgraded by substituting them with sounds that were produced and recorded in a more refined and polished environment. It is this mixing of on screen, off screen, and non-concurrent sound that separates Applause from earlier sound movies.

Motion picture houses established during the invention of sound film used solitary sound sources to exhibit the monaural movie disc recording. Typically, the pre-recorded discs could be set behind the screen to convey voices as exuding from the on-screen characters (Choice Reviews Online). This single source approach may clarify why the generation of movie Applause depends upon variable loudness of the dialogue and off-screen ambient clamor to create profundity. The monaural sound field exists as a single vertical plane instead of an extended flat plane that is available in a multi-channel stereo recording. The main methods for creating spatial profundity in a single channel soundtrack is to modify the variable loudness of source tracks. When we consider that real-world sound is transmitted in all directions, it becomes apparent how significant audio presentation is in creating a captivating cinematic experience. Mary Anne Doane Outlines in the Voice in Cinema, The place in which the signifier manifests its self is the acoustical space of the theatre (p. 323). The spatial dimension of sound in the film Applause conveys the viewer closer to the verisimilitude of film. If images confined realism and authenticity, sound authenticity, on the other hand, could similarly be restricted by monaural single-track recording. Similar to deep stage composition that adds dimensional reality to the optical image captured by cameras, the procedure of multitrack recording can widen the dimensional reality of the sound and the images related to a particular scene (Mamoulian 24). Although the method used in recording sound in the movie Applause may seem to be simple when compared to the modern day 9.1 surround standards, the modern sound systems could be exhilarating or even unsettling to the audience considering that they had just begun adjusting to the flat dialogue conveyed using audio talkies.

The film Applause manages to depict a universe within the screen regardless of the bumpy recording ability of camera and sometimes unexpected audio level discontinuity. Due to the bold action and steps that were taken by the Applause movie director, other films such as Gold Diggers (1933) and Citizen Kane, (1941) greatly benefited from improving the techniques originally used in Applause. Owing to this, the foundation of deep space was enhanced, and the acoustic design encouraged development and integration of pure optical sound image which truly satisfied the film experience of spectators.


Works Cited

Post-Classical Hollywood: film industry, style and ideology since 1945. Choice Reviews Online, vol. 48, no. 06, Jan. 2011, doi:10.5860/choice.48-3172

Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Freeden, Michael. Theorizing About Conservative Ideology. Ideologies and Political Theory, 1998, pp. 317347., doi:10.1093/019829414x.003.0009.

Mamoulian, Rouben. Applause. 100 Film Musicals, 2011, pp. 1769., Doi: 10.1007/978-1-84457-568-8_6.

Murphy, Philip. Conservative Factions, Tendencies,...

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