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Applause (1973)

TV Movie  |   |  Comedy, Musical  |  15 March 1973 (USA)
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An aspiring actress, whose sugar-coated appearance belies her ruthless drive, worms herself into the life of an aging star and schemes to replace her on the stage as the star of a new play.


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Title: Applause (TV Movie 1973)

Applause (TV Movie 1973) on IMDb 7.7/10

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Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »
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Cast overview:
Penny Fuller ...
Sarah Marshall ...
Robert Mandan ...
Howard Benedict
Harvey Evans ...
Rod McLennan ...
Buzz Richards
Debbie Bowen ...
Bob Sherman ...
Bert (as Rob Sherman)
David Knight ...
James Berwick ...


An aspiring actress, whose sugar-coated appearance belies her ruthless drive, worms herself into the life of an aging star and schemes to replace her on the stage as the star of a new play.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical





Release Date:

15 March 1973 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A television version of the 1970s Broadway musical with the London cast. See more »


Remake of All About Eve (1950) See more »


Backstage Babble
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Lee Adams
Sung by chorus
See more »

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All about Bacall
6 November 2004 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Applause' was a Broadway musical based on the cult movie 'All About Eve', but it differs significantly from that film. After Lauren Bacall starred as Margo Channing in 'Applause' on Broadway, she repeated her starring role in the West End production of that show in London. In one of the most ironic casting choices in history, Bacall was replaced in the Broadway cast by Anne Baxter. In the film 'All About Eve', Baxter had played Eve Harrington, the would-be actress who schemed to take over Margo Channing's life. In the cast of 'Applause', Baxter finally got that chance.

'All About Eve' and 'Applause' were indirectly based on a true incident in the career of European actress Elisabeth Bergner. Screenwriter Joseph L Mankiewicz borrowed the name 'Eve Harrington' from the Preston Sturges film 'The Lady Eve', in which a scheming woman named Harrington uses 'Eve' as her criminal alias.

I was peripherally involved in the London production of 'Applause', as a minor staffer in the producer's office. In 1973, I hadn't yet seen the film 'All About Eve', and I couldn't understand why there was so much fuss over this movie. One of the songs in 'Applause' is called 'Fasten Your Seat Belts (It's going to be a bumpy night)', but the song is performed at a party and has nothing to do with air travel. I didn't understand at the time that this song was inspired by a famous line in the original film.

'All About Eve' begins with a ceremony for the Sarah Siddons Award. This was (at the time) a fictional award named for a real stage actress; following the film's success, there is now a genuine Sarah Siddons Award. For the Broadway and London stage productions of 'Applause' (and this TV version), the trophy was changed to the Tony Award, with permission from the American Theatre Wing (who give out the real Tony Awards). In the opening scene of the stage musical, there was an awkward tech cue as we hear the thoughts of famed actress Margo Channing (Bacall) in pre-recorded voice-over. This was done much more easily in the TV version. Bacall waves a Tony Award overhead, wearing a sleeveless gown that gives us a full view of her shaved armpits. The camera shifts into slo-mo, to make sure we don't miss those armpits. She then goes to a party where the guests engage in peculiar scat-singing. ('Ba-ba-bee-ba!')

'Applause' is notable for having a script by Broadway veterans Betty Comden and Adolph Green but songs by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, the team best known for the score of 'Bye Bye Birdie'. Comden and Green usually wrote the lyrics for their scripts; for 'Applause', they were brought into the project after Adams and Strouse had written a score.

What is it about gay men and aging actresses? For reasons that elude me, the movie 'All About Eve' is some sort of gay rite of passage. The musicals of Comden and Green contain large amounts of material that's gay-friendly, but not explicitly so. 'Applause' is the exception. With its background of Broadway musicals, the gay aspects of the New York theatre get far more than a look-in here. In the original film, Margo Channing's dresser was an older woman; in 'Applause', this character is a handsome young man named Duane Fox. She invites him to escort her to an after-theatre party. When Duane demurs that he's got a date, Bacall theatrically tosses her long tawny hair and says 'Bring him along!'.

The most bizarre scene in this TV special occurs when gayboy Duane brings Margo to his favourite bar in Greenwich Village, where lots of good-looking young men want to meet this aging actress. (Not another woman is in sight; I guess none of these guys can get a girlfriend.) Bacall performs a musical number in front of a wall of multi-coloured neon lights, each light forming a letter of the alphabet. These letters appear to be randomly scattered across the wall, but if you follow them in a knight's tour they spell out "GAY POWER", with one extra letter as a decoy. As Margo leaves, a young man named Danny shouts: 'I love her!'

A far more enjoyable number is the title song, performed by would-be actors who work as waiters and waitresses at Joe Allen's. (In the 1970s, this was a real restaurant in the Broadway theatre district, noted for its distinctive red and white tablecloths.) For Bacall's pleasure, all the boys and girls at Joe Allen's perform an elaborate dance number referencing other Broadway musicals, ranging from 'Oklahoma!' to 'Oh Calcutta!'.

There's some contrived dialogue here that wasn't in the movie. When Karen Richards feels guilt for draining the gas tank of Margo's car, she imagines she hears comments about this. ("You're a gas!" "T'anks!") More enjoyable is a scene that wasn't in 'All About Eve', with Karen and her husband Buzz (named 'Lloyd' in the movie) attending a party. All the guests wear signs on their backs, with each sign bearing the name of a famous person. Since no guest can read his own sign, they must respond to clues from other guests to learn who they are.

'Applause' is a good (but not great) musical, adapted from a movie that worked better as a film. The best elements here are direct references to Broadway's theatre community that weren't in the film, such as the gypsy-robe scene and the gay subculture. But 'Applause' can never be revived except as a period piece, since it makes absolutely no mention of Aids. I'll rate this enjoyable TV version 6 points out of 10, and I wish someone would explain to me why gay men are so fascinated by aging actresses.

8 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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