The young, handsome, but somewhat wild Eugene Morgan wants to marry Isabel Amberson, daughter of a rich upper-class family, but she instead marries dull and steady Wilbur Minafer. Their only child, George, grows up a spoiled brat. Years later, Eugene comes back, now a mature widower and a successful automobile maker. After Wilbur dies, Eugene again asks Isabel to marry him, and she is receptive. But George resents the attentions paid to his mother, and he and his whacko aunt Fanny manage to sabotage the romance. A series of disasters befall the Ambersons and George, and he gets his come-uppance in the end.
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Orson Welles' 1942 Romance Drama "The Magnificent Ambersons" is one of Welles' great achievements as a director. He also wrote the screenplay, but did not act in it. His second feature film, it is based on the 1918 novel of the same title by Booth Tarkington who won the Pulitzer Prize for this book. Welles lost control of the editing of The Magnificent Ambersons to RKO, and the final version released to audiences differed significantly from his vision for the film. More than an hour of footage was cut by the studio, and a new, happier ending was shot and tacked on. The film has always received positive reviews from critics. Even in its radically altered form, the 1942 film is often regarded as among the best American films ever made, a distinction it shares with Welles's first film, "Citizen Kane." It and "Citizen Kane" were his only films to be nominated for Best Picture.Plot Summary:The young, handsome, but somewhat wild Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotton, a life long friend of Welles from the Mercury Theater days) wants to marry Isabel Amberson (Delores Costello), daughter of a rich upper-class family, but she instead marries dull and steady Wilbur Minafer. Their only child, George (Tim Holt), grows up a spoiled brat. Years later, Eugene comes back, now a mature widower and a successful automobile maker. After Wilbur dies, Eugene again asks Isabel to marry him, and she is receptive. But George resents the attentions paid to his mother, and he and his whacko aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead a life long friend of Welles from the Mercury Theater days), manage to sabotage the romance. A series of disasters befall the Ambersons and George, and gets his come-uppance in the end.
This movie is very typical for the '40's. It's an epic family drama, inwhich a lot of drama is happening. Best example of this genre isperhaps "Gone With the Wind". Well OK, bad example perhaps since thatmovie is from 1939 and not the '40's but when you say "Gone With theWind" everyone knows the type of movie you mean. Those movie werereally popular- and flourished in the '40's. I must say though thatduring that time period some better genre movies. A lot better and morepowerful movies. Only thing that still makes this movie good and a bitmore special is Orson Welles his touch.It's funny how basically every Orson Welles movies seems so ahead ofits time. It's techniques, it's storytelling. It's all something youwouldn't expect from an '40's movie but more from one made decadeslater. Also Welles his love for the radio shows in this movie. Themovie is being made and told as a radio show, only with moving ofcourse added to it, with Welles providing his own voice for thenarration. Prior to this movie, Welles also made a radio show of thenovel, this movie as well is being based on. For this, he used most ofthe actors that also star in this movie.The movie really doesn't feature the best known actors from its era buteveryone is simple well cast and suits their roles superbly. It evenearned Agnes Moorehead an Oscar nomination. She really earned it aswell in my opinion. She played the best character out of the movie andwas truly splendid in her role. Her acting style didn't really seemedlike anything common for '40's standards, which is perhaps the reasonwhy her acting and characters stands out so much in the movie.A problem I had with the movie though is that it was too long and justnot always interesting to watch. Well, the movie actually isn't long atall with its 88 minutes but still the movie feels like a 3 hour dramaproduction. Hard to say if this is Orson Welles his fault really, sinceit were the studios that 'butchered' this movie by cutting out 50minutes of it, through editor and later turned famed director RobertWise. Maybe Welles his version was a better flowing one, with some moredrama and other moments added to it. We will never known, since the'original' Welles version is most likely lost forever.Nevertheless it otherwise still is a superior made movie, with somewonderful new fresh used techniques. Orson Welles was truly a pioneerin film-making and this movie as well is a good example of this, eventhough it's not his best or most interesting one. But is there evensuch a thing as a bad Orson Welles movie?8/10
I think I'd give just about anything to see a restored version of this film,like "Touch of Evil."Its reputation is quite justified, however, and the top critics of todayhave generally agreed that it's one of Welles' best efforts as director. Some have even said that, scene for scene, it's a better film than "CitizenKane."The opening montage, set to Welles' narration, is as good as anything of itskind that's been done before or after -- brilliantly, and I hate to use thatword because it's so often overused, it achieves two things: 1) it sets upthe dramatic side of the story, with Eugene's fawning for and losing theaffections of Isabel, and 2) putting us in a specific, historical time andplace. The story of George Minafer's downfall parallels the changing timesof America during that time, as well as American aristocracy.Then there's Agnes Moorehead, who does the most amazing work as FannyMinafer, George's aunt. She's a pressure cooker to begin with, but when theAmbersons hit rock-bottom she lets go, in a torrential, hystericalperformance that's still getting praise today."The Magnificent Ambersons" also carries an equally dramatic story ofHollywood's assault on artistic expression; almost everyone knows that RKOseized the film and cut it to pieces while Welles was out doing hisdocumentary "It's All True." Today there's other ways for great directors(Kubrick, Altman) to dodge the system, but film stock and equipment in thosedays could only be procured from big studios, and for the remainder ofWelles' career his genius would only be seen fleetingly (his adaptations ofShakespeare, Kafka's "The Trial"). It's a story as tragic as GeorgeMinafer's.
The death of an old, white-shoe, white-picket-fence America and the birth ofthe world we live in; the war between youthful obstinacy and wisenedacceptance; the feeling of time emptily passed and love passed by--Welles'mutilated masterpiece touches upon them all. The least gimmicky andemotionally the richest of Welles' work, AMBERSONS has a flaw that wouldremain, I suspect, even if Welles' additional footage had survived: theperformance of Tim Holt as Georgie Amberson. It often feels uncertainwhether Welles wants us to accept him as a lovable, immature ne'er-do-well,or despise him as a selfish prig. Perhaps a more complete shape wouldclarify the character; what remains ranks close to LOLA MONTES, THE LEOPARDand ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA in elegiac force.
Most of you have already read the synopsis, so it won't be repeated here.Many of the reviews have commented on the acting; I couldn't disagree more on this issue. Based on the personality of the characters, I believe the acting is exactly as it should be. Major Amberson and Uncle Jack, stoic characters in the book, would have acted exactly as they were portrayed by the actors. Aunt Fanny would have acted as hysterically as Agnes Moorehead portrayed her. Wilbur Minafer, ditto. I agree that Lucy was portrayed as overly mature and unduly wise, but this could have been partly the director's fault. Tim Holt may have been miscast; somehow, his portrayal of George Minafer does seem a bit "off".The first half of the film, cuts notwithstanding, still stands out as a masterpiece of cinematography. Catch the long takes of the ballroom sequence and the kitchen scene with George and Fanny. It makes you wist for what must have been; these scenes, as powerful as they are, were cut, blunting their already intense impact. Mention should be made of Stanley Cortez's camera work. The use of shadows, and complex lighting arrangements, give it an unforgettable look. The scene with Fanny at the boiler was filmed with Cortez and one other director. The different use of lighting is immediately obvious and jarring to the senses.After reading the original cutting script of the movie, the much maligned cuts really do appear to have ruined the movie. Much character development was cut; important plot points concerning the decline of the Amberson's fortune are also gone. For those interested, the cutting script really does seem to have made a much better movie than the print RKO left us with.The kitchen scene seems to be the turning point; after this scene, the movie as cut by the studio suffers very badly. It's a mish-mash of almost-disconnected scenes that makes almost no sense. Before-the-kitchen scene and after-the-kitchen scene almost play as two different movies. These cuts are obvious even to the casual observer; for example, quite suddenly, and for no apparent reason, George's character softens dramatically. In addition, scenes that aren't remotely connected to each other in content jar the senses due to their close proximity. The last half of the movie, simply put, is a mess.It's because of the last half--and the much-discussed butchering of this movie by the studio--that I must give this movie a 4, rather than the 5 that it certainly would have gotten in the original form.
The Magnificent Ambersons, still in its 88-minute form is absolutely superb. As a Welles-ophile, I placed his mane in a random search, and came up with this Warner Bros. spokesman on a live chat from some film website:Question: Thanks first of all for the excellent catalogue 2-disc special editions we've been seeing. Now, what is the status on The Magnificent Ambersons?[Warner] We're still looking for better materials on AMBERSONS. We waited for KONG and KANE and it was worth it. It will be worth it for the AMBERSONS, and yes,we will release JOURNEY INTO FEAR when we do AMBERSONS.Thus, one of the great films of all time might just see home release after all. I, personally would pay the extra for a single-edition now, and certainly still purchase the potential two-disc edition when it's released. The fact of the matter is that Welles is finally receiving the notice and respect he always deserved. I know any film fan hoped for a Criterion edition of Ambersons, but this new "Complete Mr. Arkadin" surely can rank as being greatly anticipated. The fantastic critic Jonathan Rosenbaum is completing his "Discovering Orson Welles" right now, which should be just as delightful. Surely Ambersons released in its original form would the be Coup de' gras for Welles lovers, and my personal anticipation combined with just a questionable little rumor allows for a great amount of excitment to stir. Here's to hope!
The Magnificent Ambersons is a good movie. Orson Welles does a good jobdirecting the movie. The cast is good and leading man Joseph Cotton isalso good. But this is far from a great movie. From the audience of1942 and the present audience, the substance of a great movie is justnot there. The audience of 1942 wanted to see Citizen Kane and did notget it. Most of today's audience only know Orson Welles for Kane andmaybe Touch of Evil or The Trial. The Magnificent Ambersons is as gooda production as Kane or Touch of Evil, but it lacks the drive thatTouch of Evil and Kane gave to its audience. Even the Trial kept theaudience interested until the final credits rolled onto the screen.Kane was a mystery told with amazing direction and characters. Whilethe Magnificent Ambersons have an interesting cast and story, it lacksthe drive that Welles' other films had.
"The Magnificent Ambersons" was based on the book by Booth Tarkington, and tells the story about a wealthy family in the late 1800's. One of the family members was Eugene who wanted to marry the daughter of a rich-upper class, but instead she marries another guy. During the movie, you'll see how the Ambersons has its ups and downs and how their times would change. It was written, produced and directed by the legendary Orson Welles and stars Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Tim Holt and Agnes Moorehead. "The Magnificent Ambersons" is one of my favorite movies by Orson Welles.Film Fact #1: Robert Wise, before becoming a director, was the film editor for "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons."
This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons (DVD) The recently released DVD of "The Magnificent Ambersons," Orson Welles' second and final film for RKO, is welcome indeed. Warner Bros. has provided us with a bare-bones DVD without commentary, special features of any kind or even a chapter menu. The quality of the DVD, both in picture and sound, however, is very good. It is of a cleaned up and restored print with excellent clarity, steadiness and contrast for a film of this time and the audio is of good quality for a film of 1942. I would judge the overall quality to be nearly but not quite as fine as the 2001 Warner DVD release of "Citizen Kane."As is common knowledge, the film was taken out of Welles" control and heavily edited with the ending reworked to provide a more "upbeat" conclusion. At the previews of the rough cut of the film audiences laughed at some of the scenes intended to be dramatic. Several portions of the film, not just the ending, were cut by a total of 40 minutes. Robert Wise, editor of this film and "Citizen Kane" felt that the revised ending was an improvement to which Welles vehemently disagreed.The excised footage was ultimately destroyed purportedly to "make room in the vaults" and a copy of the rough cut, supposedly sent to Welles while he was working in Brazil on another RKO project, is believed to have been lost.There are no printed credits at the end of the film but they are instead recited by Welles. I noticed immediately that there was no credit for music score -- obviously the work of Bernard Herrmann -- and discovered that, because of the cuts that were made, he insisted on his name being deleted from the credits.Even as it stands, "The Magnificent Ambersons" is widely considered to be one of the great American films and it is good to have it last on DVD
Magnificent Ambersons contrasts the story of a wealthy family's declinein fortune, with the countervailing rise of the automobile. The moviein its current form only trains viewer attention on a banal bit offinancial moralism (the comeuppance); but the original ending wouldhave been a scathing indictment of the shallow brutality of capitalism;which is mishandled to a grotesque degree by its stewards (George Jr.)and metes out cruel, mechanical fates to those who can't fit themselvesinto the prevailing financial equation (Aunt Fanny... George Jr (again)after his early years). As anyone can see in 2010, capitalism does NOTwork for society, only for a a small group of powerful individuals. Themovie also dares to take on the question "At what point, do socialpressures force the severance of family bonds; when relatives becomedead weight?" Not light fluff by any measure... America's desperatecondition in 2010 can be summed up as: "When is Grandma no longerprofitable?"The confidence and competence with which Ambersons is assembled is justastonishing, until the movie abruptly comes screeching to a halt withthat phony-baloney ending. It's not hard to see where Welles shots are,and where the Robert Wise dross is. Welles treats the viewer like anadult, and lets you search the whole frame for subtle evidence. Wisehits you over the head with singular motivations and feelings. Too many people write this off after seeing Kane, and knowing they havean out because Ambersons was 'ruined' by the studio. But this hasnothing to do with Kane. There is scarcely a scene in this movie thatisn't executed much more thoughtfully than anyone else would have donein 1942, or really in any era for that matter; it's that good, even inits ruined state. If you can't see that, you don't have a leg to standon in terms of your film analysis. It did take multiple viewings forthe movie's quality to sink in for me. I always liked it, but now Iabsolutely love it, and know precisely why. (And Tim Holt is fine inhis role, despite what casual acting snobs claim.)The movie speeds along compared to other work of the era. It isbreath-taking. And just as well, it was spared a performance by Welles.It's also one of a very few movies to portray a warm, lovingfather-daughter relationship. The long takes are amazing, as is Welle'sengaged, mobile camera. The sense of place in the film (the town, theAmberson mansion) is palpable. Unfortunately it's still not availableon DVD.
Orson Welles's second movie after Citizen Kane, and in many ways, especially technically, just as great. George Amberson-Minifer (played by Tim Holt) is the spoiled, mother-fixated young man who, out of selfishness and false pretentions, brings misery down upon his family's head. Because of him his widowed mother refuses the hand of Joseph Cotton, who has loved her for many years. Agnes Moorehead plays the hysterically jealous Aunt Polly. What mars the picture, however, and prevents it from being fully realized, are the last 5 minutes: the studio wanted a syrupy, happy ending; Welles refused and walked out. The studio got its way, and it's a terrible mistake--it's dopey and shallow and the picture ends by putting a phony, sour taste in one's mouth.The film is bursting, though, with brilliant technique, things that only Welles was willing to attempt at the time: long single takes, quick close-up camera shots, panning on a single face during a conversation while the other voice is just off camera, interspersed narration by Welles (off camera) with characters on camera, etc. This is all very original and done with the sure hands of a master. Despite that lousy ending, the picture still rates 5 stars.
Based on the largely glowing reviews of this film, Orson Welles' second, it seems to be a hit with his die hard fans.While impressed with the all-star cast, however, I was not blown away by the script, the performances, or the movie as a whole. The problem is bigger, I think, than a half hour worth of segments sliced from the 88 minute film by Welles' RKO editors while he was traveling in South America.The story tells of the long decline of a wealthy New England family in a small nameless town, where the the 1870s and 1880s, everyone knew everyone's business. After a brief narration and a scan of several of the town's fancy houses, small and large, the camera focuses on the largest mansion of them all, that of the Ambersons.Outside the neat and gated front yard, a drunken Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) attempts to play a serenade to the love of his life, Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello), who is watching him from a curtained second-story bedroom window. But Morgan trips and falls on his cello, smashing it. Humiliated, Isabel from that moment on refuses his calls to her home, his boxed gifts and flowers.Very shortly, the humiliated Isabel begins dating another man, Wilbur Minafer (Don Dillaway), whom she marries. Almost at that moment, a neighbor predicts that Isabel will have an unhappy marriage and many children whom she will spoil as a result.Wilbur is staid, somber and altogether more serious than Morgan. So it's understandable when it ultimately comes out that Isabel was in love with Morgan all along, albeit faithful to Minafer until his death. But her neighbor was correct: her son George (Tim Holt) is indeed a spoiled brat --- both in his early youth and as a young, recent college graduate. Indeed, he begins insulting guests almost the moment they begin to arrive at a grand party his mother has thrown to celebrate his homecoming.And one of those chaps he insults is none other than Morgan, now a widower, who after many years of moving from place to place throughout the U.S., has at last come home to town, with his devoted daughter Lucy Morgan (Anne Baxter, granddaughter of architect Frank Lloyd Wright). As time goes on, the Minafers spend more and more time with the Morgans, while George unsuccessfully courts Lucy. She rejects him because George, ever the profligate son, is determined never to work in any "useless" profession --- law, medicine, engineering or anything else --- but simply to live the good life, as a charitable gentleman.Wilbur, worried about his investments in stocks, appears to lose money, and dies young. Lucy's father Eugene Morgan is then free to rekindle his old flame with Wilbur's chaste but widowed wife Isabel.Minafer's spinster sister Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) also eventually turns out to have lost everything in an unsound investment. She grows increasingly jealous of Isabel, but ultimately defends her in the face of George's insatiable jealousy of his mother.Now to the problems: While costumes replicate the clothing of the early twentieth century era that most of the film is supposed to cover, the dialogue most certainly does not. I admittedly have not read Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize winning 1918 novel of the same name, but I seriously doubt that conversations in that book are filled with 1940s lingo, which is terribly out of place here. Georgie is always exclaiming, "Look here," and "Now see here," and calls everyone all manner of names in a definitive World War II style.Holt's Georgie is selfish to the hilt, as Tarkington undoubtedly meant him to be, but there is also something phony, flat, and, well, Hollywood, about the performance that just doesn't fit.The same is true of the acting by many of the other big names. They play their roles well, but in the typical style of 1940s melodrama. Besides for failing to develop as the story moves along, most of the characters remain flat, and lack authenticity. I can see why Agnes Moorehead's Aunt Fanny was derided by the film's early critics. And I can see why the film flopped.Orson Welles fans may swoon over this classic, which perhaps contains special technical feats never seen before he produced it.Nevertheless, all of a piece, the movie is just not that good.--- Alyssa A. Lappen
Since the footage for Welles' intended ending for the film is not available, how about featuring stills and the original script for that portion, as seen in Robert Carringer's book and in "This is Orson Welles"? The cuts can't be made whole but at least in this way the wider public could get some idea of what was done to the film and what might have been. (Are there stills from the cut shots of the streets gradually filling up with automobiles? No one ever talks about those but a lot of atmosphere was lost from those cuts too, I think.) Having that footage on a DVD would be helpful because Carringer's book is hard to get hold of -- expensive and not available in many libraries.I did find it odd finally reading the novel and discovering that RKO's dumb tacked-on ending was actually closer to the book than Welles' ending -- it's almost appropriate that the cinematography was so bad in that part the film, given how flat and silly Tarkington's writing goes at the end! Welles' ending would have been a much-needed improvement in the story's structure.
This movie is very typical for the '40's. It's an epic family drama, inwhich a lot of drama is happening. Best example of this genre isperhaps "Gone With the Wind". Well OK, bad example perhaps since thatmovie is from 1939 and not the '40's but when you say "Gone With theWind" everyone knows the type of movie you mean. Those movie werereally popular- and flourished in the '40's. I must say though thatduring that time period some better genre movies. A lot better and morepowerful movies. Only thing that still makes this movie good and a bitmore special is Orson Welles his touch.It's funny how basically every Orson Welles movies seems so ahead ofits time. It's techniques, it's storytelling. It's all something youwouldn't expect from an '40's movie but more from one made decadeslater. Also Welles his love for the radio shows in this movie. Themovie is being made and told as a radio show, only with moving ofcourse added to it, with Welles providing his own voice for thenarration. Prior to this movie, Welles also made a radio show of thenovel, this movie as well is being based on. For this, he used most ofthe actors that also star in this movie.The movie really doesn't feature the best known actors from its era buteveryone is simple well cast and suits their roles superbly. It evenearned Agnes Moorehead an Oscar nomination. She really earned it aswell in my opinion. She played the best character out of the movie andwas truly splendid in her role. Her acting style didn't really seemedlike anything common for '40's standards, which is perhaps the reasonwhy her acting and characters stands out so much in the movie.A problem I had with the movie though is that it was too long and justnot always interesting to watch. Well, the movie actually isn't long atall with its 88 minutes but still the movie feels like a 3 hour dramaproduction. Hard to say if this is Orson Welles his fault really, sinceit were the studios that 'butchered' this movie by cutting out 50minutes of it, through editor and later turned famed director RobertWise. Maybe Welles his version was a better flowing one, with some moredrama and other moments added to it. We will never known, since the'original' Welles version is most likely lost forever.Nevertheless it otherwise still is a superior made movie, with somewonderful new fresh used techniques. Orson Welles was truly a pioneerin film-making and this movie as well is a good example of this, eventhough it's not his best or most interesting one. But is there evensuch a thing as a bad Orson Welles movie?8/10http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
I've watched this several times without being as engaged as I expected,but this last viewing was different. I think I finally got it. Theexecution, by Orson Welles and his comrades in arts, is superb but thestory itself almost buries its implications for modern society underone of those multi-dimensional generational narratives, like "The YoungPhiladelphians" or even "Peyton Place." Young George Amberson Minafer(Tim Holt) grows up from a spoiled brat in a rich Indianapolis familyto become a spoiled brat in a family that's on its way downhill, whilethe older Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten), whom Georgie hates, andMorgan's daughter Lucy (Ann Baxter), whom Georgie loves, turn into awealthy automobile manufacturing family. Georgie gives up what littlehe has left in order to support his Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) and,in the end, everybody comes to appreciate Georgie for hisself-sacrifice. Not that it appears to help Georgie very much, since bynow he's broke and in the hospital with two fractured legs, having beenrun over by one of the automobiles he loathes.This was Welles' follow-up to the magnificent "Citizen Kane." It wasshot in 1941. And it would be nice to say that it's up to the standardsof the first movie but it's not. There's a good deal of shouting,running around, and dancing, but it's rather a slow slog through theyears. The theme that would most impress modern viewers is similar tothat of "How Green Was My Valley," the virtual destruction of intimate,small-town life, by the spread of an ugly industry. That's myimpression anyway. I'm old enough to remember standing on the streetsof a city -- Phoenix, Arizona -- and being able to look down athoroughfare and see the desert at both ends. Old enough to rememberNew Jersey before its last inch of greensward was paved over. Yes, it'strue. I don't like smog and urban sprawl. Oh, where did it all go?(Sob.) Well, not to be too depressing, some people seem to lovelook-alike shopping malls. A chaque a son gout. Welles' film doesn't spend enough time on what I consider a prettypowerful theme. It's most hinted at. In the opening scenes, Welles'jovial narration tells us how much time everyone had and how simplelife's more mechanical aspects seemed. Later, we notice telephone poleshave grown alongside the city's roads. And towards the end thenarration tells us explicitly what the screen shows us -- an ugly city,befouling itself. I should add that there's something else that got byme on previous viewings. Without setting it up in flashing neon, Wellesdeals with the same problem here that he did in "Citizen Kane", namelythe loss of youthful and innocent determination or, to put it morebroadly, aging itself. It seems a very personal issue for him. Even inhis first, clumsy, amateurish short movie, Death is omnipresent. Nowthat I'm ancient myself, it may be easier to grasp his obsession withthe problem of age, impotence, and death. Sartre once suggested thatanyone reaching the age of twenty-five should blow his own brains out.That strikes me as a little excessive. Better sublimation than suicide.Not that there's anything wrong with the performances or with Welles'directorial technique or with Bernard Hermann's score or StanleyCortez's photography. The camera work is artful in fact. Cortez shotseveral lengthy scenes following the actors around with a sixty-poundcamera strapped to his chest.I'm not sure that the faults of the film belong to Orson Welles alone.The shooting was interrupted by Pearl Harbor and Welles was sent off toLatin America to make sure the good folk South of the Border didn'tmake any critical mistakes in choosing their allegiances. So some ofthe remaining scenes were directed by committee. And Welles wasn'tavailable to supervise the editing. He tried doing it long distance,sending Robert Wise six-page telegrams full of instructions that were,to Wise, "incomprehensible." A final shot was filmed that would haveevoked the last warehouse inventory of "Citizen Kane," a long survey ofthe empty Amberson mansion with its furniture shrouded in sheets, butthe studio cut it out. Who knows what else wound up on the floor? Thereisn't enough room to examine the film -- its virtues and its flaws --as thoroughly as it should be, so let's summarize by saying it's worthwatching.
Orson Welles's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's award-willing novel and follow-up to Citizen Kane is a true screen classic. As with Kane, this film contains many wonderful performances by all the leads including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Dolores Costello, and Tim Holt as George Amberson Minafer. Welles continued his experimentation with film technique and you will notice similar camera angles and lighting, to those in Kane. The lighting is something exploited to good affect here, especially in the scenes inside the Amberson mansion. The story is a simple one: Eugene Morgan (Cotton) and Isabel Amberson (Costello) young lovers, who through a somewhat frivolous circumstance end up marrying other people. After they've both raised children, they again find themselves free to begin where they left off in their youth. But Isabel's son (Holt) does not approve of their relationship, in spite of the fact that he is in love with Morgan's daughter, Lucy (Anne Baxter). Set at the turn of the 20th century, the movie has a wonderful feel and texture, which effectively evokes the period. An interesting backdrop is the development of the automobile, with Cotton an early proponent and tycoon, and its effects on not only the American economy, but on the changes it brings to society as well. Morgan, once spurned as a little too common for Isabel returns again to his hometown a successful industrialist. As his fortunes climb, those of the Ambersons fall. As already mentioned, the film is packed with wonderful performances. Agnes Moorehead was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and won the Best Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle. As the lonely, sorrowful Aunt Fanny, hers is a delicately crafted characterization. Cotton as the auto tycoon Morgan, gives another understated and subtle performance; a young Anne Baxter is lovely as Cotton's daughter Lucy; and Tim Holt, a name all but forgotten today, is magnificent in the pivotal role of George Amberson Minafer. One of the most interesting scenes in the film is the ball at the Amberson mansion. The camera seems to float along with the players seemingly without a break, putting the viewer right in the midst of the cast. A great film, worthy of multiple viewings, The Magnificent Ambersons has earned its place among Hollywood's greatest films.
There is nothing more that I can say about this film than has already beensaid. It was a very good film for its time. But there is a reason Ithinkit never caught on like many other classic films of the time: it is alavishthough dated production that is more lamented among film fans for its lostfootage than it is for its cinematic greatness.For those who have always wanted to know what was lost, the best source isThe Magnificent Ambersons - A Reconstruction by James Carringer. It's anOOP book that contains the cutting continuity of Welles' original cut. Itshows what was cut and where it was cut.I have to say that the cuts aren't all bad. Of course the cuts from theball hurt, the cut ending was more pessimistic but still better than therelease version. But then there are little lines cut here and there thatactually don't hurt the film. And frankly there are one or two wholescenesthat were cut and actually help the film. But then I have other problemswith the film. Agnes Moorehead should have been cast as Isabel as Fannyisan annoying character that isn't sympathetic. Delores Costello is woodenand her character shows no affection for Eugene. Tim Holt does anexcellentjob but how can you sympathize with his character at the end when he wassuch a total jerk up till that point. Overall, the film comes off to measa grand soap opera.And also don't believe that the studio blindsided Welles and destroyedthisfilm without authority. In order to get it made, his contract wasrenegotiated and one of the things he gave up was final cut. Therefore,thestudio could do anything they wanted.I know many Welles fans consider this a masterpiece. Don't get me wrong,Ithink he was a master and I'd do anything to see all of his films releasedas they should have be. But I think he made a mistake choosing this filmashis follow-up to Kane.
No need to echo consensus points. Even in its mutilated 88-minutes thefilm remains a visual triumph. I do, however, want to underscore howHollywood and its Production Code of the time robbed the film of itspowerful ending. According to IMDb, Welles intended George's repentance scene kneelingbefore the bed to be the final one. It does consummate a dominanttheme. The arrogant George has finally gotten the 'comeuppance' thetown had long wished for. But then, thanks to Welles' powerful voice-over and staging of the scene, the comeuppance is unexpectedly moreironic than gratifying. The feeling conveyed is more one of poignanttragedy than of cosmic justice, even if George has at last received hisdue. With the family wealth gone, George has had to experience life asothers do, without a cushion. It's like he must first learn humilitybefore he can experience regret. But it's too late to repair theinjuries he has so carelessly caused, especially to his late mother. Sonow he too becomes an injured party, sorely aware of a misspent life.But the sense Welles creates in this moment of self-recognition is farfrom the satisfaction seen in a wrongdoer being punished. Rather, it'salmost a sense of one more personal loss being added to the others, forwhich there can be no satisfaction, only remorse. It's one of the moreironically powerful scenes I've experienced in many years of moviewatching. More importantly, were this the movie's final scene, the audience wouldbe left having to ponder some of life's more challenging conditions.But, of course, Hollywood and its Code couldn't allow folks to leave ona downbeat note, regardless of the redeeming qualities. So a happierending was tacked on by the studio. Thus, writer-producer-directorWelles' intended ending is undercut. At the same time and despite itsmany impressive movie products, old Hollywood again reaffirms itsstatus as a producer of commercial goods instead of artistic ones. Andan unusually powerful film is denied an unusually powerful ending.
If you think Citizen Kane is wonderful, then, if you haven't already seenit, find a copy of "Ambersons" as soon as you can. To me, "Ambersons"surpasses "Kane" in complexity and perhaps richness of characters. The storyof the long-term results of love deferred, unrequited love, andlong-suffering love, are even more interesting with Welles' direction usingoverlaid dialogue and odd camera angles. My favorite part is when old MajorAmberson speaks to the camera and it becomes apparent he's lost his mind.Chilling.The Ambersons captures a time more than a century ago in America whenpassions were suppressed and civility masked a boilinginterior.This film was edited severely, I've read. This is another mystery, becausethe remaining footage is superb. We can only wonder what the original"Ambersons" might have been.
Technically brilliant at times. And the interweaving of the various plots isa great idea and greatly ahead of its time. But whoever put the sequencestogether was either drunk or blind. Glaring lapses in the plot and illogicalleaps in characterization relegate this movie to the middle of theroad.I can imagine another 40-50 minutes of impressive, witty, and heart-breakingWelles dialogue and camera work, but that's so much to the tragedy of thepolitics of the time - like the destruction of the library at Alexandria.You can see genius in there somewhere, but you're not allowed to view it asa whole. You can either kid yourself and weep or take it as it is and admirewhat's left of the pieces.