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.Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Filmed on 35mm with the so-called Academy frame aspect ratio of 1.375:1 (abbreviated as 1.37:1). See more »
When Eugene and Lucy leave the Amberson mansion after the big party and drive away in the Morgan automobile, the top of the painted "trees" back drop can then be seen at the top of the Frame for most of the shot as they both drive away. See more »
The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage. The only public conveyance was the streetcar. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once and wait for her, ...
See more »
All of the credits except the RKO logo, the film's title and the copyright notice are recited orally (by Orson Welles) at the end of the film, not written out onscreen. As Welles recites the names of the production crew, we see such items as a motion picture camera when he says "Director of Photography," a pair of hands turning knobs as he says the words "Sound Recording By," etc. See more »
From "Magnificent Obsession," a Vanity Fair article by David Kamp from April 2000:
"On March 11, Wise sent a 132-minute composite print (a print with picture and soundtrack synchronized) to Rio for Welles to review. This is the version that scholars and Wellesophiles consider to be the 'real' Magnificent Ambersons.
Curiously enough, the first blow against this version was dealt not by RKO but by Welles himself. Before he'd even received the composite print, he impulsively ordered Wise to cut 22 minutes from the middle of the film, mostly scenes concerning George Minafer's efforts to keep his mother and Eugene apart. Wise complied, and on March 17, 1942, The Magnificent Ambersons, in this form, had its first preview screening, in the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona. Sneak previews are a notoriously unreliable gauge of a film's worth and potential for success, and RKO did The Magnificent Ambersons a particular disservice by previewing it before an audience composed mostly of escapism-hungry teenagers, who had come to see the movie at the top of the bill, The Fleet's In, a feather-light wartime musical starring William Holden and Dorothy Lamour." See more »
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 today have 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 "Citizen Kane."
The opening montage, set to Welles' narration, is as good as anything of its kind that's been done before or after -- brilliantly, and I hate to use that word because it's so often overused, it achieves two things: 1) it sets up the dramatic side of the story, with Eugene's fawning for and losing the affections of Isabel, and 2) putting us in a specific, historical time and place. The story of George Minafer's downfall parallels the changing times of America during that time, as well as American aristocracy.
Then there's Agnes Moorehead, who does the most amazing work as Fanny Minafer, George's aunt. She's a pressure cooker to begin with, but when the Ambersons hit rock-bottom she lets go, in a torrential, hysterical performance that's still getting praise today.
"The Magnificent Ambersons" also carries an equally dramatic story of Hollywood's assault on artistic expression; almost everyone knows that RKO seized the film and cut it to pieces while Welles was out doing his documentary "It's All True." Today there's other ways for great directors (Kubrick, Altman) to dodge the system, but film stock and equipment in those days could only be procured from big studios, and for the remainder of Welles' career his genius would only be seen fleetingly (his adaptations of Shakespeare, Kafka's "The Trial"). It's a story as tragic as George Minafer's.
78 of 86 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this