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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Not Rated | | Drama , Romance | 10 July 1942 (USA)
The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between his widowed mother and the man she has always loved.

Directors:

Orson Welles, Fred Fleck (uncredited) | 1 more credit »

Writers:

Booth Tarkington (from the novel by), Orson Welles (script writer)
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 4 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Joseph Cotten ... Eugene Morgan
Dolores Costello ... Isabel Amberson Minafer
Anne Baxter ... Lucy Morgan
Tim Holt ... George Minafer
Agnes Moorehead ... Fanny Minafer
Ray Collins ... Jack Amberson
Erskine Sanford ... Roger Bronson
Richard Bennett ... Major Amberson
Orson Welles ... Narrator (voice)
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Storyline

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 <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Real life screened more daringly than it's ever been before! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 July 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Soberbia See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$850,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mercury Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original cut) | (preview)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Orson Welles could never bring himself to watch the revised version. In the early '80s, director Henry Jaglom, a Welles protege, convinced him to watch an uninterrupted cablecast of the film. Welles watched enrapt for the first hour or so, then clicked off the film, saying "From here on it becomes their movie..." See more »

Goofs

In scene where Lucy and George say goodbye while walking down the street, Lucy's hair is pulled behind her neck. In closeup, as she watches George leave, her hair is in ringlets hanging in front of shoulders, then reverts to original hairdo when she goes into pharmacy. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: 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 »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Alternate Versions

There are three alternate version to The Magnificent Ambersons, none exist any more:
  • the original version, Welles' first cut is the only one that has any type of record that exists. It was 132 minutes long. It included an extended Ball sequence. An extended sequence of Jack and George in the kitchen, a completely different ending, as well as other cuts to numerous to mention. The original last part of the movie was (in order): George and Jack at the Rail Station, George's walk home and comeuppance, Fanny at the boiler, Bronson's office, Eugene and Lucy in the garden, George in accident, Eugene hears of accident, Eugene visits Fanny in the Boarding house. The cutting continuity, which was recorded five days before the first preview, is included in the book, The Magnificent Ambersons- A Reconstruction.
  • The first preview audience saw the original cut for the most part. Welles ordered small cuts and one major cut prior to preview but no record of what they were exists. The movie ends the same way except the scene of Eugene and Lucy in the garden was dropped.
  • The second preview audience saw version that ran about 110 minutes. Twenty minutes of footage was scrapped and the ending went: George and Jack at the railroad station, Fanny's breakdown, Bronson's office, George's walk home, Eugene and Lucy in garden, George hit by car, Eugene hearing about accident, (shorter version of) Eugene visits Fanny in Boarding House.
  • When the previews still weren't to the studios satisfaction, the film was cut over and over, a new ending was filmed (not by Welles) and the film was finally released at its current run of 88 minutes.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in 24x36: A Movie About Movie Posters (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
(1892) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Fred Gilbert
Sung a cappella by Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter,
Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead and Ray Collins
See more »

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User Reviews

Magnificent is right
29 July 1999 | by Jaime N. ChristleySee all my reviews

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.


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