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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:

Orson Welles' Mercury Production of Booth Tarkington's Great Novel 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

There are two versions of how Orson Welles shot Fanny's breakdown scene in the abandoned mansion. In one, he did numerous takes of the intricate dolly shot until the actress almost had a breakdown during the take he printed. According to Agnes Moorehead, he spent the day suggesting different ways for her to play it, then had her put it all together so he could get the scene in one take. When people asked if she was exhausted, she protested that she found the work exhilarating, later stating that she couldn't sleep for a week afterwards. See more »

Goofs

Towards end of long tracking shot with George and Lucy in horse-drawn carriage, portion of rear end of camera car and some sort of filmmaking equipment briefly enters left side of frame. 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 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) 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

Irony in the ending
15 April 2004 | by dave-302See all my reviews

This is a wonderful film, one of great pathos and sensitivity. Orson Welles was drawn to Tarkington's novel because Tarkington had been a friend of Welles' father and Welles identified strongly with the story, seeing something of his own family's history there.

Whether it is better than Kane is a fun question for film clubs to debate (I did once but I don't now), but it is interesting to note that while Orson Welles was particularly bitter that RKO re-shot his ending to make it more appealing to audiences, if you read the novel you will see that it is the novel's ending that RKO tacked on. Welles' ending was of his own invention and would have given the film a completely different tone.

So it is ironic that Welles always seemed to claim that RKO had destroyed the integrity of the novel's story when they only preserved it, if rather poorly in execution.


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