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)
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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Did You Know?

Trivia

Agnes Moorehead's signature scene, in which she bemoaned the turn of the Ambersons fortunes and her inability to provide for George - which secured her an Academy Award nomination - was actually cobbled together from original footage and hastily re-shot scenes. The latter had no input from Orson Welles. See more »

Goofs

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 »

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, ...
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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 versions to The Magnificent Ambersons; none exist anymore:
  • 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 too 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 the accident, Eugene hears of the 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 a 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 the garden, George being hit by car, Eugene hearing about the accident, and a shorter version of Eugene visiting Fanny in the boarding house.
  • When the previews still weren't to the studio's 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.
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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
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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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 July 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Magnificent Ambersons See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$850,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Mercury Productions See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original cut) | (preview)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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