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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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Popularity
4,880 ( 1,522)

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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

One of former silent star Dolores Costello's last roles. She was forced to retire from the film business as her face had become badly scarred by early film make-up which was highly caustic. 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

Featured in E! Mysteries & Scandals: Orson Welles (1999) 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

 
Fractured Magnificence; one of the great tragedies of cinema (not the film per say, but its history)
23 July 2005 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

It's almost common knowledge in the realm of the film world about the history of the Magnificent Ambersons, which leaves a minor problem when trying to criticize it. Orson Welles made the film's final running length at around two hours and fifteen minutes. While he was out of the country filming 'It's All True!' (another doomed film in the Welles cannon), RKO pictures, the studio that had granted Welles total freedom for Citizen Kane and a few future projects, cut out fifty minutes (mostly of the last fifty), put a happy ending, and released it on a double-bill with a B movie. Although it's attributable in retrospect to the War starting up (after all, who wants a -downer- period piece) and to the difficulty the studio had with Welles' reputation, the fact that the 90 minute version that now exists is the only version available is a tragedy in and of itself. Unless if someone follows the wild rumor that a print was dumped by the studios into the ocean and pulls it up, this is all we can get.

Still, incomplete Welles is more satisfying than no Welles, or most other studio product of the period. Welles takes Booth Tarkington's novel (inspired in part by Welles himself as a child- George being Welles' name) and makes it into a sumptuous, striking, and altogether unique drama of the changing of the times, and how people cope with changes or go with them. The story is one of those involving the minds and hearts of the upper class. Joseph Cotten (as usual charming &/or cool, dramatic) is Eugene, the man who wanted Isabel Amberson's hand in marriage. She married another man, and their child George was early on a hard-head case (these scenes are some of the best of the film, with deliberate staging of close-ups, medium shots, and basically setting up the technical style of the Wellesian cinema). As he grows up, he's still a little hard-headed (played in one of the top, intense performances in any Welles film by Tim Holt), as he is against the changing of the times, in particular of Eugene's re-founded courtship of the mother following his father's death. There is also the character of his Aunt Fanny, in another perfect performance from Agnes Moorhead (the mother from Citizen Kane).

Alongside this examination of a family's downfall amid the changing of personal relations, and of George's own complex emotional problems, and of George's coming-of-age, there's also the examination of the transition from the horse and buggy to automobiles, to the heavier boost of the industrial age. Welles as a narrator is somber, observant of it all, and mostly leaves the film to his actors. There's some real thought put into the issues, and not just through the realistic (though of course theatrical) dialog, but more specifically through the style. 'Kane' introduced audiences to Welles knack at long-takes, deep focus, unusual and expressionistic close-ups, heightening the drama that unfolds. 'Ambersons' is no exception, and there are some very memorable scenes where the camera just stays on people, and then when it moves it makes the mis en scene more concentrated, direct. The use of light is also equally impressive at times- like in interior shots of a staircase when George and Fanny are in an argument, it's all encompassing, and not distracting enough from the story. The best consistency of any Welles film, even when it has some flaws, is the control that can be seen through much of it (there's also a very spooky shot that stays with me towards the end, as the camera pans across the town's buildings, Welles' mournful narration over it).

But then we come to the ending, where things come to a screeching halt. I'm not against happy endings, they can be almost mandatory in certain formulas in films. However, it sort of takes an excellent film dealing with strong, novelistic issues to a bad place when things are resolved in the way this film does- George gets in an accident, he loses the use of his legs. But then a scene comes (and one can tell the immediate change in the style from Welles to the studio's) where loose ends get made, and without anything leaving curious for the viewer. I'm still not sure if anything else within the film was cut-out too, or if even I might have been fooled at another time by something not of Welles in the picture. It's depressing to be sure, but at least there is enough left to analyze and contemplate in the Welles' oeuvre- in some ways it goes more ambitious than 'Kane', at least in its period realm, the questions it raises. The lessons the history behind the scenes gives for future filmmakers and studios should be remembered, even as mediocrity (like RKO tried its best to make this film as) continues today in Hollywood.


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