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:

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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Did You Know?

Trivia

Orson Welles instructed cinematographer Stanley Cortez to use the kind of low-key lighting found in antique photographs. See more »

Goofs

In the 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 the original hairdo when she goes into the 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, ...
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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

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 »

Connections

Referenced in American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1996) 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
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User Reviews

Cinema at its purest.
28 February 2003 | by marcus-98See all my reviews

In many way this is a more brillant film than Kane. Kane was technically advanced, but somewhat distant. This is a much more intimate story. The romance between Eugene and Isabele is one of the most wonderful tales of unrequinted love ever put on film. I especially love the opening sequence which introduces us to the life -styles and habits of the Ambersons. I like the way Wells dwells on their array of evening wear, summer wear etc... He creates a great sense of calmness in a timeless era.

Agnes Moorehead is incredible in the role of Fanny. She has to scream for attension every time, like her character in the film. Tim Holt is great as a young Orson Wells (who was still young at the time). This spoilt brat was I'm sure very similar to Wells, or so he'd have us believe.

Obivously we all know what happened to the final cut. It was, and probably still is the greatest crime in cinema history. Its like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. At the end of this version when Eugene and Fanny are walking off into the sunset, and Eugene looks down at Fanny and says that he was "true to his own dear love" (meaning Fanny), its so absurd. Its the worst tacked-on ending I've ever seen. Eugene was never in love with Fanny, it was always Isabele, but Fanny loved Eugene. Hollywood made a joke of it. The Amberson family had finally got their comeuppance only for hollywood to decide it was too grim, and put on an ending that looked like ot came from another movie.

Initally it was such a piece of genius from Wells to film a story about the downfall of a family rather than their or rise to power, to tell the story in reverse.

Its so sad that we can never see the real version. I really feel that we are missing out on what could have been the greatest film ever made.


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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)
See more on IMDbPro »

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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