Magnificent Ambersons

Overview

Orson Welles' followup to Citizen Kane 1941 was utterly different from Kane in style and texture, but just as brilliant in its own way. Writer/director Welles does not appear on camera, but his voiceover narration superbly sets the stage for the movie's action, which fades in valentine fashion on Amberson Mansion, the most ostentatious dwelling in all of turn-of-century Indianapolis. Its mistress is the haughtily beautiful Isabel Amberson Dolores Costello. When Isabel's beau, erstwhile inventor Eugene Morgan ...
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Overview

Orson Welles' followup to Citizen Kane 1941 was utterly different from Kane in style and texture, but just as brilliant in its own way. Writer/director Welles does not appear on camera, but his voiceover narration superbly sets the stage for the movie's action, which fades in valentine fashion on Amberson Mansion, the most ostentatious dwelling in all of turn-of-century Indianapolis. Its mistress is the haughtily beautiful Isabel Amberson Dolores Costello. When Isabel's beau, erstwhile inventor Eugene Morgan Joseph Cotten, inadvertently humiliates her in public, she breaks off the relationship and marries colorless Wilbur Minafer Donald Dillaway. The neighbors are certain that, since Isabel can't possibly love Wilbur, she will spoil her children rotten. As it turns out, she has one child, George Minafer Tim Holt, and that one is enough as far as the rest of Indianapolis is concerned. There are those who live for the day that the arrogant, insufferable George will get his comeuppance. When George returns home from college, his mother and grandfather Richard Bennett hold a gala reception in his honor. Among the guests is the older-and-wiser Eugene, now a prosperous automobile manufacturer, and his pretty daughter Lucy Anne Baxter. George takes to Lucy immediately, but can't warm up to Eugene, especially after learning from his uncle Jack Amberson Ray Collins and his maiden aunt Fanny Agnes Moorehead that Eugene and Isabel had once been sweethearts. After the death of Wilbur Minafer, the widowed Eugene feels emboldened enough to propose to Isabel again. This time she is willing, but the obstreperous George refuses to allow his mother to see Eugene. His imperious bullheadedness will lead to tragedy for all concerned--and, at long last, a chastened George Minafer will indeed receive his comeuppance. The film's real villain is not George but that old intangible bugaboo called "Progress." As the automobile age comes to fruition, the elegant, cloistered lifestyle of the Ambersons fades from view, finally disappearing altogether. This is superbly foreshadowed in the "winter outing" sequence filmed in an L.A. icehouse in which George's two-horse sleigh is abandoned in favor of Eugene's clunky horseless carriage. Welles evokes performances that his actors seldom if ever matched in later years; even the very limited Tim Holt is wholly believable-and even a bit pitiable-as the blinkered George Amberson Minafer. The current version, however, is but a pale shadow of Welles' original concept. Out of time and overbudget, the movie previewed badly and was eventually sliced down to an abrupt 88 minutes by, among others, editor Robert Wise, who would go on to direct such films as West Side Story and The Sound of Music. Even though the film therefore must be regarded as a marred masterpiece, the remaining two-thirds of Welles' original concept is still a thrilling cinematic experience, especially whenever Agnes Moorehead is on the screen.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Some consider Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons one of the finest films ever made, even in the form in which it has been handed down to us. At the time of its production, Orson Welles was the big noise among new young filmmakers, but not a very profitable one. His first movie, Citizen Kane, had generated press and praise, but not profits. RKO, never a profitable studio and in danger of receivership for much of its history, needed The Magnificent Ambersons to be a hit. Welles had shot Ambersons true to Booth Tarkington's novel and elicited sterling performances from his cast. But Tarkington's story -- which Welles deeply loved, having previously dramatized it on radio with himself in the role of George Amberson Minafer -- centered on an insufferable prig, selfish, nasty, and vain. Preview audiences came away disliking the movie because they disliked its central character, brilliantly portrayed by Tim Holt. RKO drastically recut the movie, poisoning its relationship with Welles (and with composer Bernard Herrmann, who came to Welles' defense and ended a promising career at the studio). Holt's George Amberson Minafer was, in many ways, the antecedent of Laurence Harvey's Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a character described by the closest thing he has to a friend as "impossible to like." And audiences weren't much more ready for Harvey's character in 1962 than they were for Holt's in 1942.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/31/2012
  • UPC: 883929189106
  • Original Release: 1942
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 1:28:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joseph Cotten Eugene Morgan
Dolores Costello Isabel Amberson Minafer
Anne Baxter Lucy Morgan
Tim Holt George Amberson Minafer
Agnes Moorehead Fanny Minafer
Ray Collins Jack Amberson
Erskine Sanford Bronson
Richard Bennett Major Amberson
Donald Dillaway Wilbur Minafer
Edwin August Man
Georgia Backus Matron
Olive Ball Mary
Jack Baxley Rev. Smith
William Blees Youth at Accident
Bobby Cooper George as a Boy
John Elliott Guest
Billy Elmer House Servant
Nancy Gates Girl
Nina Guilberg Guest
Maynard Holmes
Edward Howard Chauffeur
Elmer Jerome Funeral Spectator
Lew Kelly Citizen
John McGuire Young Man
Philip Morris Cop
Anne O'Neal Mrs. Foster
Henry Roquemore Hardware Man
Jack Santoro Barber
Kathrun Sheldon Matron
Dorothy Vaughan Funeral Spectator
James Westerfield Cop at Accident
Sam Rice Man at Funeral
Lillian Nicholson Landlady
Bob Pittard Charlie Johnson
Charles Phipps Uncle John
Hilda Plowright Nurse
Drew Roddy Elijah
Gus Schilling Drugstore Clerk
Louis Hayward Ballroom Dancer
J. Louis Johnson Sam the Butler
Orson Welles Voice Only
Technical Credits
Orson Welles Director, Producer, Screenwriter
Stanley Cortez Cinematographer
Albert S. D'Agostino Production Designer
Al Fields Set Decoration/Design
Bernard Herrmann Score Composer
Mark-Lee Kirk Art Director
Russell Metty Cinematographer
Jack Moss Editor
Mark Robson Editor
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Vernon Walker Special Effects
Roy Webb Score Composer
Harry J. Wild Cinematographer
Robert Wise Editor
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Disc #1 -- Magnificent Ambersons
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2002

    Much Better Than People Give It Credit For

    I thought this film was very good. Orsone Welles was one skilled director, and this shows it. It is not as good as Citizen Kane, but few films are. I would like to see Welles' original movie, but this shortened version is perfectly fine by me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2002

    Astonishing!

    This is an overlooked and underestimated picture, which I'm certain a lot of true movie fanatics will rightfully enjoy. Orson Welles was, together with Alfred Hitchcock, the greatest film genious of all time, and he surely shows it with this classic. This is his finest film, only surpassed by Citizen Kane.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2001

    Under Rated Masterpiece

    A worthy follow-up to Kane? Perhaps, we'll never know for sure - Wells' final cut was dumped off the California coast. What remains is the studio's version. At least that's what I undrstand. Nevertheless, the picture is better than most. The performances are all very good. Overall, enjoyable.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews