Criterion Collection: Magnificent Ambersons

Criterion Collection: Magnificent Ambersons

Director: Orson Welles Cast: Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter

Blu-ray (Special Edition / Restored / Full Frame)

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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.

Product Details

Release Date: 11/27/2018
UPC: 0715515223515
Original Release: 1942
Rating: NR
Source: Criterion
Region Code: A
Presentation: [Full Frame]
Time: 1:28:00
Sales rank: 13,540

Special Features

New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack Two audio commentaries, featuring scholars Robert L. Carringer and James Naremore and critic Jonathan Rosembaum New interviews with film historians Simon Callow and Joseph McBride New video essays by scholars François Thomas and Christopher Husted Director Orson Welles on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970 Segment from a 1925 silent adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons Audio from a 1978 AFI symposium on Welles, and audio interviews with Welles conducted by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich Two Mercury Theatre radio plays: Seventeen (1938), an adaptation of another Booth Tarkington novel by Welles, and The Magnificent Ambersons (1939) Trailer

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
Bob Cooper George as a Boy
John Elliott Guest
Billy Elmer House Servant
Nancy Gates Girl
Nina Guilberg Guest
Maynard Holmes Actor
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 Narrator

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

Customer Reviews

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Magnificent Ambersons 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Operafan48 More than 1 year ago
Despite the significant amount of 'lost footage' RKO Studio heads insisted be cut before the unauthorized theatrical cut was finally released in 1942 (against director Orson Welles's wishes), The Magnificent Ambersons is so brilliantly acted, written and directed, save for a phony tacked on ending supplied by different writer and director, that whatever drawbacks the final release print possesses are minor considering how powerful this movie remains to this day. It helps to have read Booth Tarkington's great novel beforehand, then you can fill in the gaps somewhat, but it's not vital that you do. It's highly probable that this film could have been the equal to Citizen Kane but for now, unless someone by incredible good luck finds the missing reels, The Magnificent Ambersons must be content to remain merely outstanding. Welles adapted the novel to the screen faithfully, the actors do justice to the characters in the book, perhaps none more so than Agnes Moorhead who is astonishing as the beleaguered Aunt Fanny. Tim Holt is the perfect embodiment of George Amberson Minafer, the role Welles had at one time planned to enact himself. The rise and fall of a fictional, wealthy American family is endlessly fascinating and troubling at the same time. This is a Must-see and worthy to be put aside The Great Gaby.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.