Magnificent Ambersons

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Released 1942

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Movie Summary

Director:
Orson Welles
Released:
1942
Rating:
R

The advent of progress and a possessive, insensitive son's interference bring unhappiness and eventually tragedy to a wealthy late-19th-century family in a small Midland town.

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    Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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    • TRIVIA (4)

      • This film was subjected to a great deal of studio interference by RKO executives, who feared it would prove too downbeat for audience popularity. The film was cut from 131 minutes to just 88 minutes, with the final scenes re-shot by the assistant director in Orson Welles's absence and without his permission or approval. New music for the re-filmed sequences was composed by a studio contractee, Roy Webb, which so infuriated Welles's composer Bernard Herrmann (whose full score for the film was in a quite different style) that he refused to take credit. The film was released without any music credit.

      • Orson Welles had also adapted The Magnificent Ambersons (one of his favourite novels) as a one-hour radio broadcast, with himself playing George Amberson Minafer. It was first heard in 1939, as part of his Campbell Playhouse series. Walter Huston played Eugene Morgan and, rather remarkably, the character of Aunt Fanny, so memorably played in the film by Agnes Moorehead, was entirely elided from the story.

      • Although Stanley Cortez had sole credit for the cinematography of this film, he was, in fact, fired during production and some scenes were photographed by Harry J. Wild or Russell Metty.

      • Richard Bennett, cast as old Major Amberson, had the greatest difficulty in remembering his lines, and his eyesight had become so poor that he was unable to read them from the boards which Orson Welles thoughtfully positioned just outside camera-range. So Welles personally recorded all of Bennett's lines for him on disc, and asked him to play them over and over until he could remember them. He did this; but when his co-star Joseph Cotten asked him, "Are you getting them?", Bennett angrily replied, "Not a blasted bloody one of them!"

    • QUOTES (7)

    • NOTES (2)

      • Booth Tarkington's novel had already been the basis of an unsuccessful silent film of 1925, retitled Pampered Youth. In 2002, it was remade as a 3-hour television movie with Madeleine Stowe as Isabel, Bruce Greenwood as Eugene and Jennifer Tilly as Aunt Fanny. Alfonso Arau directed it.

      • At the very start of the film, we read that it is a Mercury production and that its title is "The Magnificent Ambersons". Most unusually for an American film of the 1940s, there are no more credits then until the end of the film - and these are all spoken by Orson Welles, rather than written on the screen.

    • ALLUSIONS (1)

      • During the famous scene of George Amberson Minafer's long walk through the growing town, he passes a cinema showing a film called Explosion. The star of this 1919 film was Jack Holt, whose son Tim plays George in this film. (The scene is supposed to take place several years before Explosion was actually made; Orson Welles knew this, but allowed a deliberate anachronism as a tribute to the Holt family).

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    Drama

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    adrenaline junkies