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The Magnificent Ambersons- A film by Orson Welles

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Hello Everyone,

I was always interested in hearing about The Magnificent Ambersons by Orson Welles. Its sad that RKO trimmed the film and replaced original ending with a happy ending. I liked the way some of the scenes were shot. My favorite scene is snow riding scene.


In dinner scene, I think "thunder" is used for the impressions of the characters. Hitchcock used "thunder" for some key scenes in Foreign Correspondent (1940). I heard some recent rumors that the rough cut of The Magnificent Ambersons was found. I am sure its not true.


Alfred Hitchcock's The Paradine Case also had similar results like The Magnificent Ambersons. Many of the scenes were removed by Selznick. Now its a just weak film.


This also happened on television. There was a cartoon called Batman Animated Series in 1992. Early Story Editors wrote a "Rashomon like story" called P.O.V. The Script was a very sharp script about psychological conflicts of police officers. BS&P (Broadcasting Standards and Practices) damaged the episode so much. And only 25% of the script was used in the end. So the episode ended becoming very weak.


What is your opinion on The Magnificent Ambersons?

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> {quote:title=konway87 wrote:}{quote}

> What is your opinion on The Magnificent Ambersons?


The fact that the footage excised by RKO is lost forever will probably always be one of the great tragedies of film history, I think, and we can only imagine what his original vision of the film would have felt like if we'd been able to see his version.


Additionally, it is not yet available on DVD, so you can only get it on VHS or laserdisc, or watch it when TCM shows it.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Everyone,

I thought I should make a powerpoint presentation of The Magnificent Ambersons under the vision of Orson Welles. I tried to make it faithful to what Orson Welles wanted. I was able to put some of the missing scenes including the ending. I got the ending from one of the original trailers of The Magnificent Ambersons. Here is the link.




What do you think about it, everyone? I couldn't do everything I wanted. But I tried my best.

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  • 5 months later...

For anyone who's interested in this Orson Welles film, TCM will be showing *The Magnificent Ambersons* at 4:30am on _Monday, March 9th_.


*_The Magnificent Ambersons_* (1942)

A possessive son's efforts to keep his mother from remarrying threaten to destroy his family.

Cast: Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt Dir: Orson Welles BW-88 mins, TV-PG


Original trailer:




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  • 3 weeks later...

Does it strike anyone else that RKO was practically schizophrenic about this film?

The cut it & filmed happy-ending scenes (admittedly ti tested poorly) and then sent it out on the bottom half of a double bill.

Yet they commissioned Norman Rockwell to do the poster!

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Well, obviously they had very poor taste. And the fact that they'd lost money on "Citizen Kane" probably didn't help matters, either. The loss of all that footage from "Magnificent Ambersons" is a true tragedy of film history, without a doubt.

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I've seen bits and pieces of The Magnificent Ambersons here on TCM a while ago, but I've never seen the whole thing. I really liked what I saw, but I'm one of the many who feel that Orson Welles was truly a genius, in front of and behind the camera. So, the fact that the film was severely edited against his wishes makes me a little hesitant to see it in its entirety. I'd actually like to hear some opinions too. As it stands, is The Magnificent Ambersons worth a look?

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I may not share the same enthusiasm for Welles that you have but I think *Ambersons* (even in its truncated state) is one of the best movies ever made and the best film that Welles ever made.


I never try to miss it when it's on TCM.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote}

> Vertigo,


> I may not share the same enthusiasm for Welles that you have but I think *Ambersons* (even in its truncated state) is one of the best movies ever made and the best film that Welles ever made.


I confess that I just don't get it. What is the appeal of this film?


It reminds me of what Norma Desmond said about "talk, talk, talk". No faces and no substance.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I really liked your powerpoint presentation, it truly captures the atmosphere of the film. In b&w film, Welles was an absolute master at creating a certain sense of foreboding and a feeling of vastness in what would not necessarily be, in real life anyway, a large or menacing space. Look at the library scene from Citizen Kane, with the high angle of the light coming down through the center of the room, you'd swear the room was 150 feet high and you'd just walked into a dusty mausoleum with the librarian/cryptkeeper from hell.

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Why is it so many people think that Orsen Welles films always need to be re-edited?


John Ford films don't need it.


John Houston films don't need it.


Fritz Lang films don't need it.


Etc., etc.

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I rather got off the subject in my last post. Does anyone know when *The Magnificent Ambersons* is going to be released on DVD? I'm doing a research project, and I'm beginning to think I may have to break down and buy a copy on VHS. I find it rather bizarre that this particular film is not available on DVD yet.

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You know that's a very good question. I think Welles probably edited most of "his" films the way he wanted as he just seems to be such autocratic personality, you'd have to kill him to edit the film any other way than what he had "envisioned" it. If he hadn't been out of the country when *Ambersons* was edited, God only knows what would have happened. That's probably why the studio destroyed every piece of film that fell on the cutting room floor.


I'm a librarian, with a group of high school students who are doing a project on *The Magnificent Ambersons* from Tarkington's conception of his 1918 book, through Welle's film version of it, to the A&E 2002 version supposedly based on Welle's original script. As I was a film major thousands of years ago -- I've been assigned to help them. Just my luck.


I haven't seen the Welles version in years. And there are all these questions about alternate endings: the "happy ending," the "real ending," the "studio ending." I'm reading the book, listening to the audiobook, and if A&E's version is truly based on Welles "original script" large amounts of the film's dialog are word-for-word from the book. With Tarkington's book, there's a great amount of dialog (internal & external), the characters are always talking, and in many instances there isn't a great deal of action going on while they're talking. So unless you just loved filming "talking heads," you got trouble my friends.....

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I can?t remember how many and which films Welles claims the studios ?ruined? by ?bad editing?, but I suspect that was his excuse for turning out duds.


I?ve seen a lot of Welles films, and I like only two of them: Kane and Lady from Shanghai. I think they are both brilliant.


I find Ambersons exceedingly boring, no matter how it is edited.

Journey into Fear is not so bad as a B movie.

The Stranger is ok too.

Macbeth is boring. The same with Othello.

Mr. Arkadin is lousy. Bad sound, obviously looped in a sound booth.

Touch of Evil has some interesting parts, but I?ve seen Ronald Reagan movies that were better.

I see a dozen other movies listing him as ?director? that were all duds.


I don't hear any other directors blaming other people for their own films' failures.

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Maybe you can help me with something. Can you tell me exactly what Ambersons is about?


I've tried watching this film many times, but after about half an hour my brain goes numb and I don't seem to remember the rest of the film. I either fall asleep, or I make dinner, or I type messages on the internet.


I've never been able to find a theme in this film or a story line. All I know is that people keep talking about how autos are going to do away with horses and buggies. Over and over again they talk about that. Then they walk up the big stairs and stop on the stars and talk about that.


I much prefer the way the same stairs were used in "Cat People". That was a fine film that had a plot and many wonderful segments in it.

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*If he hadn't been out of the country when Ambersons was edited, God only knows what would have happened. That's probably why the studio destroyed every piece of film that fell on the cutting room floor.*


Welles left the film during post-production to go to Rio for location scouting. By many different accounts, he was foolish to leave while his film was being edited. Even John Ford advised him not leave while *Ambersons* was in post-production.


But leave he did. When the film flopped at preview screenings, Welles was not around to fight for the film. Despite attempts by wire and telephone by Robert Wise and others involved in the film, Welles did not respond.


Wise was left between a rock and hard spot. He ended up cutting the film and trying to preserve as much of Welles' vision as possible without Welles' input.


As for the studio, they weren't trying to destroy Welles or his picture (no one was better at that than Welles himself). They were trying to fix a picture that had played badly with preview audiences. Without the director/producer around to fight for the picture, they wanted a version that would play well with the masses.


As for the lost footage, it wasn't a conspiracy to destroy Welles, it was that no one thought the excised sections would have any value. If they had thought there was any monetary value in it, they would have saved those sections along with the original negative.


But it was the 1940s and the studios had no idea that thirty years later there would be such a thing as VHS, director's cuts or even DVDs. They were more interested in storage space and containing the costs therein.

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*Maybe you can help me with something. Can you tell me exactly what Ambersons is about?*




For me it is about the changing times from the 19th to the 20th century and how that affects a small town in middle America.


The Ambersons go from being a very prominent family (with some secrets) to being displaced by the changing times and changing culture.


At the heart of the story is Georgie Minafer who should be able to straddle the changing culture and times but, instead, becomes a victim as well.


His arrogance and his sense of entitlement are why so many of the townspeople and so many viewers cannot wait for him to get his "comeuppance".


Unfortunately for all of us, by the time he does, it only registers perhaps on him.


"Something had happened. A thing which, years ago, had been the most eager hope of many, many good citizens of the town, and now it had come at last; George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He got it three times filled, and running over. But those who had so longed for it were not there to see it, and they never knew it. Those who were still living had forgotten all about it and all about him. "


Which is often the best revenge of all, moving on and not looking back.


Message was edited by: lzcutter for spelling

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Dear Fred,


IZcutter is right on the mark with his/her reply. The Amberson family serves as a metaphor for old money and old society, the closest thing America has to "royalty." Major Amberson, the patriarch of the Amberson clan, made the family fortune as a land developer and apparently as the founding father of town. Eugene Morgan represents "new money," his family is from "the working class" his power and wealth comes not from "old" family connections but through financial dealings and modern manufacturing e.g. the automobile. Eugene looks toward the future, sees the changes in society and seizes the opportunities presented. The Ambersons are just happy to keep things as they are, they don't want to look at all these "new-fangled" changes in society because if they did, THEY'D have to change. Because Georgie Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson, absolutely refuses to accept any change whatsoever, he decends from the Mid-Western aristrocracy to the working class. I'm not quite sure why someone as young as Georgie is so rigid and conventional. It maybe because change requires work and thought -- two qualities that young Georgie definitely shies away from.


The time period in which the novel is set (19th-20th century ) is one of the most innovative times in recorded history just think of all the inventions: telephones, automobiles, electricity, motion pictures, typewriters, household appliances, etc. etc. A total industrial revolution that would revolutionize the way society would live.


I think The Magnificent Ambersons is still revelant today because we're in the midst of another revolution: the technogical revolution, the computer and its chips are changing every aspect of our society. And the change is so rapid that it's sometimes hard to keep up!

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The more I read about this film the more bewildered I become.... I have a statement from a source that says in essence "Another reason the studio (RKO) required a re-editing was that the preview audiences were repulsed by the 'Aunt Fanny' character."


Repulsed? Yes they did use the word *repulsed*. I have not seen this film in over twenty years, but I don't recall anything about Agnes Moorehead's performance that would make me run to an editing bay with scissors in hand screaming "Aunt Fanny is repulsive."

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Well I've ordered a VHS copy of the movie, so hopefully it will be here by the weekend or the first of next week. Really the only two scenes I remember are the snow scene and there was a traveling shot in the Amberson mansion with really shiny tables and floors and I remember thinking at the time that it must have been a nightmare to light without getting some sort of shadow of cameras, etc from the reflective surfaces.

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>Welles was not around to fight for the film. Despite attempts by wire and telephone by Robert Wise and others involved in the film, Welles did not respond.

I though I read somewhere that Welles did respond by telegram with editing instructions ...

Of course with him working from memory rather than being where he could watch the film, his directions apparently weren't always that easy to figure out.

And I'm pretty certain, too, that Welles went to Mexico when RKO sent him rather than "choosing" to leave at the time he did. The studio - whose new head didn't much like Welles - may have been looking for a way to take AMBERSONS out of his hands ... in fact the whole thing looks suspiciously like a set-up to me.

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You're right that Welles did respond to the phone calls and wires. I am getting old and sometimes my memory is not what it used to be.


That said, I still thinks he bears some of the responsibility for what happened to *Ambersons*. I think for too long that Robert Wise and RKO have carried that burden solely.


Welles was capable of being an incredible film maker but he was in many ways, his own worst enemy.

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