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THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS


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ambersons-cast.jpg

 

Question for the posters here--  if a film like "The Magnificent Ambersons" is deemed by critics and others to be a failure, even if a 'worthy' failure-- by virtue of poor editing, re-cutting, or some measure of loss of control by the director--  does that ruin it for you?

"...Ambersons",  (airing again on Monday @ 6:15 p.m. Eastern on TCM) is my favorite of all of Orson Welles' output.  Mutilated or not, it's fabulous, in my opinion.   Welles is so quickly able to set up the drama of this fascinating group, whose fortunes spiral down as dizzyingly as his camera flows up and down the Ambersons' grand staircase.   I was hooked from the first moment.   That whole complex, layered scene of the party they throw confirmed it for me. 

He gets everything right-- the Midwestern town's dense, sharply observant social climate, the brisk mood of the times, the pettiness and closeness and oddity of the family relationships.  With Welles, with so many scenes staged with such originality, you almost can't single out one.  For me, it will always be that bucketing, jubilant, seething, eventful automobile ride they take through the snowy countryside--  it's a set piece of pure brilliance!

And the casting!

It's true that the ending, taken out of Welles' hands, is a let down, to say the least.   Didn't they re-shoot more than one scene, as well as make drastic cuts?  But for me, that doesn't take away from the excellence that came before.... 

 

 

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Other people’s opinions, even a professional film critic’s, doesn’t affect my opinion one way or the other about a film. All that matters to me is my opinion and feelings about a film. 

I really like The Magnificent Ambersons and I lament the loss of Welles’ original cut and ending. Right now, a filmmaker, Joshua Grossberg is in Brazil looking for Welles’ original cut which is rumored to be residing there. TCM is funding the expedition. If successful, the original cut will be on TCM next summer. I can only hope the rumor pans out and Grossberg’s expedition is successful. 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/deadline.com/2021/04/tcm-documentary-search-orson-welles-the-magnificent-ambersons-1234732933/amp/

Until then though, I really love ‘Ambersons’ as it is right now. It is a compelling story and my heartaches for poor Aunt Fanny. 

 

 

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Well said, SPEEDRACERS.   Those are very much my sentiments too.

Wow, I had no idea someone was actively looking now for the original!  How very exciting--  what a coup if they find it.

"Fanny" was so well played by Agnes Moorehead,  she is so poignant in that role.  She was caught in a horrible position.  I love the authenticity of the 'bickering' exchanges between her and Tim Holt.  

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I didn't know about the drastic editing that happened to The Magnificent Ambersons!   I think it's a magnificent film and could even be more brilliant if restored to the original director's cut.  The story is a great one filled with unrealized romance, tragedy, comeuppance, change of fortune and forgiveness.  The character of the spoiled selfish son who finally gets his "comeuppance" is unforgettable.  It is a story of a mother's blind love.  I also love the beautiful way the mansion and town of that era is recreated with tremendous care and details.  It recaptures a time that has passed.  The cinematography is very striking (similar to Kane) with dramatic camera angles, black and white contrast and striking visual compositions.

Orson Welles's 'The Magnificent Ambersons' | by Geoffrey O'Brien | The New  York Review of Books        The Quest to Find The Lost Print of The Magnificent Ambersons

 

 

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34 minutes ago, Toto said:

I didn't know about the drastic editing that happened to The Magnificent Ambersons!   I think it's a magnificent film and could even be more brilliant if restored to the original director's cut.  The story is a great one filled with unrealized romance, tragedy, comeuppance, change of fortune and forgiveness.  The character of the spoiled selfish son who finally gets his "comeuppance" is unforgettable.  It is a story of a mother's blind love.  I also love the beautiful way the mansion and town of that era is recreated with tremendous care and details.  It recaptures a time that has passed.  The cinematography is very striking (similar to Kane) with dramatic camera angles, black and white contrast and striking visual compositions.

Orson Welles's 'The Magnificent Ambersons' | by Geoffrey O'Brien | The New  York Review of Books        The Quest to Find The Lost Print of The Magnificent Ambersons

 

 

I like the kitchen scenes with all the skillets hanging in the background.

 

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What a great summary, TOTO, of all that makes Ambersons so rewarding!   Glad you highlighted that stunning cinematography and the intricately detailed ambiance that only Welles seems to be able to bring off, with such verisimilitude.

Gosh, SEWHITE2000,  did not know about a new version.   As usual, I'm not well disposed to these remakes of great classics, but purely as an academic exercise, it would just be interesting to see what moderns would make of that screenplay, how they would attempt to put it across.  If you find any more about it, I'd be interested to know.

NIPKOWDISC,   what a good eye you have.   Those kitchen scenes are so atmospheric, love them too.

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I think you are right, MARYSARA1,  timing plays a huge part.   Orson Welles sure learned that, as so much of what he was doing was misunderstood at the time, only to be hailed and appreciated much later!

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I've been meaning to buy this film for a while now.  I've only seen it once and i don't even know if it was the original cut or a new release.  The influence it had on The Royal Tenenbaums is pretty obvious.

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I agree that I make up my own mind about any movie, though I've been directed to wonderful films because of critics' opinions. 

I also agree that it is a shame that the hell was cut out of what remains a cinematic treasure. 

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On 11/14/2021 at 2:56 PM, lilypond said:

ambersons-cast.jpg

 

Question for the posters here--  if a film like "The Magnificent Ambersons" is deemed by critics and others to be a failure, even if a 'worthy' failure-- by virtue of poor editing, re-cutting, or some measure of loss of control by the director--  does that ruin it for you?

"...Ambersons",  (airing again on Monday @ 6:15 p.m. Eastern on TCM) is my favorite of all of Orson Welles' output.  Mutilated or not, it's fabulous, in my opinion.   Welles is so quickly able to set up the drama of this fascinating group, whose fortunes spiral down as dizzyingly as his camera flows up and down the Ambersons' grand staircase.   I was hooked from the first moment.   That whole complex, layered scene of the party they throw confirmed it for me. 

He gets everything right-- the Midwestern town's dense, sharply observant social climate, the brisk mood of the times, the pettiness and closeness and oddity of the family relationships.  With Welles, with so many scenes staged with such originality, you almost can't single out one.  For me, it will always be that bucketing, jubilant, seething, eventful automobile ride they take through the snowy countryside--  it's a set piece of pure brilliance!

And the casting!

It's true that the ending, taken out of Welles' hands, is a let down, to say the least.   Didn't they re-shoot more than one scene, as well as make drastic cuts?  But for me, that doesn't take away from the excellence that came before.... 

 

 

lilypond,  thanks for that very nicely-written post about The Magnificent Ambersons.  Although I have seen the film, it has not been for a very long time, and your write-up has made me want to view it again.  

The three things I remember about it most are Agnes Moorehead's performance,  Tim Holt,  and the passage of time.  Agnes is always great,  I love her, what a talented and memorable actress she was.  As for Tim Holt, there's something about him that is likable, even when he plays an unlikable character  ( I think he's not very admirable in The Magnificent Ambersons, although again, it's been ages since I've seen it.)   I believe I got my first impression of Tim Holt from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in which he plays quite a sympathetic person. Anyway,  I always like Tim Holt and feel he was never fully recognized or used as the good actor he was.   

Joseph Cotten, of course,  was  always excellent in anything he was in.

But I do remember having a problem with The Magnificent Ambersons, which has nothing to do with the direction or the performances or the production, in fact,  it's just a "thing" I have.  I hardly ever like movies that cover many years in time.  I can't seem to adjust to seeing someone as a young man or woman in one scene, and then ten minutes later, they're middle-aged with an adult child.  Too much time in the story passes in too little time in real life.  I find it disorienting -- "Wait !  They were just getting married, and now twenty years have passed ? !  What happened in between?"   This applies for me not just to Ambersons, but to any film that covers decades in  a two hour time slot.

Yes,  I know the film was brutally edited,  and maybe if I ever saw the original version Welles had intended I wouldn't have a problem with the time thing.  But I probably still would, since the story would still cover many years in time.  I dislike epics for the same reason  ( like,  Gone with the Wind and Dr. Zhivago, just to name a couple- both cover many many years in time. )

Anyway,  perhaps I should try to lose this prejudice against "long epic storyline"  films,  since many of them are considered to be great movies - The Magnificent Ambersons being a case in point.  

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I just don't like this film. I don't like the pretentious way it opens. I don't like the story line or any of the characters. I don't know that I'd like it any better of the studio hadn't made substantial changes to Welles' film.  I find it lifeless and boring. I'd rather watch a bunch of old Warner Bros cartoons- Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck. Elmer Fudd, etc.

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On October 29, 1939 Orson Welles produced a one-hour radio adaptation of The Magnificent Ambersons for Campbell Playhouse. This version served as the basis for Welles' film script a few years later. It can be heard in its entirety on YouTube.

Welles plays George Amberson Minafer and Walter Huston plays Eugene Morgan. Huston's real-life wife Nan Sunderland is cast as Isabel Minafer. Ray Collins and Bea Benaderet have supporting roles.

 

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I enjoy the film & can't imagine it any other way.  It certainly wasn't Welles' vision, but sometimes edits can tighten a film's flow for those less dedicated or with shorter attention spans.

 

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On 11/14/2021 at 2:56 PM, lilypond said:

ambersons-cast.jpg

 

Question for the posters here--  if a film like "The Magnificent Ambersons" is deemed by critics and others to be a failure, even if a 'worthy' failure-- by virtue of poor editing, re-cutting, or some measure of loss of control by the director--  does that ruin it for you?

"...Ambersons",  (airing again on Monday @ 6:15 p.m. Eastern on TCM) is my favorite of all of Orson Welles' output.  Mutilated or not, it's fabulous, in my opinion.   Welles is so quickly able to set up the drama of this fascinating group, whose fortunes spiral down as dizzyingly as his camera flows up and down the Ambersons' grand staircase.   I was hooked from the first moment.   That whole complex, layered scene of the party they throw confirmed it for me. 

He gets everything right-- the Midwestern town's dense, sharply observant social climate, the brisk mood of the times, the pettiness and closeness and oddity of the family relationships.  With Welles, with so many scenes staged with such originality, you almost can't single out one.  For me, it will always be that bucketing, jubilant, seething, eventful automobile ride they take through the snowy countryside--  it's a set piece of pure brilliance!

And the casting!

It's true that the ending, taken out of Welles' hands, is a let down, to say the least.   Didn't they re-shoot more than one scene, as well as make drastic cuts?  But for me, that doesn't take away from the excellence that came before.... 

 

 

All films are subjective, I think people forget critics are people to with their own build in bias, the dislike for the film probably had more to do with Orson Welles  than anything else.

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7 minutes ago, Millenniumman said:

All films are subjective, I think people forget critics are people to with their own build in bias, the dislike for the film probably had more to do with Orson Welles  than anything else.

I'm  a big fan of Welles' work. I think Citizen Kane is a landmark film, and I think The Magnificent Ambersons is pretentious, boring twaddle.

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Great, detailed points, MISSWONDERLY3.   I think I also have a built-in aversion to films that cover a huge span of time!   For some reason that didn't bother me in this, maybe b/c ,  although reference is made to when Dolores Costello and Joseph Cotten were young and first in love, most of the action takes place later.   I don't like when there 'multi-generational' spans of time in one film though.

I even enjoy the flashbacks to some of the sour townspeople, predicting arrogant young child George's ultimate downfall.  Welles seemed to have such an earthy feeling for "regular" people, and how they would be of course all agog about a family like the Ambersons--  their salty, clear-eyed criticisms of the family, but also their inevitable envy and fascination....

I love Agnes Moorehead in this too.  Even in her tiny role as the mother in "Citizen Kane" she was a standout and a heart-breaker.   So poignant that she knew while her son was out playing in the snow, that it would be probably the last time she would see him.  Still she was resolute about getting him out, and giving him his "chance".  

Agree on Tim Holt and wonderful Joseph Cotten too.   Welles had such a fabulous stock company of actors to draw on.  In later viewings of the film, I came to appreciate Ray Collins as the down-to-earth uncle too.  He reminded me of some of my bluff, good-hearted uncles, somehow.   He was a yeoman character player-- so glad he had this part to add to his wry portrayal of Lt. Tragg in "Perry Mason".    

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Love the film. 

Agnes Moorehead is so underrated. A great, great actress. No movie with her could ever be a failure. She could play it all.

Joseph Cotten, who starred in one of my top 10 favorites ( Portrait of Jennie ) is wonderful as well. He was never in a failed film IMHO.

Welles knew how to pick them. Didn't he?

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On 11/14/2021 at 1:56 PM, lilypond said:

  Didn't they re-shoot more than one scene, as well as make drastic cuts?  But for me, that doesn't take away from the excellence that came before.... 

 

On 11/14/2021 at 3:30 PM, speedracer5 said:

I really like The Magnificent Ambersons and I lament the loss of Welles’ original cut and ending. Right now, a filmmaker, Joshua Grossberg is in Brazil looking for Welles’ original cut which is rumored to be residing there. TCM is funding the expedition. If successful, the original cut will be on TCM next summer. I can only hope the rumor pans out and Grossberg’s expedition is successful. 

Until then though, I really love ‘Ambersons’ as it is right now. It is a compelling story and my heartaches for poor Aunt Fanny. 

 

14 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

I enjoy the film & can't imagine it any other way.  It certainly wasn't Welles' vision, but sometimes edits can tighten a film's flow for those less dedicated or with shorter attention spans.

I think only the ending was re-shot.  An hour of footage was cut from Orson Welles's original rough cut of the film.

I really enjoy the released version of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSON.  The so-called "happier" ending that RKO had shot without Welles's involvement is actually the ending of Booth Tarkington's novel from which the movie was adapted.  Welles  apparently intended his movie to have a much darker ending than the one in the source material.

THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is my favorite Orson Welles movie. I find it much more entertaining than CITIZEN KANE.  The performances are all wonderful, but it's Tim Holt and Agnes Moorehead  who really shine.  Their scenes together are my favorite ones in the movie.  The part where their characters mock each other in their first scene took me by surprise the first time I saw it and continues to wow me in repeat viewings.  Tim Holt appeared mostly in B Westerns. I wished he had been given more opportunities to draw on the talent he displayed as George Minafer.  

 

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