The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

by guestwriter

The Magnificent Ambersons was Orson Welles’ second feature film and represented a personal project for the director. Already having concluded a radio play after the book of the same name by Booth Tarkington, the film was to mark the beginning of the dictatorial producers system in Hollywood. The story is placed at the debut of the twentieth century and it follows the destiny of George Amberson Minafer, the heir of an aristocratic family. Although the plot line may seem autobiographical (George being the second name of Orson’s himself), the master’s ego didn’t represent an issue here, casting Tim Holt in the main male role.

The first vast part of the movie is a demonstration of Orson Welles’ creator genius. The opening scene constitutes a captivating lecture, full of implied parallels about men’s fashion, narrated by the director himself and illustrated by Joseph Cotten. The Magnificent Ambersons concentrates then on the recreation of a wealthy world, that belongs to the Ambersons, and which gradually begins to decline as the role of industry and technology grows. The scene of the ball in which the filming camera spins around the dancers, capturing plot and dialogue fragments  of the impressive cast, is amazing and it also leaves place for music and history.

The original editing approved by Welles before leaving on holiday for Brasil was suppressed by the the studios and the film substantially reduced in legth. The last 10 minutes of the movie are a total fight for a happy-end imposed by the producers. Lasting only 88 minutes in the theatrical presentation as opposed to more than 2 hours in the original version, The Magnificent Ambersons is still a great cinematic achievement worth watching!

*the second image is captured by Classiq, as we wanted to post a screenshot from the ball scene mentioned above; ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ is a production of Mercury Production and RKO Radio Pictures


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