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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 10 July 1942 (USA)
The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between his widowed mother and the man she has always loved.

Directors:

, (uncredited) | 1 more credit »

Writers:

(from the novel by), (script writer)
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 4 wins. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Narrator (voice)
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Storyline

The young, handsome, but somewhat wild Eugene Morgan wants to marry Isabel Amberson, daughter of a rich upper-class family, but she instead marries dull and steady Wilbur Minafer. Their only child, George, grows up a spoiled brat. Years later, Eugene comes back, now a mature widower and a successful automobile maker. After Wilbur dies, Eugene again asks Isabel to marry him, and she is receptive. But George resents the attentions paid to his mother, and he and his whacko aunt Fanny manage to sabotage the romance. A series of disasters befall the Ambersons and George, and he gets his come-uppance in the end. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Real life screened more daringly than it's ever been before! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

10 July 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Glanz des Hauses Amberson  »

Box Office

Budget:

$850,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original cut) | (preview)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The consensus of opinion according to nearly everyone who saw the original conclusion--which included a tour of the decaying Amberson mansion--was that it was much more powerful than the tacked-on "happy" ending. See more »

Goofs

Towards end of long tracking shot with George and Lucy in horse-drawn carriage, portion of rear end of camera car and some sort of filmmaking equipment briefly enters left side of frame. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town, in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet, and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage. The only public conveyance was the streetcar. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once and wait for her, ...
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Crazy Credits

All of the credits except the RKO logo, the film's title and the copyright notice are recited orally (by Orson Welles) at the end of the film, not written out onscreen. As Welles recites the names of the production crew, we see such items as a motion picture camera when he says "Director of Photography", a pair of hands turning knobs as he says the words "Sound Recording By", etc. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Budd Boetticher: An American Original (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo
(1892) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Fred Gilbert
Sung a cappella by Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter,
Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead and Ray Collins
See more »

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User Reviews

Magnificent is right
29 July 1999 | by (NAS Whidbey Island, WA) – See all my reviews

I think I'd give just about anything to see a restored version of this film, like "Touch of Evil."

Its reputation is quite justified, however, and the top critics of today have generally agreed that it's one of Welles' best efforts as director. Some have even said that, scene for scene, it's a better film than "Citizen Kane."

The opening montage, set to Welles' narration, is as good as anything of its kind that's been done before or after -- brilliantly, and I hate to use that word because it's so often overused, it achieves two things: 1) it sets up the dramatic side of the story, with Eugene's fawning for and losing the affections of Isabel, and 2) putting us in a specific, historical time and place. The story of George Minafer's downfall parallels the changing times of America during that time, as well as American aristocracy.

Then there's Agnes Moorehead, who does the most amazing work as Fanny Minafer, George's aunt. She's a pressure cooker to begin with, but when the Ambersons hit rock-bottom she lets go, in a torrential, hysterical performance that's still getting praise today.

"The Magnificent Ambersons" also carries an equally dramatic story of Hollywood's assault on artistic expression; almost everyone knows that RKO seized the film and cut it to pieces while Welles was out doing his documentary "It's All True." Today there's other ways for great directors (Kubrick, Altman) to dodge the system, but film stock and equipment in those days could only be procured from big studios, and for the remainder of Welles' career his genius would only be seen fleetingly (his adaptations of Shakespeare, Kafka's "The Trial"). It's a story as tragic as George Minafer's.


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