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The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • 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.

  • The wealthy Ambersons have been the leading family of their middle American town since 1873, they who live in the grandest mansion in the center of the residential area of town. Most of the townspeople truly would like to be like the Ambersons, and as that probably will not happen they use the Ambersons as the focus of their gossip. That gossip largely centers on the beautiful Isabel Amberson: her courtship with passionate Eugene Morgan, who she truly does love; an incident by Eugene which results in Isabel deciding instead to marry the sensible businessman Wilbur Minafer, a man to who she is loyal but who she does not truly love; and that Isabel will focus all her love on her and Wilbur's children in the absence of any love for Wilbur. That prognostication is only partly true in that Isabel and Wilbur end up having only one child, George Minafer. The unconditional love Isabel has for George is akin to George being spoiled, in turn George having a complete sense of privilege and superiority which he carries into adulthood. The Minafer home is the Amberson mansion where they live with surviving members of the Amberson family, as well as Wilbur's plain spinster sister, Fanny Minafer. George's return home during a break from college coincides with Eugene also returning, he who left town twenty years ago after Isabel's marriage. Eugene is now a widower with a grown adult daughter Lucy Morgan, who turns the heads of most of the young men she meets. Eugene is an inventor whose latest invention, which is largely seen by traditionalists as a novelty, is a horseless carriage, i.e. an automobile. Eugene predicts that the automobile will ultimately change the face of life as they know it. George falls in love at first sight with Lucy, but takes an instant dislike to Eugene because of the attention Eugene pays toward his mother, George not knowing anything about the past between Eugene and his mother and not hiding his animosity toward Eugene despite his feelings for Lucy. What George can see is that Fanny is hoping that Eugene will court her, as she has secretly been in love with him herself over the years. George's plan for his life with Lucy is not to get a job, but rather live off the Amberson fortune as the family's only heir, funneling some of that money into philanthropy, but largely using it to act the leading citizen as is his custom. What happens with this collective group is largely directed by the affect Eugene's invention has on society, and George's sense that nothing will change just because he says it won't.

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  • The spoiled young heir to the decaying Amberson fortune comes between his widowed mother and the man she has always loved.


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