The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama, Romance

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Poster

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




  • Orson Welles and Stanley Cortez in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • Dolores Costello and Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • Dolores Costello and Tim Holt in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • Orson Welles and Stanley Cortez in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • Orson Welles and Stanley Cortez in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

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Reviews & Commentary

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19 April 1999 | coop-16
| What might have been...
The fate of this almost magnificent film must rank as one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the cinema. viewing it in its present state is like looking at the Venus Di Milo, or at a beautiful Greek vase that has been shattered. One can only admire the fragments...and what gorgeous fragments they are: Major Ambersons heartbreaking meditation by the fireplace,the quarrel between Eugene Morgan and Georgie about the Automobile, Isabel's death, Agnes Moorehead's magnificent performance, the splendor of the Amberson mansion, and the ballroom scene. Perhaps someday, some powerful computer might be able to reconstruct the missing footage from stills and from Welles script...perhaps. Until that almost impossible moment, one can only envy the handful of men and women who were able to see it whole, and to understand what they were seeing.

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Did You Know?


The film's second preview was set in the more sophisticated town of Pasadena. Robert Wise had restored Orson Welles's 22 minutes of cuts and made smaller cuts in other places to make up the difference. The results were much more positive, but panic had already set in at the studio. When Welles heard of the problems, he begged the studio to send Wise to Brazil so they could re-cut the film together, but that was still impossible. Instead, RKO created a committee consisting of Jack Moss, Wise and Joseph Cotten to shorten the film. Welles sent lengthy telegrams to the committee suggesting changes. In the end, RKO chief George Schaefer turned the entire editing process over to Wise.


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 ...


When Eugene and Lucy leave the Amberson mansion after the big party and drive away in the Morgan automobile, the top of the painted "trees" back drop can then be seen at the top of the Frame for most of the shot as they both drive away.

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.

Alternate Versions

There are three alternate versions to The Magnificent Ambersons; none exist anymore:

  • the original version, Welles' first cut, is the only one that has any type of record that exists. It was 132 minutes long. It included an extended ball sequence, an extended sequence of Jack and George in the kitchen, a completely different ending, as well as other cuts too numerous to mention. The original last part of the movie was (in order): George and Jack at the Rail Station, George's walk home and comeuppance, Fanny at the boiler, Bronson's office, Eugene and Lucy in the garden, George in the accident, Eugene hears of the accident, Eugene visits Fanny in the boarding house. The cutting continuity, which was recorded five days before the first preview, is included in the book, The Magnificent Ambersons - A Reconstruction.
  • The first preview audience saw the original cut for the most part. Welles ordered small cuts and one major cut prior to preview but no record of what they were exists. The movie ends the same way except the scene of Eugene and Lucy in the garden was dropped.
  • The second preview audience saw a version that ran about 110 minutes. Twenty minutes of footage was scrapped and the ending went: George and Jack at the railroad station, Fanny's breakdown, Bronson's office, George's walk home, Eugene and Lucy in the garden, George being hit by car, Eugene hearing about the accident, and a shorter version of Eugene visiting Fanny in the boarding house.
  • When the previews still weren't to the studio's satisfaction, the film was cut over and over, a new ending was filmed (not by Welles) and the film was finally released at its current run of 88 minutes.


String Quintet In E, Op. 13 No. 5: Minuet
Music by
Luigi Boccherini
Played at the Ball


Plot Summary


Drama | Romance

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