The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)

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

The Magnificent Ambersons plays like a nice classical music from a classic composer, it is a story about pride, richness, family, and the turn of the 20th Century. Welles put more that expected in this story and he even made it even subtler that his previous Citizen Kane. Orson Welles was a man of his time, but his heritage was from a father who took him to travel around the world. His education was from this 19th Century heritage that clashed with the new Century.

This Orson Welles film should have been the director's masterpiece and become even greater than his own Citizen Kane made only one year earlier. However, the studios were not happy with his final editing and asked editor Robert Wise to cut down and retell the story that was inspired by Booth Tarkington's novel, a friend of the Welles family. During the re-editing process, Welles was shooting in South America and he was preparing another film. However, the cataclysm that was Citizen Kane the year before had already cursed Welles for the rest of his career.

Even with his detachment from the final cut and the story that maligned The Magnificent Ambersons, it is still a cinephile's dream to discover one day Welles' vision restored. The bits and parts that came to us still demonstrate the mastery of Welles, cinematographer Gregg Toland's masterful compositions, and the huge legacy that the actors directed by Welles for their iconic roles have left to us. On many many lists, this period drama is ranked as a masterpiece. Put aside the drama of the making and the steal from the studios, this is still a remarkable film that Welles enthusiasts can't throw away without considering.

I however believe that it is always good for the legend and the fans that the greats of films have such stories. It reminds us how important and unique each film is. How it is important to take the time to actually enjoy every offering a director has created and how it takes so many elements to control to actually release to masterpieces in a row in so few time. If Welles hasn't been stopped at the time he actually could have directed many more films. But let's just say that he almost never made a film that was not a masterpiece or a near-masterpiece.

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