DIRECTOR: Orson Welles


May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? NO

Speaking of RKO, Welles’ was quoted as saying “They destroyed ‘Ambersons,’ and ‘it’ destroyed me.”

Based on the novel by Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons is a period drama and the second feature film by Orson Welles. I came to this film with the  meta-knowledge that it was one of the best film ever made, along side Orson Welles’ previous classic, Citizen Kane (1940). Well, sorry, but this is no Citizen Kane and it is far from the great film which it is toted to be. Granted, it’s not a bad movie either. It’s a simple tale of a spoiled rich boy/man who presides over his families dwindling estate and power during the industrialisation of the late 19th and early 20th century in Indianapolis, leading to the loss of the quaint values of that time. But it is also a straight forward melodrama, with scandal, tears and lost loves.

In the context of the time, before the soap opera I suppose this would have found a solid audience but now, it must be taken in that context and will leave many people cold. Welles’ style is as purposed as ever, with dutch angles and strong uses of shadow but the story was plodding, a little muddled and I just found it to be a little amateurish at times. Sorry Mr Welles’, but he was as much a radio and stage director as he was into movies and think it shows here.

There has always been an amount of controversy about this film, as RKO order cuts and re-shoots behind Welles’ back, hence his quote above. Many of the scenes would have played out differently, but I don’t see how the original cut would have been a significant improvement on this. Maybe it would have captured his tone batter, but this is still a simple period drama, so it comes down to how it plays out. To me it, doesn’t do anything spectacular.

It lacks the epic stature of Gone With The Wind (1939), which possesses a timeless to its nature and in the end, particularly the final scene in which two of our lead characters are walking down a hospital corridor, my thoughts were of General Hospital or Dr. Kildare! But Welles’ voice overs are always soothing and I must admit, I do quite enjoy them.

I can see this working up until anytime in the 1950’s but once the soaps started, the Amberson’s day has to have been done.


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