Monday, October 26, 2009

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) was directed by Orson Welles and starred Joseph Cotton, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Agnes Moorehead, and Tim Holt.

The film, set in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, tells the story of the Ambersons, an upper-class Indianapolis family.

The head of the Amberson family is Major Amberson (Richard Bennett). The Major has two children, Isabel (Dolores Costello) and Jack (Ray Collins).

The beginning of the film is told in flasbacks and establishes the history between the characters. We learn that Isabel is unintentionally humiliated in public by her beau Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) with he serenades her after having a few drinks and drunkenly falls and breaks his bass violin. Isabel breaks off the relationship and marries Wilbur Minafer (Donald Dillaway).

Isabel and Wilbur have one child, George (Tim Holt), who the town describes as a spolied arrogant immature brat who will one day get his "commeuppance."

The film next advances to twenty years later. Eugene, now a widower, returns to Indianapolis with his daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter). Isabel and Wilbur are still married and living in the Amberson mansion with her father Major Amberson and Wilbur's spinster sister Fanny (Agnes Moorehead). George is home from college and they are throwing him a party. George meets Lucy and is instantly taken by her.

But George is a momma's boy and is upset by the obvious attraction that still exists between Eugene and his mother, Isabel. Fanny is also not happy as she is also smitten with Eugene.

Eugene is a man of the future, designing "horseless carriages" which George thinks is stupid and a useless invention.

George and Lucy begin a courtship but problems arise when George's father Wilbur dies. After Wilbur's death, his mother begins seeing Eugene and George is furious. To make matters worse, Fanny flames the fire with George's dislike of Eugene. Ultimately, this conflict results in a breaking off of the relationship between George and Lucy.

Eugene continues to court Isabel and then decides to ask for her hand in marriage. Sensing that Eugene wants to marry Isabel, George takes control and rebuffs a planned visit from Eugene at the door of the Amberson mansion. Isabel's love for George overrides her love for Eugene, so she complies with George's demands. Isabel leaves with George on a world tour, to get her away from Eugene.

Isabel becomes ill on the world tour. Her illness compels their return to Indianpolis, where George still acts as gatekeeper for those who wish to see the dying Isabel. Eugene is unable to see Isabel for one last time before her death.

Shortly thereafter, Isabel's grief-stricken father Major Amberson dies, leaving George and the other family members to fend for themselves financially. George and Fanny are forced to move from the mansion.

George feeling a responsibility to care for Fanny, must take employment among the "riffraff" he has always scorned. George was originally to take a job in a law firm but it did not pay enough to care for himself and Fanny, so he takes a job in the labor industry. George Minafer received his comeuppance.

George also begins to gain some self-awareness of how he has hurt others. He begins to learn to take responsibility as he deals with his grief and guilt. He finally begins to show signs of maturity.

Eugene and Lucy read in the newspaper that George is in the hospital after nearly being killed in a car accident. The final scene of the movie shows Eugene and Fanny walking down the hall outside of George's hospital room and we learn George, Eugene and Lucy have reconciled their differences.

The Magnificent Ambersons was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Supporting Actress for Agnes Moorehead.

Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt steal this movie. There performances are excellent. Although Agnes Moorehead did not win the Academy Award she did receive the New York Film Critics Award for her performance as Fanny.

The main draw back to this movie, is the original version was much longer and several cuts were made. At times it is obvious that that a scene or information is missing.

This is a very good movie that I highly recommend

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