Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

"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 who wore silk or velvet, and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage."

I loved this film. I ordered it on Friday for the half term holiday and - thanks to Amazon Prime's super duper fantazmagorical next day delivery - it arrived on Saturday morning and sat near the DVD player beckoning, "watch me... watch me..." all the time while I was trying to do a Grade 5 music theory mock paper (a very frustrating activity, I assure you). So finally, my family and I sat down and watched it after dinner. Wow.

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) "I wrote the picture and directed it. My name is Orson Welles."

The Ambersons were a powerful Indianapolis family from 1873 and it seemed that they would be so forever - or so everyone thought. "Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their midland town spread and darken into a city," but its decline started as soon as the new nightmare addition to the family was let loose on the town. George Minifer (the name that his mother had acquired when she married Wilber Minifer) was a spoilt brat of a child ever since his mother Isabel and his father Wilber realised that they could do just as they liked with the infant, giving him a small horse and carriage to tear through the city with. However, his bold and rude attitude coupled with his girly locks garnered him criticism and teasing from other children. As he grew up he developed a cynical and negative view of the world and the non-Amberson inhabitants of it. All the town members prayed that they would live to see the day that the arrogant bully, George Amberson, would get his come-upance.

One night at a ball held at the house a mysterious, handsome looking man comes and it seems that he had known George's mother before. His name was Eugene Morgan, and he had once been Isabel's beau, but the Ambersons found him altogether too much of an enthusiastic and outgoing character to be part of the Amberson family. Disturbed by the prospect of having such a strange man in the house and as a friend, George started to look around at the other guests at the party when he met Lucy. He instantly took a bit of a liking to Lucy, in the most pleasant way imaginable for George to take a liking to anyone, and expressed his woes about the odd man to her, but is mortified to realise that she is his daughter.

After the party, George questions his Aunt Fanny about Eugene but she refuses to admit that there could be anything between Isabel and him. But when Wilbur dies, it leaves Isabel available and Eugene and Lucy start to see lots of the Ambersons. Eugene's newfangled contraption "the horseless carriage" seems to be catching on and he starts to earn almost as much money from making them as George's family has. While Lucy and George are still fond of each other, their relationship doesn't take top priority for George as Eugene makes up his mind to propose to to Isabel. George is sure that if he simply doesn't let Eugene into the house, all will be fine, but the reputation of the Ambersons is suffering badly...

Now, when you watch this you have to be aware that it isn't an Orson Welles masterpiece in the sense that Citizen Kane is, in fact most of the film as directed by Orson was cut before its proper release, but it is still a brilliant film. The boy who plays George I felt, should have been Orson Welles but wasn't. He was fine but not quite as great as the other actors. I thought that Anne Baxter was also very good, and I hadn't seen her in anything else except All About Eve so it was very nice to get a different feel of what kind of an acting she did. Dolores Costello was also pretty good. Oh yeah, and she was only married to John Barrymore hence being Drew Barrymore's grandmother. 'Cause that's not completely and utterly amazingly awesome.

Joseph Cotten was amazing as usual. I liked his moustache in this film, even if it wasn't quite as moustachey as the one he has in Citizen Kane. And can I just say, Agnes Moorehead? She was so good! I've only ever seen her in the beginning of Citizen Kane and in her comedic mode as Endora in "Bewitched" (best TV series ever by the way) but she was so good in this. So dramatic! I can imagine that she would be quite hard to cast though.

Not sure this shot ended up in the final cut.

Last but not least, I think that some of the cast in this and Citizen Kane are members of his theatre group, the Mercury Theatre Company founded by Orson Welles. Pretty cool, no?

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and the sets were amazing and worked wonders when teamed with Orson's great wide angle shots. Definitely recommended.



Sarah said...

Ooooh thats a great movie. Didnt Orson Wells say once it was his favourite?

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