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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy The Film Even More By Doing A Little Research!
For those truly interested in what Welles' original version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" would have been like, I strongly recommend Robert Carringer's "The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction" and Peter Bogdanovich's "This Is Orson Welles". Both books provide considerable detail regarding the significant re-editing and re-shooting...
Published on January 26, 2000 by Sean Ryan

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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SHAME ON WARNER BROTHERS!!!
It is impossible to assign an accurate star rating to this product. The actual movie - although butchered by a pack of money-mad pirates prior to the film's initial release back in 1942 - was most probably as magnificent as its title indirectly suggests. What remains of Welles' original vision is still magnificent. The dastardly doings of meddlers who cut here and...
Published on February 15, 2012 by Richard Masloski


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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy The Film Even More By Doing A Little Research!, January 26, 2000
By 
Sean Ryan (Livonia, Michigan) - See all my reviews
For those truly interested in what Welles' original version of "The Magnificent Ambersons" would have been like, I strongly recommend Robert Carringer's "The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction" and Peter Bogdanovich's "This Is Orson Welles". Both books provide considerable detail regarding the significant re-editing and re-shooting which took place on this film. What remains in the released version of Welles' second film is astonishing, but much of the story's logic was lost in the re-cutting, as was important character motivation. Exactly why did the Ambersons lose their fortune? What propelled George to rebuff Eugene? Welles' original version answered these questions and presented an incredible vision of a world overrun by industry. The destruction of this original version of the movie is simply the greatest injustice done to American cinema. Alas, we can still marvel at the film's beautiful performances, the gorgeous "snow ride" scene, the astonishingly realistic "kitchen" scenes and Welles' incredible narration. By all means, watch this movie, but do some reading about what it was meant to be and then use your imagination to see the greatest American movie ever made.
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63 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Magnificent Magnificent Ambersons, February 13, 2001
By 
Stephen Reginald (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Orson Welles's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's award-willing novel and follow-up to Citizen Kane is a true screen classic. As with Kane, this film contains many wonderful performances by all the leads including Joseph Cotton, Agnes Moorehead, Dolores Costello, and Tim Holt as George Amberson Minafer. Welles continued his experimentation with film technique and you will notice similar camera angles and lighting, to those in Kane. The lighting is something exploited to good affect here, especially in the scenes inside the Amberson mansion. The story is a simple one: Eugene Morgan (Cotton) and Isabel Amberson (Costello) young lovers, who through a somewhat frivolous circumstance end up marrying other people. After they've both raised children, they again find themselves free to begin where they left off in their youth. But Isabel's son (Holt) does not approve of their relationship, in spite of the fact that he is in love with Morgan's daughter, Lucy (Anne Baxter). Set at the turn of the 20th century, the movie has a wonderful feel and texture, which effectively evokes the period. An interesting backdrop is the development of the automobile, with Cotton an early proponent and tycoon, and its effects on not only the American economy, but on the changes it brings to society as well. Morgan, once spurned as a little too common for Isabel returns again to his hometown a successful industrialist. As his fortunes climb, those of the Ambersons fall. As already mentioned, the film is packed with wonderful performances. Agnes Moorehead was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and won the Best Actress award from the New York Film Critics Circle. As the lonely, sorrowful Aunt Fanny, hers is a delicately crafted characterization. Cotton as the auto tycoon Morgan, gives another understated and subtle performance; a young Anne Baxter is lovely as Cotton's daughter Lucy; and Tim Holt, a name all but forgotten today, is magnificent in the pivotal role of George Amberson Minafer. One of the most interesting scenes in the film is the ball at the Amberson mansion. The camera seems to float along with the players seemingly without a break, putting the viewer right in the midst of the cast. A great film, worthy of multiple viewings, The Magnificent Ambersons has earned its place among Hollywood's greatest films.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SHAME ON WARNER BROTHERS!!!, February 15, 2012
By 
Richard Masloski (New Windsor, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons (DVD)
It is impossible to assign an accurate star rating to this product. The actual movie - although butchered by a pack of money-mad pirates prior to the film's initial release back in 1942 - was most probably as magnificent as its title indirectly suggests. What remains of Welles' original vision is still magnificent. The dastardly doings of meddlers who cut here and there with all the perverse glee of cinematic Jack the Rippers and the replacement footage shot by hacks for an idiotic restructuring of the original film go far in compromising the impact and power of what was most assuredly in the original version. All of RKO's inept attempts to make the film a better one have merely ruined a masterpiece. What happened is somewhat akin to far lesser artists cutting apart Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" and rearranging the apostles and even leaving a few out of the picture all together. So, in its original form, AMBERSONS would most likely have garnered a full five stars. Compromised by morons and strictly viewed as just a movie...three stars seems more honest.

Sadly, on these boards we commentators cannot accord votes to a product's various elements. I wish that such a system were enacted by Amazon, as too often folks have to explain why a certain something only gets a few stars - with the reason often being that the stars are for the quality of the item and not the quality of what the item is presenting. In this case - after having waited years for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS to finally become available on DVD - what does Warner Brothers do to make this moment memorable? Pitifully, hardly a thing! No commentary whatsoever - even though the story of the plight of this ruined masterwork is a tale that must be told! No assemblage via frame grabs or story boards of what the actual Welles version was like before it was previewed in Pomona! (The picture of Joe Cotton and Agnes Moorehead on the DVD's backside is, ironically, a picture from the original ending before it was cut out and destroyed and its ending sickeningly re-shot.) But perhaps the shabbiest thing of all is that the DVD has NO chapter stops!!! WB initially released this film as part of a package deal when the recent 60th anniversary release of CITIZEN KANE graced store shelves late last year. Back then, if you wanted AMBERSONS you had to shell out for both films. Now it is available individually. I am happy it is finally on more durable DVD and not tangle-prone tape. But....is this the best Warner Brothers can do??? Doesn't this already savaged and mutilated masterpiece deserve much, much better?????

I think so!!! P.S. Am I in the Twilight Zone or what? Who is Georgia Backus and why is she the only person listed beside the DVD title here on Amazon? The IMDB tells us that she played a "matron" in AMBERSONS. Wouldn't it have been far wiser to list Agnes Moorehead or Anne Baxter or Dolores Costello instead???? Talk about neglect!
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant followup to "Kane", October 18, 2003
What a travesty it is that as of this writing, Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" is not available on DVD, while the far inferior 2002 remake is. Welles' managed to follow up his landmark debut "Citizen Kane" with another masterpiece, despite studio meddling which reduced the film's length by 43 minutes.
Eschewing "Kane's" fragmented structure, "Ambersons" employs a linear narrative to chronicle the rise and fall of the Amberson family, who become an allegory for pre-industrialized America. Though the film undeniably laments the passing of the simpler, 19th century way of life (most effectively in a nostalgic prelude narrated by Welles himself), the conflict between past and progress is complicated by the impudence of George Minafer (Tim Holt), scion of the Ambersons, and the amiability of Joseph Cotten as the inventor whose automobiles contribute to the decline of the Ambersons' magnificence. "Ambersons" is characterized by masterfully choreographed long takes, which allow Welles to extract thematic content from the material through sheer compositional virtuosity. "The Magnificent Ambersons" remains a powerful experience despite the loss of several key scenes; RKO chopped Welles' diamond, but could not obscure its brilliance.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is why we watch movies, December 1, 2002
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen. The saddest are these `it might have been' " That proverb seems made specifically for this film. Orson Welles' big screen adaptation of the "Magnificent Ambersons" was cut from two hours down to an hour and a half. The excised footage was destroyed so there will be no `directors cut' of this film.
Lavishly shot, wonderfully directed, and superbly acted this film takes it rightful place as a movie classic. It consistently makes the list of the all time greatest films.
HOWEVER, the loss of 1/3rd of the film shows throughout. It is a masterpiece of design and acting, but I found the plot to be jumpy often skipping over important elements from the novel. The characters (with the notably exception of Agnes Moorhead) never really get a chance to grow and develop or show their inner selves.
The basic plot centers on new money versus old money. The Ambersons are the acknowledged masters of the town and their crown princess Isabelle spurns the advances of Eugene Morgan a young inventor. Twenty years later Morgan, now a rich widower, and his comely daughter return to the town and meet up with the Ambersons. George Amberson Minever scion of the clan falls in love with young Lucy and the elder Morgan begins to renew his courtship of the widowed Isabelle. George objects to the match and places all possible obstacles in the way of the automobile magnet and his mother. As progress moves forward the automobile changes the way of life for everybody and the rich and powerful Ambersons find themselves behind the times and losing both thief fortune and prestige.
This is a classic movie and what is left is well worth seeing over and over again.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How George Orson Welles Got His Comeuppance, August 21, 2002
By 
"patrick_mcknight" (Vancouver, BC Canada) - See all my reviews
"The Magnificent Ambersons" is two stories rolled up into one. I will explain them one at a time.
First of all, it is the story of a late nineteenth century family, the Ambersons. The Ambersons are a large, wealthy, New England family who are held in high esteem in their community. They live in a large, beautiful mansion where they hold balls and invite all the town folk.
Unfortunately, the Ambersons are also very old fashioned and are unable to keep up with the changing times. When Wilbur Minafer dies, it is discovered that he has made some bad investments that has left the Amberson clan bankrupt. Meanwhile, his widow Isabel Amberson begins to see her old flame Eugene whom she had stood up years before. Eugene is in the process of developing a new contraption called an "automobile". Eugene is prospering while the Ambersons are going bankrupt. Also, as one of the Ambersons points out, if automobiles become common and roads are built around their property, then the houses will lose their value. This leads to a wise speech that Eugene gives in response to a rude comment that George makes about Eugene's profession.
Indeed, it's not only financially that the Ambersons have trouble adjusting to. George Amberson Minafer, the son of Isabel, has grown from a spoiled young child to a spoiled young adult. He is the scallion of the Amberson clan and the Isabel's pet son. He is the person that the neighbors keep predicting will one day get "his comeuppance". George does not approve of his mother's relationship with Eugene and is determined to pressure her into breaking things off with him.
"The Magnificent Ambersons" is an affectionate look at a bigone era and a dark look into the changes that the automobile brought to some families at the dawn of the twentieth century. It was adapted from a novel by Booth Tarkington and directed with care and affection by Orson Welles. Welles had previously done a radio play adaptation of the Ambersons with himself in the role of George. As in that play, Welles narrates throughout the film, even signing off at the end. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous, indeed some of the shots bring to mind some of the pictures I've seen of nineteenth century houses. The music score by an uncredited Bernard Herman adds just the right touch.
However it's impossible to watch this film without thinking about the effect it had on Orson Welles. Which brings me to the second part of the story. George Orson Welles was a child prodege who, as he put it, had "genius" whispered into his ear from the time he was born. Starting in the thirties, sixteen-year-old Welles bluffed his way on stage into a Shakespearian production carving out a career as an actor. He also formed the "Mercury Theatre" which produced some highly original stage and radio plays. His radio production of "War of the Worlds" scared people across the country into believing that Martians had invaded Earth. On top of all that, Welles successfully broke into films making "Citizen Kane" for RKO, arguably the greatest film of all time. And this was all before he was twenty-six!
By this point, many of Welles' detractors were just waiting for Welles to get his "comeuppance". They wouldn't have to wait long. While Welles was away shooting a documentary in South America, RKO cut 45 minutes from the Ambersons and added three minutes after the film tested badly at a preview screening composed of rambunctious teenagers. RKO then put a stop to Welles' documentary and released the Ambersons with few previews where it flopped badly. While it's a testament to Welles' talents that a film that was so obviously butchered can still get a five star rating, the lost footage is still one of the ultimate Hollywood tragedies.
As for Welles, he suddenly found himself with an undeserved reputation as an unreliable director and a spendthrift. Welles' career never fully recovered, and although he would manage to cough up enough money to continue his film career, he would never again have the artistic and financial freedom that he had once enjoyed.
Like George Amberson Minafer, George Orson Welles finally got his comeuppance. He got it three times over and brimming.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed final cut of the film, great DVD, July 29, 2012
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This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons (DVD)
I almost didn't buy this DVD because of the negative reviews. Let's set some stuff straight:

1) The cutting and restructuring of this film, as well as the unbelievably inane happy ending, were all done by RKO in 1942 while Orson Welles was off blowing the studio's money in South America. Amazon and the current rights holders (Warner Bros) had nothing to do with this. This is the way the movie has existed since its release in 1942.

2) The cast list on Amazon's description that starts with Georgia Backus is just a fluke on Amazon's part. The packaging actually lists the major players. No reason to give it a one-star review because of this error.

3) The DVD, as of this point in time (July 2012), has about 10 chapter markers. Someone earlier complained that there were none. If that was so, it's no longer true.

4) The print is beautiful. There are no extras. Oh well.

If you're interested in Welles, film history, RKO, or life in the 1900s, you want this DVD. And even if none of these things appeal to you, this is still a great movie - beautiful cinematography and a compelling story. True, the original Welles cut may have been better, but we will probably never see that cut - no one else except for a few RKO employees in the forties has ever seen it. In the meantime, this DVD is great.

Don't listen to the naysayers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Near Great & Required Viewing, August 25, 2001
The Official Story has it that Orson Welles saw, in Tarkington's novel, his own story. The 'completed' film, such as it was, and the mess that led up to it, really IS Welles' own story - though not in any way he could've foreseen, or relished the irony of afterwards. The simplified version of events has philistine Hollywood & RKO cutting the genius Welles' legs out from under him on the AMBERSONS film, while he was off in Brazil shooting IT'S ALL TRUE. The actual chain of events is a lot more complicated than that, and has as much to do with the star-crossed history of RKO as with the movie colony's dislike of Orson Welles, enfant terrible. Put bluntly, the saga of Welles-in-Hollywood could not have ended any other way, given that his deal was with RKO - the most ineptly run studio in Hollywood, beset with warring factions and Borgia-like intrigues among its braintrust. For Pete's sake, at one point the head of production was JOE BREEN! The miracle is that Orson Welles managed to finish one picture on his own terms, and parts of two others. All that said, I hope anyone who hasn't yet seen AMBERSONS will make plans to do so. The first 70 minutes or so IS Welles' picture, and as beautifully thought-out and detailed a film as he ever made. There's a burnished glow to the production that heightens the viewer's emotional connection to the events onscreen - the script, performances, photography and art direction are flawless. Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead and Tim Holt were never better than they are here. Those last 20 minutes, unfortunately, are hackwork - a porridge of flat and flavorless new scenes spliced into mutilated existing Welles-shot footage, julienne-sliced at the studio's behest by then-film editor Robert Wise (who remained on Welles' s**t-list for the rest of his life because of it). Enough greatness remains - even in this compromised botch - to captivate and carry an audience back to turn-of-the-century Indianapolis. But you should feel a slight sting at every mention in the narration of George Minafer's long-awaited 'comeuppance', since it was Welles himself who took the full brunt of that comeuppance.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At Long Last ......, April 20, 2012
By 
Bruce G. Taylor (Kensington CT USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons (DVD)
The recently released DVD of "The Magnificent Ambersons," Orson Welles' second and final film for RKO, is welcome indeed. Warner Bros. has provided us with a bare-bones DVD without commentary, special features of any kind or even a chapter menu. The quality of the DVD, both in picture and sound, however, is very good. It is of a cleaned up and restored print with excellent clarity, steadiness and contrast for a film of this time and the audio is of good quality for a film of 1942. I would judge the overall quality to be nearly but not quite as fine as the 2001 Warner DVD release of "Citizen Kane."

As is common knowledge, the film was taken out of Welles" control and heavily edited with the ending reworked to provide a more "upbeat" conclusion. At the previews of the rough cut of the film audiences laughed at some of the scenes intended to be dramatic. Several portions of the film, not just the ending, were cut by a total of 40 minutes. Robert Wise, editor of this film and "Citizen Kane" felt that the revised ending was an improvement to which Welles vehemently disagreed.

The excised footage was ultimately destroyed purportedly to "make room in the vaults" and a copy of the rough cut, supposedly sent to Welles while he was working in Brazil on another RKO project, is believed to have been lost.

There are no printed credits at the end of the film but they are instead recited by Welles. I noticed immediately that there was no credit for music score -- obviously the work of Bernard Herrmann -- and discovered that, because of the cuts that were made, he insisted on his name being deleted from the credits.

Even as it stands, "The Magnificent Ambersons" is widely considered to be one of the great American films and it is good to have it last on DVD
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greater than Citizen Kane, I Firmly Believe, July 28, 2007
This review is from: The Magnificent Ambersons (DVD)
Although 99% of movie buffs, experts, etc., believe Citizen Kane to be Orson Welles' greatest film ever made, I beg to differ with them.

I will, however, grant them that Citizen Kane is his greatest complete film. It is such a shame that nobody has yet found any of the pieces recklessly cut from this, certainly, his greatest masterpiece.

Don't get me wrong, I dearly love Kane, and Macbeth, King Lear and The Stranger, amongst his others, but Magnificent Ambersons is a towering achievement. While we could all stand around and wring our hands, and say "but it's not complete, how can we get anything out of this?" and stuff like that, we should be thinking that we very likely would not have what we do, had he not put up as much of a fight as he did to save it, with, I assume, some hollywood supporters that he luckily did have.

The care, and effort put into this film, photographically, is mind stunning...the man was a genious, and he understood lighting, depth perception, and stuff like that, instinctively...if not, then very well learned. The very opening sequence from a photographic viewpoint is an absolute piece of genious. So many places throughout this film are simply mind-boggling as far as from a creative standpoint. The complete understanding of black and white photography, and what would and would not hold up cinemagraphically were all thoroughly explored and understood by this great "misunderstood" master. His core group of actors, all carefully chosen, and able to work together like clockwork, I have always felt was not completely fathomed by many also.

Of course, probably the grandest thing about this film, was the tracking rails laid throughout the house for filming this masterpiece, allowing the camera to roll from room to room, and around rooms. This had never been done before, and it was a major achievement for film-making, and would, later, be championed by Alfred Hitchcock, (in particular) among other great directors. Also, Welles was a master at "deep focus" photography, used extensively in Citizen Kane. Here, also many scenes demonstrate the powerful effects of great, large, scenes with everything in crystal-sharp focus throughout the image, from foreground to the deepest recesses of the background.

As far as the big, bleeding, chunks that have been cut from it; well, one can only surmise what might or might not be missing. But, you can bet "a lot." So, for insight to what may have been removed, we must consult Booth Tarkington's book. From here, then, we must sort this out ourselves. We DO, however, know that we are missing 50 minutes, cut and thrown away, taking this 131 minute masterpiece to 88 minutes... I always wax sad, here, when thinking, and wish, and wonder, why we were not lucky enough to have had someone in hollywood, in Welles' later years, back the production of a reconstructed, refilmed version of the complete screenplay. Alas, this never happened.

But, again, we are extremely lucky to have the footage that we do. And, I personally am grateful every time I watch this great film (I have the Criterian LaserDisc S/E of it).

This Masterpiece desperately needs to be brought out on DVD, the public should be CLAMORING and SCREAMING; DEMANDING it's DVD release, and letting their voices be heard! ~operabruin
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The Magnificent Ambersons
The Magnificent Ambersons by Orson Welles (DVD - 2012)
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