The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) – Orson Welles


This is the first time I’d seen this one, and honestly, it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. That being said, I quite liked this film by Welles, which serves as one of the recommended follow-up titles to my viewing of Citizen Kane from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book.

And wouldn’t you know it, there’s Joseph Cotten again!

Based on the novel by Booth Tarkington, Welles, who helped write the script and directed, serves as narrator, including the cast and crew at the film’s end.

It’s a story of love and money, their decay and loss. A young, spoiled heir, George (Tim Holt) has had everything handed to him his entire life. And he’s done nothing but squander everything and walk around with a sense of entitlement.

When he returns home he finds himself caught between his widowed mother, Isabel (Dolores Costello) and the man she loves, Eugene (Cotten). His Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorehead) has always had feelings for Eugene, but he can’t see past Isabel, who has loved her since they were young.

To further add complications to the matter, George is rather taken with Eugene’s daughter, Lucy (Anne Baxter).

Unfortunately, he seems set to jeopardize all of it, and bring both families to ruin.

Cotten is my favorite performer in the film, and it’s a delight to watch him as he and Isabel share moments together, and he continues to work on his new invention, an automobile.


George’s own spoiled attitude, and attempts to spoil his mother’s relationship with Eugene, brings nothing but heartache and trouble for everyone in the film, and things continue to deteriorate for anyone near George until he gets his comeuppance, and is left… alone.

This is a gorgeously made film, and honestly, I liked it much more than Citizen Kane.

There’s humor, some wonderful dialogue, and the family dynamics at play in the film really work.

George’s character with his sense of entitlement, and his own twisted notions of what is right and wrong, seems intent on preventing anyone but himself from being happy, and of course, that kind of attitude should never pay off, and for this character, in this film, it really doesn’t.

I love all of the material with Cotten and Costello, especially there early courting as there is a lot of humor there, which of course, quickly endears us to these characters. The viewer can see that they are happy together, and should be together… why is George interfering so?

And I was delighted to see, or rather hear, another name in the credits that I knew. Robert Wise, the director of The Sound of Music and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (amongst others)! He served as editor on the film.

This one, I consider a true classic, and would easily recommend this to any viewer who hasn’t yet seen it. What are your thoughts on it?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s