In preparation for our Elements of Cinema screening of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS on Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, we’ve compiled a list of reviews and further reading.
Vanity Fair’s David Kemp tells the history behind THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS being a “lost film,” or a film whose original cut had been tampered and altered with by rigid studio restrictions. Kemp gives a close perspective on the life of the film’s production, post-production, and distribution trajectory from the time it was released.
Cinephilia Beyond’s staff discusses the editing, cinematography, and photographic control between Orson Welles vision versus what the studio system would allow his film to become.
At RogerEbert.com, Jim Emerson goes into detail about his previously published essay, documenting a shot-by-shot analysis of the film’s nine minute prologue and how this opening scene sets up the rest of the film. He downgrades viewers that dismiss THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS just because “it is not Citizen Kane.” Emerson also compares the film’s usage of past and present to tell a complete story of the family represented on screen.
Filmsite’s staff discusses the history behind the film’s untimely editing by RKO, and offers a timeline of events that led up to THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS’ double screening premiere. This premiere alone, putting the film alongside a B-rated comedy, in addition to the choppy editing that took more than fifty minutes of Welles’ original footage out, did not affect the film’s success or Academy Award season attention.
New Empress Magazine’s Martyn Conterio argues that the notable downsizing and editing of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS’ final was due to Orson Welles’ inability to put up a proper fight for his work. Conterio delves into details about production company contracts, the question of financial gain, and Welles’ eventual defeat in the history of the film’s production.
Senses of Cinema’s Tamara Tracz notes the family dynamic and vivid display of growth between members, particularly the son and main protagonist, becomes the heart of the film. While noting the editing scandal brought onto Welles’ piece by KRO, Tracz still believes the film as it stands represents a lamenting family growing both apart and closer together depending on what conflicts are thrown at them.
Slate’s Elbert Ventura dismisses the mythos of a lost cut of the film still accessible today, assuming that the footage is destroyed, and that its upstanding cut needs to be discussed instead of undervalued. He frames THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS under Welles’ other work and keys in on the director’s reaction of losing his original cut.
Movie Mezzanine presents an excerpt from F.X. Feeny’s book, Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul, which examines the career of the director and personal meaning behind his works. The excerpt revisits Welles’ political involvement and battle with studios following the harsh editing of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.