About this Item
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Title: The Magnificent Ambersons: A Reconstruction
Publisher: Univ of California Press, Berkeley, CA
Publication Date: 1993
Book Condition: As New
Dust Jacket Condition: As New
Edition: 1st Edition
About this title
Orson Welles considered The Magnificent Ambersons the crucial turning point in his career. He said, "They destroyed Ambersons and it destroyed me." In 1942, while Welles was away, RKO Studios drastically recut the completed film. None of that deleted footage is known to survive.
Now film scholar Robert Carringer has reconstructed Welles's own version of Ambersons, using all available surviving evidence including rare studio documents and the recollections of Welles himself and other original participants in the film.
Carringer reaches startling conclusions about where the responsibility for the film's undoing ultimately lies. His spellbinding—and no doubt controversial—book will be eagerly welcomed by film historians and enthusiasts.
The story of The Magnificent Ambersons is one of the saddest in movie history. Directed by Orson Welles the year after Citizen Kane, this magnificent movie was butchered by RKO studios, which had wrested the final cut away from the director. RKO had become increasingly disenchanted with Welles after the box-office failure of Kane and the dismal reaction of Ambersons's preview audiences. In a futile attempt to make the second film more commercial, the studio tossed many of Welles's scenes onto the cutting-room floor and shot new sequences that led to a happy ending, ultimately transforming a dark 131-minute epic into a far more benign 88-minute work that manifested confusing changes of tone and sometimes degenerated into complete incomprehensibility.
Robert Carringer has done a splendid job of reconstructing this lost movie. His book contains a chronology of the Amberson family and a documentary history of the "ordeal of editing and reediting" the film. It provides a complete transcription of the film's original shooting script, illustrated with storyboards and photographic stills and accompanied by voluminous explanatory notes. It's a revelation to see the surviving cut of The Magnificent Ambersons and then refer to the book to find what the movie might have been, but Welles's screenplay is so literate that it makes fine reading on its own. --Raphael Shargel
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