Tuesday 20 March 2018

The disaster of The Magnificent Ambersons

'The Magnificent Ambersons' poster
'The Magnificent Ambersons' poster

Paul Whitington

The disaster of the Magnificent Ambersons

After Citizen Kane, Orson Welles approached his next project, The Magnificent Ambersons, with enthusiasm but soon discovered how Hollywood could quickly fall out of love with you.

Ambersons was based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Booth Tarkington about the fading fortunes of a wealthy American family. Welles cast his friend Joseph Cotten in the lead role, and the finished, 140-odd minute film was full of bravura scenes and touches, including a brilliant ballroom sequence.

Unfortunately, a lot of them never saw the light of day. The rough cut didn't play well with test audiences, and when Welles was in South America shooting a war effort documentary, RKO grabbed the film, chopped 40 minutes off it and added a saccharine happy ending.

Welles was devastated and rarely directed in Hollywood again.

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