Friday, September 24, 2010

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

So our third pick, The Magnificent Ambersons, brings with it a few firsts for the blog. It's the first adaptation of a novel, and additionally, the first adaptation of a novel from the acclaimed genre of books I've bought and haven't read yet. The 1918 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the second in Booth Tarkington's Growth Trilogy, which chronicles the effects of rapid industrialization and social change on the fortunes of a Midwestern family. If you know anything about my interests as a scholar, this plot is catnip to me. Will the effects of capitalism on individual minds and bodies be explored? Will the evolving definitions of femininity and masculinity be represented? Dare I hope for pre-modern nostalgia? It's also the first Orson Welles movie we've encountered so far. Welles was a 27-year-old wunderkind hot off the heels of Citizen Kane when he turned his attention to Tarkington's novel. At this point in his career, Welles was brash, arrogant, and ungodly talented--the very type of alpha male upon whom I would have developed a debilitating crush. Ambersons is notable both for being highly autobiographical and for its bungled ending. Welles was partying in Brazil and couldn't be bothered to defend his original cut. Apparently, the clumsily affixed "happy ending" is one of the tragedies of modern cinema. I am officially amped.

1 comment:

  1. So this will be interesting because I have read the book--in one of my fits of "I'm going to read every Pulitzer Prize winning book there is!!" I think I stopped with this one. Of course all I remember is a car wreck--maybe? There was certainly crazy driving of an early early model car--and a doomed love of some sort.

    Worth noting: This film is insanely hard to get a copy of. It's only on VHS and you can't buy it. Anyway, a nice little old librarian is getting me a copy sent to my branch--hopefully quickly.

    And, this film has a "remake" which apparently "restores" the ending Welles intended. I'm getting that from Netflix. Hopefully hilarity ensues.