The story goes that after editing on his sophomore picture was finished Orson Welles disappeared off to South America, pursuing one of the many projects he was never to complete. Due to a poor response from test audiences, RKO then went on to drop 44 minutes from his picture, shuffle around the remainder and hire the future maker of “The Sound of Music” to film a new ending. This botched version is the only one that still survives, yet enough of Welles’ vision remains in it to hint at a greatness equalling – perhaps even surpassing that of the great great “Citizen Kane”.
It’s a family saga as much as it is a poignant elegy to a lost age, dressed up very evocatively in Welles’ emblematic expressionistic lighting, fluid camerawork and aural ‘deep space’. The Ambersons start off the twentieth century towering over Indianapolis and pinning their hopes on a despicable little brat who is the sole heir to the estate. But as the brat matures into a piercing Tim Holt, the industrial age sends what remains of the ailing dynasty into bankruptcy. In the meantime we watch the dreaded Automobile evolve into a culturally shaping factor and the aristocrat devolve into a vassal at a dynamite factory.
As Holt’s anguished mother, Dolores Costello is the image of faded elegance. Agnes Moorehead turns in a nervy tour de force of a performance as his spinster aunt and wise and wily Ray Collins is equally effective as his uncle. Perennial also-ran Joseph Cotten plays the automobile inventor and is repeatedly denied Costello’s love. A young and very intelligent Anne Baxter is his daughter. Welles himself doesn’t make an appearance, but he does put in the laconic, hypnotic, omnipresent voiceover, going so far as to recite the credits at the end rather than printing them on-screen.wr/dir: Orson Wellesph: Stanley Cortezed: Robert Wise
m: Bernard Herrmanncast: Tim Holt, Dolores Costello,
Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Anne Baxter, Ray Collins, Erskine Sanford, Richard Bennett, Orson Welles
Labels: 1942, Agnes Moorehead, Anne Baxter, Bernard Herrmann, Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, the canon, Tim Holt