The Magnificent Ambersons Essay Research Paper The

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The Magnificent Ambersons Essay, Research Paper ?The biggest mistake we have made is to consider that films are primarily a form of entertainment. The film is the greatest medium since the invention of movable type for exchanging ideas and information, and it is no more at its best in light entertainment than literature is at its best in the light novel.? -Orson Welles Orson Welles was passionate about film. By the young age of 25, he had directed, produced, and starred in what is today considered by most to be the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane. About a year later, Welles began work on his next film project, The Magnificent Ambersons. Based on the novel of the same name by Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons tells the story of a falling aristocratic family in

a small midwestern town during the late 19h century. It depicts the sad, rapid industrial growth of the Midwest. Welles, who grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and later in Illinois, understood what life was like in this part of the country and the novel allowed him to delve into his roots and examine his personal past. Surviving many risks and crises, this film is still revered today, almost 60 years later, as yet another great work of art by Orson Welles. After finishing up Citizen Kane, Welles? search for a second film to fulfill his contract with the Hollywood studio RKO radio pictures was a hard one. He first wanted to make The Pickwick Papers with W.C. Fields, but someone else was already under contract to make the film with another studio. He also considered trying Joseph

Conrad?s Heart of Darkness but RKO considered the project too experimental, and he finally decided to write a script based on Booth Tarkington?s novel, which had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1919 (McBride 53). It had been filmed once before as Pampered-Youth, a 1925 silent film directed by David Smith (McBride 53). Tarkington?s novels were a favorite of Welles?, including the trilogy of which Ambersons was a part of, and he had directed several of them into radio plays (Naremore 19). Welles wrote the script of The Ambersons in nine days (McBride 53). The film was to be financed by the production company RKO/ Mercury. A major problem arouse with the budget before shooting began. Because of the shrinking international film market, RKO had set a maximum budget in Welles? contract of

$600,000 for The Magnificent Ambersons (Higham213). Also, according to the arrangement that RKO had made with its bank, no film from the studio was ever to exceed $750,000. A pre-budget estimate of Ambersons came close to one million dollars. Pared down to more details in its final form just before shooting, the film looked as if it would still cost in excess of $850,000. Permission to proceed with production was eventually granted, but with strict rules to Welles to bring the cost down to under the $750,000 figure (Higham 214). The Magnificent Ambersons is a Historical Epic Drama based on a time almost 70 years prior to its making. In order to cast the film, Welles read a delineation of the characters Tarkington had given in a 1917 issue of Metropolitan Magazine (Brady 316). The

silent star Dolores Costello was brought out of retirement to play Isabel Amberson. Welles also made the surprising choice of selecting contract player Tim Holt for the role of George Minafer. Holt was considered a mistake by most people (Bogdanovich 113). Although he does give a strong performance, some have wondered why Welles did not take the role of George. Instead, Welles gives the finest narration to have been heard in the cinema (Higham 185). The Mercury Theatre players filled the rest of the cast. Joseph Cotton, perhaps the most underrated actor in film history, plays Eugene Morgan while Agnes Moorhead gives one of the great performances in sound cinema as Fanny Minafer (Higham 185). Welles began rehearsing the cast of Ambersons for a total of five weeks, discussing with