The Magnificent Ambersons 5.0 stars

Magnificent Ambersons movie poster

Orson Welles's second movie, taken from the Booth Tarkington novel, is stronger than his first, Citizen Kane, in most ways -- in coherence, in complexity, in common sense. Welles himself, for a change and for a relief and for a better balance, isn't on screen in this one. The story tells of the last generation, represented snottily by Tim Holt, of a declining Midwestern industrial dynasty, trying to uphold proud family customs in the onrush of new ways, new powers at the turn of the century. The portentous Expressionism of Stanley Cortez's lighting, which transforms and denatures the bygone Midwest, is a more tangible force than Progress, however; and this alone accounts for the feeling of debilitation and desperation that pervades the cavernous home of American aristocracy, with its steep staircases, tiered balustrades, chilly foyer, and its unseen ghosts of forefathers and traditions. With Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Agnes Moorehead, Anne Baxter. 1942.

Duncan Shepherd

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