The Magnificent Ambersons 1942
The Magnificent Ambersons is based on Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1918 novel of the same name. It tells the story of the downfall of the titular upper-class family. Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello) is being courted by inventor Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) but an embarrassing incident turns Isabel away into the arms of stick-in-the-mud Wilbur Minafer, who she soon marries.

Jumping forward a number of years, the now widower Eugene comes back to town and attends a party put on by the Ambersons where he meets Isabel’s spoiled son George (Tim Holt), who is approaching adulthood and instantly falls for Eugene’s daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter). She finds George’s arrogance strangely endearing and the two begin a hesitant relationship, but all the while George becomes increasingly unhappy with the attention Eugene is giving his mother, particularly after his father dies. Indeed, Eugene and Isabel begin to rekindle their old flame, much to George’s anger.

The insolent young man does his best to intervene over the years, but, in the meantime, the Amberson family stock begins to decline whilst the Morgan family fortunes rapidly increase as the industrialisation of the town (and country) develops.

Directors: Orson Welles, Fred Fleck, Robert Wise
Cast: Tim Holt, Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter
Country: USA
Genre: Drama, Romance

BD50, 2xDVD9 | 1080p AVC, NTSC 4:3 | 01:28:22 | 46.5 Gb + 12.2 Gb
Language: English
Subtitles: English


Commentary One - this vintage audio commentary features scholar Robert L. Carringer and examines the various changes RKO made on the version of The Magnificent Ambersons left before he headed to Brazil. The commentary, which was recorded in 1985, and appeared on Criterion's old LD release of The Magnificent Ambersons.

Commentary Two - in this new audio commentary, James Naremore, author of The Magic World of Orson Welles, and Jonathan Rosenbaum, author of Discovering Orson Welles, discuss the conception of The Magnificent Ambersons, its visual style and rhythmic structure, the edited version that RKO created, some popular myths and half-truths about Orson Welles' trip to Brazil and the impact that the editing of his film had on his career and life, etc. The commentary was recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2018.

Simon Callow - in this new video interview, actor and author Simon Callow discusses Booth Tarkington's novel and the fascinating history of The Magnificent Ambersons, its placement in Orson Welles' body of work and the significant impact that it had on his career and life, some of the film's stylistic qualities, the editing choices that were made by RKO, etc, The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2018. In English, not subtitled. (26 min, 1080p).

The Cinematographers - in this new video essay, Orson Welles scholar Francois Thomas examines the constantly evolving stylistic appearance of The Magnificent Ambersons, and why and how it is related to the personal styles of the different cinematographers that worked on the film. The essay was created exclusively for Criterion in 2018. In English, not subtitled. (16 min, 1080p).

Orson Welles and Dick Cavett - presented here is an archival episode of the The Dick Cavett Show in which Orson Welles discusses a wide range of truths, half-truths, and myths about his life, personality, and work. Also present is Jack Lemmon. There is a particularly funny description of an old theater performance in Boston that ended with an unexpected twist. The episode aired on May 14, 1970. In English, not subtitled. (37 min, 1080i).

Joseph McBride - in this new video interview, Joseph McBride, author of What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?, discusses RKO's unfortunate decision to butcher The Magnificent Ambersons and Orson Welles' relationship with Hollywood. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2018. In English, not subtitled. (29 min, 1080p).

The Score - in this new video essay, Bernard Herrmann scholar Christopher Husted discusses the recut and reedited versions of The Magnificent Ambersons and the score that Bernard Herrmann composed for it and speculates what Orson Welles' original lost longer version might have looked like. The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion in 2018. In English, not subtitled. (19 min, 1080p).

Pampered Youth - Booth Tarkington's novel The Magnificent Ambersons was first adapted for the big screen in by director David Smith in 1925. Presented here is a two-reel segment from the film, which was released in the United Kingdom under the title Two to One in 1931. Silent. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Silent. (29 min, 1080p).

Peter Bogdanovich Interviews - presented here are audio excerpts from vintage audio interviews with Peter Bogdanovich conducted with Orson Welles in the late 1960s and early '70s. In addition to the production of The Magnificent Ambersons, the comments in the interviews address the evolving cinematography standards, visual composition, the work and style of Jacques Tati (PayTime). In English, not subtitled. (36 min, 1080p).

AFI Welles Symposium - Audio from a 1978 AFI symposium on Welles (30 min)

Radio Plays - The Magnificent Ambersons was not the first time Orson Welles had adapted the work of Booth Tarkington. On October 16, 1938, CBS Radio's The Mercury Theater on the Air broadcast a radio adaptation by Orson Welles of the novelist's Seventeen. Then, on October 29, 1939, the Mercury Theatre aired a second adaptation, this time of The Magnificent Ambersons. Both are presented here. In English, not subtitled.

1. Seventeen (60 min).
2. The Magnificent Ambersons (56 min).

Trailer - a vintage trailer for The Magnificent Ambersons. In English, not subtitled. (3 min, 1080p).