Just watched Magnificent Ambersons again. It's been so long, this may be only my second time. And it was during that first time watching MA that I was able to appreciate Welles' genius for the first time, specifically the dramatic intensity and technical prowess of one of those scenes with George and Aunt Fanny in the staircase. (By contrast, the first time I saw CK, in college, I didn't get it. The complexity of the plot & structure was too much for me, I was confused, couldn't get a grip on it.)
With CK we have this heady & paradoxical combination of a brilliant young man, in his ambitious, open-minded, show-off manner, taking on an old man's sad story: the dual failures of Kane's life of loss, his dying alone, combined with Thompson's failure to identify "Rosebud."
With MA, this paradoxical conjunction of a young man seizing upon an old man's POV is heightened into what is, for me, this massive puzzle: How does it happen that someone so young, so brilliant, so successful, so full of energy and life as OW in his mid-20's would want to put forward this movie of historical pessimism, romantic pessimism, and existential fatalism?? (By existential fatalism, I mean the theme of the inescapable total loss of life's force and meaning, which would have been the point that the movie would have left us with, in the final meeting of Eugene and Fanny, if MA hadn't been tampered with.)
He was drawn to the pessimism(s) in Tarkington's novel, and then (as he says) consciously determined to intensify it.
If pressed to explain Welles' precocious fascination with pessimism, decline, fatalism, self-destruction, morbidity, etc. I turn to his life experience of
a) Losing the pre- 20th century backwater of Grand Detour, his own lost "Rosebud."
b) Seeing his father destroy himself through alcohol.
c) Losing both parents, as a child. And with both we have certain particular and peculiar intensities: Cutting himself off from his father, which I take to be the grounds for him saying that he "killed" his father, and that intense deathbed scene with his mother. These may be relevant.
Anything else to say about the sources of Welles' precocious pessimism?