Tashman: I'm glad we can agree that THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is Welles' creation, and that the early scenes of his movie prepare the way for its logical ending, which was cut away while he was in Brazil.
As for the early part of your reply, I think the following may clear up the confusion you express. You need, I believe, to extrapolate more.
The acts of Macedon, Rome, Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia differ only in degree, the numbers involved, and in the efficiency of their means. The aristocracies of the earlier period behaved, under the cover of quaint customs and fine silks, much as Hitler's gauleiters, Mussolini's Black Shirts, or the Stalinist commissars did. But the historical context had changed by the early 20th Century. Events increasingly forced the power, or the appearance of power, to be shared with what Welles termed "the little people" as the monarchies began to collapse in the 19th Century.
Orson Welles was fascinated by the exercise of power over the powerless, wherever he found it. He found it in the acts of Julius Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius. He found it revolutionary France, in King Leopold's Congo, in Hitler's Germany, in the boardrooms and drawing rooms of Charles Foster Kane's "robber barons," and in the family dynasties of Indiana who aped their "Eastern betters."
The kinds of crimes, civil and martial, committed by Alexander's troopers, Caesar's legions, the Spanish conquistadors, King Charles I's cavaliers, often differed little but in scale from those of Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin. The same could be said for the brutalities of Spanish American War Kane provided to enthrall readers of his newspapers. He had grown up with the conquest of the West and the final subjugation of the Indian nations.
In the fin d'siecle, the same power conflicts played themselves out in the rise and fall of the great American families of wealth. The Magnificent Ambersons were not a direct cause of such events but an abbetor and a reflection of them.
Fascism, you are quite right, is a political/economic philosophy formulated by Benito Mussolini during the decline of the Italian monarchy in the 1920's. Through organizing the workers and the middle classes behind corporations and a "strong man" (pretty much a patriarchy under the Catholic Church's rigidly conventional moral umbrella), he foresaw a form of "national socialism," which influenced both Adolph Hitler's Germany and Joseph Stalin's Russia. When forced to act by Hitler's repeated lies about his "territorial demands," and Japan's response (Pearl Harbor) to American, British, and Dutch embargos on Southeast Asian oil which their military needed, the Western Democracies did indeed defeat Fascism.
But they did not destroy the philosophy behind fascism, which had grown in the World since the Industrial Revolution. Welles, in the Post World War II period, was as keen to point out that fact as he had been to alert his audiences in plays and movies of the growth of Fascism (and fascism) between 1935 and 1942. As I've pointed out, that's what films like THE STRANGER were about.
The difference between the aristocracies/autocracies and the Fascists was that anyone could be a fascist. Today that "anyone" is called a corporatist, a 200% American, or a follower of extreme religious or political philosophy. Welles, if he were alive, would be doing everything he could to a waken Americans to where that philosophy must inevitably lead the World.
That is not pessimism, Tashman, it's realism. [I take it you and Tony have not appropriated all of the realism in the World to yourselves.] If you don't recognize the social, economic, perhaps human catastrophe we are bringing ourselves near, you are welcome to sentimentalize the present as you sentimentalize Welles' view of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Best stay with his radio adaptation for Campbell Soups.
I've just been listening to an audio transcript (almost a radio play) of a very interesting drama about Welles' later life, Austin Pendleton's "Orson's Shadow," sent to me, you might be interested to know, Tashman, by one of our Wellesnet colleagues. The play, as you no doubt know, is about Welles' attempt to direct Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright in the 1960 London production of Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros." The important point of that play, which Welles makes clear, is that the people of a town gradually become Rhinos (fascists), except for one man and the girl he loves. The lovers are eventually trampled. According to the play, that was as a concept as difficult for Olivier to accept as it is for you.
[Georgie and Aunt Fanny might side with Welles, for wildly different reasons.]
As to your later post, Tashman, I am puzzled by your ingratiating remark to Tony that in supporting my views, he might not "appreciate all that [he] was signing up for." Is Tony mentally retarded? Can he not read direct, if workmanlike, English prose?
I'm saying that Welles was opposed to fascism in all its forms. I'm saying that he recognised the seeds of fascism in his motion picture adaptation of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (but not his radio play of same). The Ambersons recognize themselves as a continuation of the old European aristocracies which brought us both classical culture, primogenitor, and what Buckminster Fuller called the megamachine, but their inability to change with the times, their dominating attitudes toward property, workers' rights, industrialism, and women, made them both the progenitors and the victims of what would become known as fascism (American Corporatism).
Does that rational, well supported view reveal me in your eyes as some kind of nut? Un-American? (gasp) Liberal? If so, you understand the process which put Hitler and Mussolini in power, and sent us manically off to Afghanistan, Iraq, and soon (if we can raise the money from China) to Iran.
Tony: I found your story about your great aunt very much on our subject. As you may know, up to about forty years ago, in many states, women could not own property in their own name, could not even retain a credit card, should they become divorced. It was thought "they would be taken advantage of," or in the scheme of business things, would not be able to cope with payments and paperwork.
Indeed, the system affected married women and widows, too. My second wife's mother, an Ohio farming woman who might have stepped out of Grant Wood's painting, was gradually put off the family farm after her husband's death, freed from the "responsibility" of her savings.
I had not been particularly close to her, but about fifteen years ago, after my divorce, and after the death of her sister-in-la who had taken her in, I wrote a letter of condolence, and discovered she had been put in a "retirement facility." When she discovered I was coming East to a reunion, she implored me to visit her. I made an arrangement to do so, and I shall never forget her spartan narrow room, and how she embraced me, looking up with a direct, steady gaze. Gradually, I realized that this sixty year-old woman, who looked as if she had never been young, saw me (almost the same age) as her savior, her knight errant. I was going "to take her away from all this." Of course, I couldn't do that.
She died within a year.
Though I did not make the personal connection at the time, anymore than Tashman might, I now see her very much like an Aunt Fanny of nearly a hundred years later, a victim of patriarchal customs, male chauvinism, the corporate "business is business" attitudes, which left them both feeling unhappy and abandoned. Those qualities, if we forget sucker advertising to bring in the women's market, now rule the nation and the World. A World which is literally "running out of gas."
In that light, Tony, I have to say again that your rosy scenario is that of a male. My former mother-in-law (let us call her Clara) was not starving to death, she had a roof, grown children and grandchildren, but she was no longer a free, independent human being. Clara had been had by the norms of our society. To borrow the title of Hamlin Garland's great short story, Clara was "under the lion's paw."
I wanted to do something, I should have done something. I did talk to a couple of her people there, predicting her death in that environment. But I didn't do anything really. As they used to say a few years before these events, I was not part of the solution, and so I was part of the problem.
Welles and I may be pessimists, but -- no offense taken, I hope -- you and Tashman are not necessarily realists.
In my view, we are going into the next great stage of societal change. If the United States sees itself as the New Great World Empire, ready to march into Central Asia and any of sixty nations of our choosing; ready to abrogate our International agreements of the last hundred years; ready to violate our Constitution at will; ready to reject the theory of Global Warming, despite the gathering evidence, because combatting it will harm corporate profit margins, then the coming world Welles described in many of his works will have come to pass.
The story of your great aunt, it seems to me, Tony, says more for the argument of Welles and me than it does for that of you and Tashman.
No matter if I'm wrong . . . BUT if I'm right --