Well, gang, I'm glad that Blunted and I have at least been entertaining you.
Perhaps we could hire ourselves out at other sites to mend old threads.
Blunted: My memory of Huston's experience with Ray Bradbury on MOBY DICK was that the director, considering the wildly imaginative work of this seminal American sci-fi writer, expected a vigorous collaborator, but found Bradbury to be something of a reclusive hypocondriac, who feared machinery. Still, they put together a pretty good screenplay. (After previous efforts, they were able to borrow some of the action setups, select striking locations, plan a unique film process, and make some interesting interpretations.)
While noting that you prefer brevity, Blunted, if you care to examine my remarks on Huston's MOBY DICK in greater detail, go to the URL below:
I doubt, Blunted, in either Welles' or RKO's version, would there have been a box office success in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. My impression is that, after CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFCENT AMBERSONS was quietly regarded as an anticlimax. (And . . . KANE, while a critical success, was not a financial one.) After "The War of the Worlds," the Moguls and the public had been disappointed when Welles had not made a wild penny dreadful Sci-fi picture. With the cuts and changed ending, neither critics nor audiences could have been expected to recognize the provocative criticism of the tragic role in America of women and the elderly, which Welles originally added to his adaptation of Tarkington's bucolic novel. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS we have, not the one we can imagine, IS a pretty "sweet movie."
And I believe Christopher is correct in his assessment of why Welles had little choice but to go to Brazil. Remember, World War II was not Vietnam or Iraq; it was our last Constitutionally declared war. The political left in America was united against Fascism in Europe, and the political right was interested in combatting the "Yellow Peril," and in expanding American business interests, in the Far East. At that moment, the Great Center easily recognized how our vaunted Pacific Fleet had been seriously damaged at Pearl Harbor a few months earlier. In 1942, the war effort was an unparalelled one in American History.
As Christopher points out, Welles had legitimate physical failings which would have put him at the back of any military column, in a time when every "real man" was voluteering, not sitting around counting his tax cuts and profits while egging on from a safe distance our wars of conquest, as we do today. Welles, ethically and in terms of his career, felt he had to do whatever he could for the war effort. Remember, that, in 1942, Nelson Rockefeller had been a New York patron and friend of sorts to Orson Welles. Remember, too, that RKO was in bankruptcy, and the Rockefellers were backing its recovery.
Consider that "The War of the World" show, plus his New Deal connections, plus his interest in what would become Civil Rights, plus his weekly -- sometimes several times a week -- network radio appearances in prime time, plus, of course, CITIZEN KANE, made Orson Welles a potentially highly dangerous figure to the traditional American power structure.
Welles was asked to go to South America in furtherance of the Administration's Good Neighbor Policy, one of the most highly publicized American national interests of the day. It was at a time, when there were widely held concerns that one or more of the South American dictatorships might go Nazi or Fascist. [J. Edgar Hoover, whose FBI had the newly given task of monitoring South America, now had an excuse to keep tabs on Welles.]
Welles had no choice but to accept the direct appeal of his old "friend," Nelson Rockefeller (whom my namesake lampoons in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI). Welles, after all, was, as someone remarked here, still a very young man (26), who suffered from an arrested teenage-like volatility.
Finally, if there are enough stills from the missing scenes of . . . AMBERSONS, there is no reason why Oscar's reconstructuring could not be carried out. The professor who was with Rick Schmidlin the night I spoke with them said there are not enough stills to do the kind of job that Schmidlin did on GREED. (Schmidlin said that he had 600 from the discarded portions of GREED to work with.)
A question for Blunted: Forgive me, is it COMPULSION that you are referring to when you bring up Richard Fleicher?
All the best.