tony w: Don't let me off the hook so easily:
". . . even in its truncated form, as a faint shadow of what it could be, AMBERSONS is far superior to KING'S ROW on all levels."
Certain books and films I experienced in my childhood have stayed with me for nearly 70 years. Among the films, I saw CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, KING'S ROW, and KEEPER OF THE FLAME in 1941 and 1942. CITIZEN KANE is of course the touchstone, but the other three share a similar theme and appeal: a suggestion that all is not what it seems. Of the four pictures, CITIZEN KANE, KING'S ROW, and KEEPER OF THE FLAME remain vivid in my memory. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, I can honestly say, as a small town lad, left hardly an impression because, after a brilliant beginning, it began to meander, and ultimately, trailed off into sentimental mush. Repeated viewings of . . . AMBERSONS leaves me with the same impression: a chilly, distant, nostalgic story, uninvolving characters, several fine sequences, one of which really establishes the picture's thesis, and then, a choppy development, ending in sentimentality of the worst kind. Can you imagine the life the heroine is going to have with George, this spoiled, selfish, maimed, failure?
"AMBERSON'S is far superior to KING'S ROW on all levels"?
Well, KING'S ROW, as I say, has an AMBERSONS protagonist who eventually learns a certain amount of humility, which George does not. And frankly, mainly in the dramatic writing and development, Ronald Reagan (in his best role), Robert Cummings, Betty Field, and Ann Sheridan create much more compelling characters than THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS produces. I have not mentioned such superb supporting actors as Claude Rains, Charles Colburn, Judith Anderson, Nancy Coleman, Maria Ospenskaya -- and the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Sam Wood was no Welles, but he was not Ed Wood. James Wong Howe was a superb cinematographer. Casey Robinson was a thoroughly accomplished screenwriter. To my mind, KING'S ROW is really a creditable, indeed, superior counterpart to THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.
And Jeff Wilson has established that Orson Welles, on this one, must bear the real responsibility for the decisions which ruined "a film that might have been."