952 The Magnificent Ambersons

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hearthesilence
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#226 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:41 pm

I never saw any reason to scapegoat him for the film's mutilation even if he did direct the re-shoots. Wasn't Citizen Kane the first time he was ever given the title of an editor? I never saw him in the position to argue with the studio - he probably had no clout and was in the precarious position of having finally made it as an editor. Given that the changes were dictated by the studio, professionally it would've seemed futile and thoroughly damaging if he tried to push back.

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knives
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#227 Post by knives » Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:47 pm

Also (and I recognize this is a minority opinion) what we're left with isn't some absolutely terrible thing. I honestly like it a lot more than many other Welles' films and when taken on its own this is at worst an okay film.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#228 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:19 pm

I suspect Lady From Shanghai may have been damaged even more than Ambersons (but I still like both -- even as they stand).

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#229 Post by Roger Ryan » Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:05 pm

From what I've seen of the letters and telegrams concerning the post-production process, Welles' business manager Jack Moss was intent on radically re-shaping Ambersons before any audience had seen the film; Wise did his best to support Welles' original vision until those first two previews spooked the heads of RKO. There were times when Wise was even trying to protect the artistry from Welles himself. One of my favorite exchanges is when Welles requested an insert shot of Richard Bennett be added to the punch bowl scene; Wise responded that it was a bad match and expressed dismay that Welles would even consider interrupting a beautifully-realized long single tracking shot with an insert!

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hearthesilence
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#230 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:30 pm

Roger Ryan wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:05 pm
From what I've seen of the letters and telegrams concerning the post-production process, Welles' business manager Jack Moss was intent on radically re-shaping Ambersons before any audience had seen the film; Wise did his best to support Welles' original vision until those first two previews spooked the heads of RKO. There were times when Wise was even trying to protect the artistry from Welles himself. One of my favorite exchanges is when Welles requested an insert shot of Richard Bennett be added to the punch bowl scene; Wise responded that it was a bad match and expressed dismay that Welles would even consider interrupting a beautifully-realized long single tracking shot with an insert!
I have to check Carringer's book again, but didn't he say that the 131-minute work print was never even screened at a preview? If memory serves, Welles made a substantial last-minute cut before the first (Pomona) preview, which Wise didn't like but executed under Welles's direction. When that preview went bad and another cut was made for a Pasadena preview, Wise pleaded to Welles to reinstate what he thought were crucial scenes, and they were indeed re-instated for the Pasadena preview.

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J Wilson
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#231 Post by J Wilson » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:36 pm

Jack Moss also, as Welles business manager at the time, allowed Welles' contractually guaranteed final cut to be bargained away, in addition to other screw-ups (such as poor handling of Welles' salary and taxes). Coupled with Welles' own bad business sense, it was a recipe for disaster.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#232 Post by beamish14 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:11 am

Roger Ryan wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 5:03 pm

Having just seen the Kurosawa film two weeks ago, I'm thinking its mutilation was worse than Ambersons from a simple storytelling perspective. The whole first hour of The Idiot is nearly incomprehensible whereas Ambersons still works as a story even as its missing material that would have explained character motivation, supported plot points, and provided an incredibly rich subtext referencing the industrialization of the town. As clumsy as some of the re-shot footage and re-editing looks, it's nothing compared to the ridiculous editing choices in the Kurosawa film (specifically, I'm talking about the laughable "time-lapse" wipes used to shorten scenes where no apparent time has passed).


John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage is worse off than The Idiot or Ambersons.
There's just so little substance left that you have to wonder why MGM even wanted to produce it.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#233 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sat Aug 18, 2018 8:31 am

But we at least got one of the great nonfiction novels out of that bad deal.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#234 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:05 pm

I replicated Roger's post about the butchery of Idiot to the Kurosawa thread. But maybe a thread about studio butchery might better...

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#235 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:55 am

hearthesilence wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:30 pm
Roger Ryan wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 4:05 pm
From what I've seen of the letters and telegrams concerning the post-production process, Welles' business manager Jack Moss was intent on radically re-shaping Ambersons before any audience had seen the film; Wise did his best to support Welles' original vision until those first two previews spooked the heads of RKO. There were times when Wise was even trying to protect the artistry from Welles himself. One of my favorite exchanges is when Welles requested an insert shot of Richard Bennett be added to the punch bowl scene; Wise responded that it was a bad match and expressed dismay that Welles would even consider interrupting a beautifully-realized long single tracking shot with an insert!
I have to check Carringer's book again, but didn't he say that the 131-minute work print was never even screened at a preview? If memory serves, Welles made a substantial last-minute cut before the first (Pomona) preview, which Wise didn't like but executed under Welles's direction. When that preview went bad and another cut was made for a Pasadena preview, Wise pleaded to Welles to reinstate what he thought were crucial scenes, and they were indeed re-instated for the Pasadena preview.
Correct. Without having seen the 131 minute edit as completed by Wise, Welles asked for about 13-to-15 minutes to be removed from the middle of the film (essentially, everything that occurs when George and Isabel are on their European retreat) and for Wise to shoot a new scene that would logically (if not dramatically well-thought out) cover the footage deletion. This version is reportedly the edit which played the first preview in Pomona. When the preview got a bad reaction, Wise reinstated almost everything Welles requested deleted (with the exception of the two porch scenes and the factory scene if I'm remembering correctly - I also believe the final boarding house scene was trimmed a bit) for the second preview in Pasadena. If I was being charitable, I'd say that Welles was still experimenting with the editing with little concern over which version would be screened for a preview audience (he obviously had no choice regarding when a preview would be held). That 131 minute edit represents the first version that Welles and Wise arrived at that could be considered a polished cut (complete with visual effects and a full music score), but it was never screened for the public. Wise thought enough of it that he attempted to return to the majority of that edit for the second preview. However, after that, Welles' input was minimized (there are still a small number of later alterations the director requested that were honored) and the Jack Moss plan was put into effect.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#236 Post by Hatfield Peverel » Tue Aug 28, 2018 7:40 pm

The specs on Criterion's site have been updated to include audio interviews with Welles conducted by Peter Bogdanovich. There was nearly an hour's worth of these on the French DVD, including some impressively unvarnished (and previously unreleased) sections on Stanley Cortez and Dolores Costello - I hope they make the transfer onto the Criterion.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#237 Post by whaleallright » Wed Aug 29, 2018 9:33 pm

Someone on the internet once put together a custom DVDR for this film compiling "bonus" items from scattered VHS, DVD, and laserdisc releases. Makes interesting comparison with Criterion's release:
• Audio commentary by film scholar Robert Carringer
• Video clips of Orson Welles on "The Magnificent Ambersons"
• Welles' complete shooting script
• Excerpts from Pampered Youth, the 1925 silent film version
• 1939 Mercury Theatre radio drama, starring Walter Huston and Orson Welles
• "The Unmaking of a Film Classic" a Visual Essay by Robert Carringer, featuring, among other things, the complete storyboards.
• An Unfinished Masterpiece: An Interview With Bill Krohn (In French with English subtitles) -
• Theatrical Trailer
• "This Is Orson Welles," full 4 hour audio companion to the book. The interviews feature Orson Welles and director Peter Bogdanovich
• The full Bernard Herrmann score, reproduced and performed in 1990 by Tony Bremner and the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra. Never before released in a completed form as Herrmann had his name removed from the credits protesting the studio mangling of the film.
What Criterion's release would seem to be missing above all is an equivalent of Carringer's "visual essay" which details (I'm not sure how comprehensively or authoritatively) the many changes the film went through at the hands of Welles, Wise, and eventually other folks at RKO. Perhaps one of the booklet essays goes through this history (which, as the discussion above indicates, is complex and still somewhat contested) but an audiovisual essay would seem to be an ideal way to go about it.

Incidentally, V.F. Perkins's "BFI Film Classics" book on this film is one of the very best, if not the best, volume about a single film I've ever read. It is recommended strongly and without a single hesitation.

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#238 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:11 am

My guess is there's no equivalent of the visual essay to avoid "competing" with Carringer's book, which didn't exist when the LD came out.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#239 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:44 am

hearthesilence wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:50 am
Roger Ryan wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 12:26 am
Those fifty seconds belong to the shot of Eugene as he finishes writing his letter to Isabel then looks it over. The original scene began and stayed with Isabel reading the letter (in the released version, we join that original footage halfway through the scene). Since Joseph Cotten's voice-over runs throughout, as scripted by Welles, I don't find the new shot to be a detriment to the intention of the scene.
Yeesh, isn't that where Joseph Cotten solemnly looks up and straight past the camera as his voiceover starts up? That was pretty detrimental to me, just flat out drippy.
In reviewing some production documents this morning, I was reminded that this shot of Cotten was requested by Welles who described precisely how he wanted Cotten to finish writing then look up and then back to the letter. Welles also requested the shot be lit to put Cotten in near silhouette (which would have been a better match to the footage of Costello reading the letter two shots later), but this was not done since it was likely a rush-job shot the same day as the re-shoot of Eugene being turned away by Fanny, George, and Jack.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#240 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:55 am

Ugh. Since the re-shoot of Eugene being turned away came with it, I'm guessing this was Welles trying to appease RKO? Even if Welles requested it, given the timing and circumstances of the request, I can't really call it a good reflection of what he would have intended if it was done under pressure and duress.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#241 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:58 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:19 pm
I suspect Lady From Shanghai may have been damaged even more than Ambersons (but I still like both -- even as they stand).
I just re-watched The Lady From Shanghai last week and didn't remember how incomprehensible it is and how it feels so much more compromised than Ambersons. Ambersons, for all its massive cuts and edits, can't remove the elements of Welles from that point of his career. The long take of the patriarch of the Amberson family in front of the fire place in contemplation and the snowride scene (ending beautifully with an iris out) don't lose any of their brilliance even with the slashed thirty minutes of the film. By the time Welles was working on Shanghai, he started to abandon the long take, deep focus style of his early films and go for a more disorienting collage effect that you see embodied perfectly in Othello and Mr. Arkadin. Unfortunately, by doing more takes and more shots, it seems like it allowed the studio to fiddle around with all the shots more by making the film a narrative mess. It seems like the only scene they can't cut Welles brilliance (and strangeness) is the famous funhouse scene and the courthouse sequence that reverts back to long takes and characters constantly speaking over one-another, like the old lady sneezing during the trial. I don't see it being discussed much, but the most Wellesian touch removed from the film seems to be the audio mix of over-lapping dialogue and barrages of sound effects. You can see elements of it in the scene where George Grisby reveals to Welles he wants him to kill him and you see tourists talking all throughout the scene loudly, obviously meant to be heard on the mix. You can just feel the knobs of an audio engineer turning to try to eliminate as much of that as they could.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#242 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:05 am

That funhouse scene was much, MUCH longer. It's still a classic - I think they kept the core of it - but they did cut the hell out of it.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#243 Post by connor » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:13 am

Always felt like one piece of fallout from the Ambersons fiasco is that our crowd vastly (and unfairly) underrates Robert Wise. Plus, from everything I've read, it sounds like Welles himself is largely to blame--wasn't he too busy partying in Brazil to seize the moment and prevent total butchering?

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#244 Post by Drucker » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:25 am

connor wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:13 am
Always felt like one piece of fallout from the Ambersons fiasco is that our crowd vastly (and unfairly) underrates Robert Wise. Plus, from everything I've read, it sounds like Welles himself is largely to blame--wasn't he too busy partying in Brazil to seize the moment and prevent total butchering?
This is at best half-true. Welles probably did his fair share of partying in Brazil. But that doesn't mean he wasn't constantly trying to communicate with Wise and co. to give precise editing instructions on Ambersons. To the point where they just eventually let his calls go unanswered. In addition, much of the material shot for It's All True is quite beautiful, and more work and resources on that project certainly could have resulted in something unique and groundbreaking.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#245 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:30 am

hearthesilence wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:55 am
Ugh. Since the re-shoot of Eugene being turned away came with it, I'm guessing this was Welles trying to appease RKO? Even if Welles requested it, given the timing and circumstances of the request, I can't really call it a good reflection of what he would have intended if it was done under pressure and duress.
A director you like can make a creative decision you disagree with, no need to twist yourself into knots by making excuses

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hearthesilence
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#246 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:52 am

In this instance the interpretation is warranted. I even posted about one of Welles's dubious choices elsewhere in the thread (and a major one at that, chopping out a good deal of crucial footage and replacing it with something ludicrous, all on his own accord).

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#247 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:50 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:30 am
hearthesilence wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:55 am
Ugh. Since the re-shoot of Eugene being turned away came with it, I'm guessing this was Welles trying to appease RKO? Even if Welles requested it, given the timing and circumstances of the request, I can't really call it a good reflection of what he would have intended if it was done under pressure and duress.
A director you like can make a creative decision you disagree with, no need to twist yourself into knots by making excuses
Welles did not endorse the re-shoot of the scene of Eugene being turned away. His request for the new shot of Eugene finishing his letter was made over two weeks before the six days of re-shoots took place. Since it was a request that all at RKO agreed with, the shot was added to the schedule for the first day of re-shoots. There's also a difference between a director requesting a new shot/scene and the actual realization of that footage during the director's absence. There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea of showing Eugene reading his letter, but the actual footage may have looked more dynamic and been more dramatically successful if Welles was actually on-set to direct it.
The Elegant Dandy Fop wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 10:58 am
...Unfortunately, by doing more takes and more shots, it seems like it allowed the studio to fiddle around with all the shots more by making the film a narrative mess...
That's not really the case with The Lady From Shanghai. His original footage still retained many of the long single takes he was known for. This made it even more difficult to condense scenes during re-editing, especially the ones shot on location in Acapulco. The middle portion of the film is filled with process screen shots constantly interrupting the location footage; all of the process screen shots are from re-shoots. By the nature of being the lead actor in the film, Welles was required by his contract to participate in these re-shoots, and it appears he dutifully stood in front of the process screen and looked in the proper direction! The goal seemed to be to shoot this material as quickly as possible to (barely) cover over significant amounts of footage left on the cutting room floor. The wholesale cutting of expository and transition scenes is what made mincemeat of the plot; the shortening of scenes left in the film resulted in those scenes being visually chaotic.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#248 Post by dwk » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:44 pm


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Gregor Samsa
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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#249 Post by Gregor Samsa » Wed Oct 10, 2018 6:02 am

dwk wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:44 pm
The Magnificent Ambeaversons
Looks like an amazing and lovingly crafted release. I'm glad that Criterion has been doing such a good job stacking their Welles titles.

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Re: 952 The Magnificent Ambersons

#250 Post by kcota17 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 3:10 pm

So this leaves Too Much Johnson and The Trial as the only Welles film without a great region A release (assuming Mr. Arkadin will soon be upgraded and hoping The Other Side of the Wind gets a physical release)?

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