Yet Orson Welles so deftly manages rhythm and tone—a complex blend of irony and empathy—and the intertwining of aural and visual effects that, even as time rolls relentlessly on and bitter memories accumulate, we constantly feel the exhilaration of virtuoso storytelling. Though the studio version is arguably a little closer to the brush-with-the-supernatural conclusion of the Booth Tarkington novel. This moment of unexpected penitence rounds out the drama of the Ambersons —their pride, their selfishness, their loss, but also, for Georgie, a sliver of hope—and in the mixed feelings thus induced in the spectator suggests what is so powerful about the film, even in its truncated form. The master of ceremonies is, of course, Welles himself. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city.
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Conversations in the book that occur in a static bedroom setting, in the film are played out on the Amberson staircase as both the characters and camera are in motion.
Scenes are improvised to enrich them. Welles combines two book scenes into one film scene so that the action is simultaneous; more complex thematically and far more interesting to watch. Yet, there are entire scenes done in a single take. In the uncut version there are approximately 28 scenes done in a single or with an occasional seamless second angle compared to 11 multi-angle scenes.
And many of those multi-angle scenes are composed of long individual takes. It is these kinds of choices that make a film a film and in this case an Orson Welles film. By doing that everything that need be learned will be learned. The magnificence of the Ambersons began in Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city. A house on a period street with a white picket fence.
On the sidewalk, two ladies dressed in silk and velvet are passing three ladies dressed in silk and velvet. They greet each other. In that town in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet. A horse-and-carriage enters in the foreground on the right side of the screen and as it crosses, the occupants, dressed in silk and velvet, wave to the ladies on the street and the ladies wave back to the occupants. The moment the carriage leaves the frame:.
A mule appears on the opposite of the frame drawing the streetcar — an upper window of the house opens, a lady whistles, shuts the window and disappears as the driver pulls the mule to a stop. The lady comes out of the house — a hat, cloak, umbrella and pocketbook added to her costume.
The streetcar starts with a jolt and jumps off the Track. All the passengers get off and push it back on. This time it stays on. The moment it leaves the left side of the frame…. But in those days they had time for everything!
The same house — winter — a moon. The house and street are covered with snow. A horse-drawn sleigh, filled with gay couples, rides through the foreground. As it leaves the screen. The house again — summer — night — a party in progress. Carriages drawn up before the picket fence. All the windows are bright and Japanese lanterns are strung up in the front yard.
Gay young couples are strolling on the lawn. The same house — night. The house is dark. They get set for the serenade, right in close to the camera. Eugene and Jack closest so their faces can be remembered when they again appear in the story. And even that prettiest of all vanished Customs — the serenade.
Eugene trips over the bass viol, falls on top of it and collapses, sinking through the top of as if it were a tub. In town and country these men would wear no other hat-and without self-consciousness, they went rowing in such hats.
His hands insert the bootjacks and pull the boot on. As he reaches out of the picture, presumably to get the boot for the other foot. His hand returns with a shoe that has toes like the prow of a racing shell. He starts to put on the shoe. As he pulls a pair of trousers up over his legs, CAMERA PANS up and we see him in front of, and facing, a full-length mirror, looking at himself in a pair of un-creased trousers; the last hat we saw him try on and the shirt of a suit of long underwear.
FULL SHOT of Eugene, his back to the mirror, his body facing camera, so that we see what he is inspecting as he looks over his shoulder at the reflection of his back in the mirror; a light-colored overcoat over his full dress, his black coattails hanging five inches below the overcoat.
With evening dress a gentleman wore a tan overcoat, so short that his black coat-tails hung visible, five inches below the overcoat…. He has on a straw hat now and carries a bamboo stick. Satisfied with what he sees he starts out of the shot.
Eugene comes out of his house wearing the same outfit as in previous scene. Outside his gate he turns and starts walking up the street. They left traces of that fear in their sons and grandsons. In the minds of most of these, indeed, their thrift was next to their religion.
Eugene walks past a little area of trees. Against so homespun a background the magnificence of the Ambersons was as conspicuous as a funeral. By the time the camera takes in the whole structure, it also includes in a corner of the shot, and close to camera, three men in a carriage, drawn up in front of a street signpost. The old man who has just spoken is lowering his arm from pointing at the Mansion.
One middle-aged man is obviously an out-of-towner; the other middle-aged man is his friend and a citizen of the town; the old man is his father. The out-of-towner is being shown the sights. Eugene pays no attention to them. He continues up the road toward the front door of the Mansion as they talk:.
Sixty thousand dollars for the wood work alone! Yes, sir — hot and cold running water upstairs and down, and stationary washstands in every last bedroom in the place! By this time Eugene has reached the front door of the mansion and rung the bell. The door is opening as we come to:. CUT IN corner of frame. New kinds of fancy rigs — and harness! Eugene enters again, on his way to the Mansion.
He has on a different costume and this time a box of candy under his arm. There is another group of people at the sign-post — two couples, citizens of the town, who have obviously been shopping and have met. Eugene does not notice them. So Fanny Minafer was bound to have one, too.
They cost from fifty to a hundred dollars up! A nickelodeon is heard playing inside. Isabel, with a St. Bernard dog on leash and Wilbur Minafer at her side, is coming out. They encounter Eugene.
Eugene tips his hat. Isabel cuts him, Wilbur nods coolly and they cross him out of the scene, leaving Eugene looking after them sadly. One man is sitting in the chair being shaved and a couple of others are sitting on a bench under the racks holding the shaving mugs.
Wilbur Minafer! To think of her taking him, just because a man any woman would like a thousand times better was a little wild one night at a serenade! What she minds was his making a clown of himself in her own front yard! The same two matrons and Mrs. In background is the church. Wilbur and Major Amberson are with her. A laborer is sieving sand. George, aged 9, gallops his white pony through the pile, enveloping the laborer. There were people — grown people they were — who expressed themselves longingly: they did hope to live to see the day, they said, when that boy would get his come-upance!
Something was bound to take him down, some day, and they only wanted to be there! George, aged ten, wearing long curls and a Fauntleroy suit, is approaching at a gallop on his white pony.
Your sister stole it for me! George vaults the fence, catches Elijah who has started toward the house for shelter and starts pummeling him. The Reverend Smith rushes out of his house to intervene. A next door neighbor has also been attracted into her front yard by the noise. You pull down your vest, you ole blllycoat, you! Isabel is reading a letter to George. Yes, we would, Mama!
No, Georgie. They were terrible words for you to use, dear. And you must promise me never to use those bad words again.
Final Shooting Script
The magnificence of the. Ambersons began in Their splendour lasted throughout. In that town, in those days,. The only public advance was. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs.
What Is and What Might Have Been
Conversations in the book that occur in a static bedroom setting, in the film are played out on the Amberson staircase as both the characters and camera are in motion. Scenes are improvised to enrich them. Welles combines two book scenes into one film scene so that the action is simultaneous; more complex thematically and far more interesting to watch. Yet, there are entire scenes done in a single take. In the uncut version there are approximately 28 scenes done in a single or with an occasional seamless second angle compared to 11 multi-angle scenes. And many of those multi-angle scenes are composed of long individual takes. It is these kinds of choices that make a film a film and in this case an Orson Welles film.