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The Magnificent Ambersons (BFI Film Classics) [Paperback]

V. F. Perkins

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Book Description

1 Oct 1999 BFI Film Classics
At the age of twenty-five, with "Citizen Kane" (1941), Orson Welles was the author and star of the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Then he persuaded RKO to let him adapt a favorite book, "The Magnificent Ambersons". Booth Tarkington's novel had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1917, and had kept its popularity as a slice of mid-Western Americana. Its tale of dynastic ruin and social change wrought by the rise of the automobile inspired Welles' fond reconstruction of a lost world of leisure and elegance, brought to atmospheric life by a company of his favorite actors, including Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead in their most famous roles.'It was a much better picture than Kane', said Welles 'if they'd just left it as it was'. It was butchered by the studio, but many still prize Ambersons as the finest of all Welles' achievements. V. F. Perkins explores Welles' genius in directing actors, his intricate weaving of his own narration in and around the drama, and his unsurpassed use of the long take to capture the finest nuance of expression and unspoken feeling. For Perkins the film has as many marvellous shots, scenes, ideas, performances as most filmmakers could hope to achieve in an entire career.

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The Magnificent Ambersons (BFI Film Classics) + "To be or Not to be" (BFI Film Classics) + "Double Indemnity" (BFI Film Classics)
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Review

'A magnificently passionate book' Sight and Sound

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A study of The Magnificent Ambersons will keep speaking of it as a ruin and treating it as one of the great tragedies of movie history. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Intelligent, but very Academic 29 Oct 2001
By Mad Dog - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book if you're up to the challenge of reading it.
A one sentence example:
"In long-take technique, as used here, the characters' experience of change, of simultaneity and sucession, convergence and seperation, anticipation, process and consequence is made more dependent on the being and doing of the actors."
And there are plenty more where that came from!
Orson Welles considered "The Magnificent Ambersons" (the film) to be better than "Citizen Kane". Unfortunately it was butchered by the studio (with some assistance by Robert Wise), losing between forty-four and fifty minutes of Welle's original cut. Even more tragic is the fact that this missing footage has never been recovered.
In this slim (74 page) volume Perkins has attempted to analyse not just the film that exists, but to put it in the context of the film that was supposed to be -- not an easy task. He makes most of these comparisons via the reconstructed "editing script", interviews (from other sources) with Welles, and then formulates some assertions of his own. As a result, we get an insight not only into the film that exists, but to the vision that it might have been.
For those who like the more theoretical aspects of film and film history, I think you'll find some interesting ideas. Perkins has studied the material extensively, and makes some telling observations (albeit, many of them worded like the quote above).
But be warned, this book is NOT a catalog of anecdotes about the making of "Ambersons". If youy looking for the gossip, inuendoes, and tales of carnage, look elsewhere.
Bottom line: this is an excellent text-book. But as with all text-books the reader has to make an effort.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting range of ideas 23 Jan 2000
By "parsonsgfys" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book offers an insightful study of Welle's most accomplished work. It also stands as a testimony to what could have been had the studio RKO not interfered during the editing stage of the film.
Perkins apparent love of the filmic medium helps to wrap this book into tightly wrought 74 pages which though brief, covers alot of ground.
An excellent companion to the film.
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