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The Magnificent Ambersons


Image courtesy of Warner Bros

The Magnificent Ambersons
Orson Welles, 1942

Film History 101

As our film heritage becomes more and more digitized, it is harder and harder for audiences to see important films in the manner in which they were originally meant to be presented: in a theater, on film, with an audience. Film History 101 is our modest attempt to keep this tradition alive. Once a month, we'll present a selection that transcends "classic" status to that of "essential"—films that are widely recognized as among the greatest the art of moving pictures has to offer.


Many classic films are just as powerful today as when they were first released. We add such films from many genres to our schedule throughout the season. Many are shown on the occasion of their rereleases, in fresh, new or restored prints.

Tue, Jan 18, 2011 7 PM

"If Flaubert reread Don Quixote every year, why can't we see The Magnificent Ambersons whenever possible?"—François Truffaut (as quoted by Peter Bogdanovich)

How else could we start the series than with that most lionized of filmmakers, Orson Welles? While his debut Citizen Kane is usually ranked as the greatest film of all time, Welles's second film, The Magnificent Ambersons (made when he was all of 27-years-old), remains one of the most strikingly beautiful and technically innovative films to ever come out of Hollywood. A tale charting the decline of a family and the end of an era, the film was famously taken out of Welles's hands and an hour of footage (still unrecovered) was cut from the film, while the rest was re-edited and the ending was rewritten and re-shot by others. Despite this tinkering, and a tacked-on sentimental ending, the film remains a tremendously moving masterpiece and one of the highpoints of Welles's career. For similarly confounding reasons, Ambersons has never been released on DVD, so don’t miss this rare occasion to luxuriate in Welles's lustrous filmmaking on screen. (88 mins., 35mm)

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