The famously butchered vereion of Orson WellesThe Magnificent Ambersons (’42) runs 88 minutes, and that’s the only cut anyone’s ever seen since the film opened on 7.10.42. The legend, of course, is that the fabled longer version (135 minutes) was richer, finer, masterful and certainly more Wellesian.

At least one preview audience in Pomona saw the 135-minute version, and their reaction was mostly thumbs-down. The film was trimmed. re-tested and still didn’t fare well with the plebes. Too gloomy, suffocating, etc. Welles went to Brazil to shoot It’s All True, and in so doing abandoned Ambersons to the wolves. A happier replacement ending was shot, and at the end of the day RKO wound up deleting 47 minutes.

HE-posted on 8.17.18: “The exalted if somewhat tragic reputation of The Magnificent Ambersons (’42) has been so deeply drilled into film-maven culture that even today, no one will admit the plain truth about it.

“I’m referring to the fact that Tim Holt‘s George Amberson Minafer character is such an obnoxious and insufferable asshole that he all but poisons the film.

“I’ve watched Welles’ Citizen Kane 25 or 30 times, but because of Holt I’ve seen The Magnificent Ambersons exactly twice. (And the second viewing was arduous.) Even Anthony Quinn‘s Zampano in Federico Fellini‘s La Strada is more tolerable than Minafer, and Zampano is a bellowing beast.

“Welles admitted decades later that he knew ‘there would be an uproar about a picture which, by any ordinary American standards, was much darker than anybody was making pictures…there was just a built-in dread of the downbeat movie, and I knew I’d have that to face.”

One of those who saw an early two-hour cut was costar Anne Baxter (1923-1985), who was 19 during filming. Yesterday I came upon a Baxter q & a in “Conversations with Classic Film Stars”, a 2016 book by James Bawden and Ron Mille, and came upon the following quote:

I love Manny Farber’s Ambersons review, and particularly this excerpt: “Theater-like is the inability to get the actors or story moving, which gives you a desire to push with your hands. There is really no living, moving or seeing to the movie; it is a series of static episodes connected by narration, as though someone sat you down and said ‘here!’ and gave you some postcards of the 1890s.”

Third posting of HE’s Anne Baxter West Hollywood encounter: “I was driving along Melrose Ave. near Doheny in late 1983. (Or was it early ’84?) I noticed that a new BMW in front of me had a framed license plate that came from a dealer in Westport, Connecticut, where I had lived only five years earlier and which is next to my home town of Wilton.

“I pulled alongside the Beemer and saw right away that the driver was Anne Baxter, who looked pretty good for being 60 or thereabouts. I rolled down my window and said, ‘Hey, Westport…I’m from Wilton!’ Baxter waved and smiled and cried out ‘Hiiiiii!'”