The fully realized Magnificent Ambersons, by contrast, is a more tangible piece of purported great art, a normal-length feature that, some say, would have been as good as or even better than the movie Welles made immediately before it, Citizen Kane. Chief among those taking this view was Welles himself, who in the 1970s told the director Peter Bogdanovich, his friend and sometime interlocutor, “It was a much better picture than Kane—if they’d just left it as it was.”
Using existing storyboards, stills of the deleted scenes and the original continuity script of March 12, 1942—the only surviving record of the full 132 minute original cut of “Ambersons,”—Carringer shows exactly what the deleted scenes were, which ones were reshot and the cables from Welles ordering cuts. the book makes clear that, although Welles may not have agreed to all the changes that were made after the disastrous previews, he was a willing accomplice to much of the re-editing. In fact, after reading Carringer it is virtually impossible to take the Welles account of the destruction of “Ambersons” at face value again. And yet it came and went without major critical discussion or acknowledgement. Its lack of impact is baffling and despite the landmark research and much evidence to the contrary, the Welles party line still remains the accepted version—“They destroyed ‘Ambersons’ and it destroyed me...”
Well, no, not exactly.
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