The Magnificent Ambersons is a 1942 film about the social decline, ruin and fall of the aristocratic Amberson family at the turn of the century with the coming of the industrial age and the rise of the automobile.
- The magnificence of the Ambersons began in 1873. Their splendor lasted throughout all the years that saw their Midland town spread and darken into a city. In that town in those days, all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet and everybody knew everybody else's family horse and carriage. The only public conveyance was the streetcar. A lady could whistle to it from an upstairs window, and the car would halt at once, and wait for her, while she shut the window, put on her hat and coat, went downstairs, found an umbrella, told the "girl" what to have for dinner and came forth from the house. Too slow for us nowadays, because the faster we're carried, the less time we have to spare.
- And now Major Amberson was engaged in the profoundest thinking of his life. And he realized that everything which had worried him or delighted him during this lifetime, all his buying and building and trading and banking, that it was all trifling and waste beside what concerned him now. For the Major knew now that he had to plan how to enter an unknown country where he was not even sure of being recognized as an Amberson.
- Something had happened, a thing which years ago had been the eagerest hope of many, many good citizens of the town. And now it came at last: George Amberson Minafer had got his comeuppance. He'd got it three times filled and running over. But those who had longed for it were not there to see it. And they never knew it, those who were still living had forgotten all about it, and all about him.
- [in a letter to Isabel] And so we come to this, dear. Will you live your life your way, or George's way? Dear, it breaks my heart for you, but what you have to oppose now is your own selfless and perfect motherhood. Are you strong enough, Isabel? Can you make a fight?
- [to George] Ah, life and money both behave like loose quicksilver in a nest of cracks. When they're gone, you can't tell where, or what the devil you did with them... I've always been fond of you, Georgie. I can't say I've always liked ya. But we all spoiled you terribly when you were a boy... There have been times when I thought you ought to be hanged. And just for a last word, there may be somebody else in this town who's always felt about you like that. Fond of you, I mean, no matter how much it seems you ought to be hanged.
- Uncle Jack: Eighteen years have passed, but have they?... By gosh, old times certainly are starting all over again.
- Eugene: Old times. Not a bit. There aren't any old times. When times are gone, they're not old, they're dead. There aren't any times but new times.
- Lucy: What are you studying at school?
- George: College.
- Lucy: College.
- George: Oh, lots of useless guff.
- Lucy: Why don't you study some useful guff?
- George: What do you mean, useful?
- Lucy: Something you'd use later in your business or profession.
- George: I don't intend to go into any business or profession.
- Lucy: No?
- George: No.
- Lucy: Why not?
- George: Well, just look at them. That's a fine career for a man, isn't it? Lawyers, bankers, politicians. What do they ever get out of life, I'd like to know. What do they know about real things? What do they ever get?
- Lucy: What do you want to be?
- George: A yachtsman!
- George: I said, "Automobiles are a useless nuisance." Never amount to anything but a nuisance. They had no business to be invented.
- Uncle Jack: Of course, you forget Mr. Morgan makes them. Also did his share in inventing them. If you weren't so thoughtless, he might think you're rather offensive.
- Eugene: I'm not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization. It may be that they won't add to the beauty of the world or the life of men's souls. I'm not sure. But automobiles have come. And almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They're going to alter war and they're going to alter peace. And I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles. And it may be that George is right. It may be that in ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine but would have to agree with George: that automobiles had no business to be invented.
- Real life screened more daringly than it's ever been before!
- From the Man who Made "The Best Picture of 1941"
- Orson Welles' Mercury Production of Booth Tarkington's Great Novel