THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942)
70 years ago today, on March 17, 1942 audiences in Pomona, a small town about 30 miles east of Los Angeles got to preview RKO's THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS.
Read THE AMBERSON MEMOS ~ PART III Here:
Why RKO picked Pomona to preview the film after a showing of the Paramount musical THE FLEET'S IN, has to be one of the biggest unanswered questions in the whole sad story of the AMBERSONS saga.
Firstly Pomona could hardly be considered a town representative of the kind of audience that would want to see a dark and difficult film like AMBERSONS, but compounding that error was showing the film to a audience who had come to see a light hearted musical comedy!
Given this set-up, I'm astounded that most of audience didn't walk out during the showing of AMBERSONS. Indeed, many people did walk out during the showing, to the great alarm of the studio executives, but who could blame them? They hadn't come to see a film with "somber music" and a "dark and moody photography." They wanted to laugh and have a good time. What is truly amazing, is given the make up of the audience, 52 out of the 125 comment cards returned were actually positive!
As one astute person wrote: "The picture is magnificent. The direction, acting, photography, and special effects are the best the cinema has yet offered. It is unfortunate that the American public, as represented at this theatre, are unable to appreciate fine art."
It retrospect, one has to wonder if RKO didn't pick Pomona just so that the picture would purposely fail with preview audiences and then they could "fix it" however they liked. It certainly makes much more sense than blaming the cutting on Orson Welles, because he had left the film unfinished and "ran off" to South America to make IT'S ALL TRUE.