Booth Tarkington

 
The least celebrated anti-hero in modern literature must surely be George Amberson Minefer. As a study of Freud's Oedipal Complex theory, even by modern standards, he is an interesting guy. He is the protagonist of Booth Tarkington's 'The Magnificent Ambersons', more famous for being Orson Welles's flawed movie than for the novel itself. 'The Magnificent Ambersons' is a towering achievment of literary imagination. It is a rare glimpse into a passing moment of splendour in American urban life before the advent of modernity, partly due to greed, partly due to uncontrollable global forces but also by the inevitable osmosis of being an experimental nation on the cutting edge of human evolution.

People live there as a matter of having merely arrived, perhaps having failed to socialise somewhere else, sometimes trampling on those who were there before them. Wealth, at least its consquence, is a temporary event but more than that, George Amberson Minefer is a product of an amorous misunderstanding and thus even more precious, for the inevitability of circumstance, to the giver of his life - his mother, Isabel.

Things work out at all well for no one in this story, except in the end George does find love with Lucy and aspects of this union (to those who have read the story) move to a mystical poignancy matching 'Wuthering Heights'. It takes Sigmund Freud's theories right to another level of metaphysics. Orson Welles said in his interview with Peter Bogdanovich in 1970, "Tarkington must be rediscovered."

Booth Tarkington won the Pulitzer Prize in 1918.

"Listen here, mamma: grandpa wouldn't wipe his shoe on that ole story-teller, would he?" - Georgie, 11 years old

Peter Bogdanovich murmured, "The fragility of it all." Yes indeed, the fragility of all the presuppositions of the imagined happiness that underlies the mechanisms of a capitalist society, which is the inevitable type of human society or so it seems. The story touches on all this and this intellectual enthusiasm was why Orson Welles himself got a bit carried away; extending the ending, deviating far too much from the novel. This is a pity because the RKO Studios would have been happy enough if he had just limited himself to rendering faithfully to the screen the ending as it was in the book. It's still a good film despite the incongruous corny ending hacked in by the studios because Welles' director's cut ending was far too gloomy for a Saturday night preview audience. He was so good at straight storytelling in the 'Mercury Theatre On The Air' days. Perhaps deep down Welles knew it. He told Peter Bogdanovich, "I owe everything I did in that film to Tarkington!"

 

Opening Scene

 

| Bevagna, 30 11 2018

 

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© Paik Tae Ho  2000