Although the movie is adapted from the 1918 novel by Booth Tarkington, it is first and foremost an Orson Welles project. He wrote it, directed it, and narrated it. However, RKO felt that it was too long, and deleted fifty minutes while Welles was out of the country. The deleted portion was destroyed, and no copy of it exists.
The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Agnes Moorehead), Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Picture. The film has also been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
The Magnificent Ambersons was remade for television in 2002, starring Madeleine Stowe, Bruce Greenwood, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Gretchen Mol, Dina Merrill and James Cromwell. It was directed by Alfonso Arau.