Adapted by Orson Welles from Booth Tarkington's novel, an arrogant young man from a wealthy family resents the love of his girl-friend's father for his mother.
Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotton) calls at a mansion but is told that Isabel Amberson won't see him. Isabel marries Wilbur Minafer, and their boy George acts arrogantly. Back from college, George Amberson Minafer (Tim Holt) meets Lucy Morgan (Anne Baxter). Widower Eugene has returned and dances with Isabel (Dolores Costello). Eugene has invented an automobile. George dislikes Eugene and quarrels with Aunt Fanny (Agnes Moorhead). In the snow Eugene cranks up his car. George and Lucy fall out of a buggy and kiss. Eugene asks George to push, and he chokes on fumes. Eugene attends the funeral of Wilbur. George eats Fanny's cooking; she likes Eugene and gets upset.
Eugene shows his new car to Isabel and Fanny. Eugene asks Isabel to tell George about them. George wants to marry Lucy, who doubts it will happen, because he says he won't go into a business nor a profession. George criticizes the automobile. Eugene admits they may not help the soul but says they will change war and peace. Uncle Jack Amberson (Ray Collins) comments on George's attacking Eugene's business. Fanny tells George that people are talking about Eugene and Isabel. George goes to ask Mrs. Johnson, who tells him to leave. George complains to Jack in his bathroom. At the door George turns away Eugene. Fanny criticizes George. Eugene writes to Isabel about George. She asks George what he thinks of Eugene's letter, and he says she is an Amberson. Isabel plans to go away with George. He tells Lucy he will never see her again and is shocked she does not seem to care.
Jack returns from Paris and tells Eugene and Lucy that Isabel is not well. George and Isabel come home. She is so ill that George, Fanny, and Jack tell Eugene he can't see her. Isabel asks George about Eugene and says she wants to see him. Major Amberson (Richard Bennett) thinks how his life has been meaningless as he faces death. Jack says goodbye to George and says he should be hanged. Lucy tells her father Eugene that she wants only him. Fanny tells George she found a place to live, but she has only $28 and becomes hysterical. George makes only $8 a week at the law office. So he asks his boss to help him get a job with dangerous chemicals. George prays for forgiveness, and the narrator (Orson Welles) says he is getting his comeuppance. Eugene and Lucy read that George had both legs broken. In the final scene as Lucy is visiting George, Eugene tells Fanny that George now resembles Isabel.
RKO executives gave Orson Welles his comeuppance by
cutting and destroying a third of his finished film, because they
considered the sad story too depressing for war-time. George suffers
from an Oedipal complex and the spinster Fanny from jealousy,
and their combined negativity blocks the love Eugene and Isabel
feel for each other.