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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Heiress
The Heiress (1949 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWilliam Wyler
Screenplay byAugustus Goetz
Ruth Goetz
Based onThe Heiress
by Augustus Goetz
Ruth Goetz
Produced byWilliam Wyler
Starring
CinematographyLeo Tover
Edited byWilliam Hornbeck
Music byAaron Copland
Color processBlack and white
Production
company
Paramount Pictures
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 6, 1949 (1949-10-06)
(Premiere)
  • December 28, 1949 (1949-12-28)
(Wide release)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2.6 million
Box office$2.3 million (US rentals)[1]

The Heiress is a 1949 American romantic drama film directed and produced by William Wyler, from a screenplay written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 stage play of the same title, which was itself adapted from Henry James' 1880 novel Washington Square. The film stars Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, a naive young woman who falls in love with a handsome young man despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter. Montgomery Clift stars as Morris Townsend, and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper.[2][3]

The Heiress premiered in Los Angeles on October 6, 1949 and was theatrically released by Paramount Pictures on December 28, 1949. Although a box office failure, grossing $2.3 million on a $2.6 million budget, the film garnered critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Wyler's direction, its screenplay and the performances of the cast. The film received a leading eight nominations at the 22nd Academy Awards, including for the Best Picture, and won four awards (more than any other film nominated that year); Best Actress (for de Havilland), Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design. In 1996, The Heiress was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4][5] Universal Pictures, through its EMKA division, currently handles distribution of the film.

Plot

In New York City, sometime in the 1850s, Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) is a plain, painfully shy woman whose exacting and emotionally detached father, physician Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), makes no secret of his disappointment in her. Catherine, as her father painfully reminds her, has limited talent and cannot "hold a candle" to her deceased mother. Sloper is terribly bitter about losing his charming and beautiful wife, whom he feels fate replaced with a simple, unalluring daughter. However, Catherine is devoted to her father and too innocent to fully comprehend his mistreatment or its reasons. Catherine enjoys quiet pursuits, such as caring for her father and embroidery, and seldom ventures out socially.

Catherine's gregarious Aunt Lavinia Penniman (Miriam Hopkins) moves into the household after becoming widowed and attempts to prod Catherine into being more social and find a husband. When she meets the handsome Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) at a ball, Catherine is taken by the attention he lavishes upon her, attention she's never received before and desperately wanted. At first uncomprehending and reluctant to accept his advances, she flourishes under his affections. Catherine falls madly in love with Morris, and they plan to marry.

Catherine is of age, receiving $10,000 per year from her mother's estate, and is expected to receive an additional $20,000 per year on top of this after her father's passing. Dr. Sloper believes Morris, being far more attractive and charming than Catherine, but poor and with few prospects after he wasted his own inheritance, is an idler courting Catherine only to get her sizable income. Aunt Lavinia favors the match regardless, being both romantic and pragmatic enough to view this as Catherine's chance at a happy married life. Morris is genuinely fond of Catherine's honesty and kindness despite his largely monetary motivations, and treats her with respect, unlike her father.

A frank discussion with Morris's sister confirms Dr. Sloper's opinion of Morris as a gold digger. The doctor tells the young couple he believes Morris is attempting to dupe plain, gullible Catherine. The doctor takes his daughter to Europe for an extended time to separate them. Still, she cannot forget her betrothed, especially since he frequents the house to visit Aunt Lavinia in their absence, who enables the two to keep in contact. When they return to New York, Dr. Sloper threatens to disinherit his daughter if she marries Morris, and they have a bitter argument in which the doctor makes his disdain and distaste for her abundantly clear. She finally realizes how poorly he really views her.

Catherine and Morris make plans to elope with the help of Aunt Lavinia. Catherine tells Morris that, even if her father didn't disinherit her, she never wants to see him again and she would refuse his money. According to their plan, Catherine eagerly packs her bags and waits for Morris to come and take her away to happiness. She is impatient to cut off all contact with her father and desperate to prove him and Aunt Lavinia incorrect: Someone does love her, not her money, and she has not been stupid to think so. Her confidence is shaken when Lavinia tells Catherine she shouldn't have let Morris know she was rejecting her inheritance. Catherine waits all night, but he never comes. She drags her luggage back upstairs and puts her belongings away.

Catherine is heartbroken and grows cold, now painfully aware of her father's opinion of her, but trapped caring for him nonetheless. Soon afterward, Dr. Sloper reveals he is dying. He tells Catherine that he is proud she resisted Morris, but Catherine vengefully tells her father she still loves Morris and dares him to change his will if he is afraid they will waste his money after he dies. He does not alter the will and dies, fretful, leaving her his entire estate. Catherine refuses to see him on his deathbed.

A few years later, Catherine has a visit from her cousin, and she is a different person, wearing fashionable clothes, being easy in her manner and becoming lovelier, now that her face is no longer a mask of tension and sadness. Morris returns from California, poorer, having made nothing of himself, and having even fewer prospects for his efforts. Aunt Lavinia arranges for Morris to visit Catherine. He finds Catherine wealthy and unmarried and is more attracted to her than before. He claims that he only left her behind because he could not bear to see her disinherited by her father and is quick to proclaim his love for her and his desire for her affections. Aunt Lavinia is thrilled for her niece, thinking this is Catherine's last chance. Catherine ignites Morris's hopes when she requests that he recreate their previous plan to elope. She gives Morris a gift of ruby buttons that she had bought for him in Paris. Morris eagerly promises to come back for her that night, and she tells him she will start packing her bags. As she goes upstairs, Morris greedily surveys the house he believes will be his new home.

After Morris leaves, Catherine informs her aunt that she does not believe his renewed protestations of love and that she has no intention of offering her love to him. Her aunt asks her if she can be so cruel, and Catherine coldly responds "Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters."

When Morris arrives later that night with the promised carriage, he rings the bell, and Catherine calmly orders the maid to bolt the door, leaving Morris locked outside, shouting her name and repeatedly banging on the locked door. Catherine silently ascends the stairs with a faint smile of triumph while Morris' despairing cries echo unanswered in the darkness.

Cast

Production

After seeing The Heiress on Broadway, Olivia de Havilland approached William Wyler about directing her in a screen adaptation of the play. He agreed and encouraged executives at Paramount Pictures to purchase the rights from the playwrights (Ruth and Augustus Goetz) for $250,000 and offer them $10,000 per week to write the screenplay. The couple were asked to make Morris less of a villain than he was in their play and the original novel in deference to the studio's desire to capitalize on Montgomery Clift's reputation as a romantic leading man.[6]

The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on October 6, 1949.[7]

Ralph Richardson reprised the role of Austin Sloper in a London production of the play.

Reception

The Heiress received universal critical acclaim. Bosley Crowther for The New York Times wrote that the film "crackles with allusive life and fire in its tender and agonized telling of an extraordinarily characterful tale" and added Wyler "has given this somewhat austere drama an absorbing intimacy and a warming illusion of nearness that it did not have on the stage. He has brought the full-bodied people very closely and vividly to view, while maintaining the clarity and sharpness of their personalities, their emotions and their styles...The Heiress is one of the handsome, intense and adult dramas of the year."[7]

The Brooklyn Eagle found the film "an intensely satisfying drama that holds a high level of interest throughout, building relentlessly to a moving climax." Praise for the principals lauded de Havilland especially: "the transformation of Catherine Sloper from a pathetically shy girl to a cold, handsome woman" being "handled with finished skill."[8]

The Philadelphia Inquirer praised the Goetzes for a skillful transformation of their stage version, finding it "in almost every way...superior." Prospects of an Academy Award for de Havilland were judged "thoroughly reasonable" as well.[9]

TV Guide rates the film five out of a possible five stars and add, "This powerful and compelling drama...owes its triumph to the deft hand of director William Wyler and a remarkable lead performance by Olivia de Havilland.[10]

Time Out London calls the film "typically plush, painstaking and cold...highly professional and heartless."[11]

Channel 4 stated "de Havilland's portrayal...is spine-chilling...Clift brings a subtle ambiguity to one of his least interesting roles, and Richardson is also excellent."[12]

In popular culture

In 1975, the twenty-first episode of the eighth season of The Carol Burnett Show featured a take-off of the film titled "The Lady Heir", with Carol Burnett as Catherine and Roddy McDowell as Morris.[13]

The film's Philippine adaptation, titled Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal, was made in 1992. The adaptation was written by Raquel Villavicencio, produced by Armida Siguion-Reyna, and directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna. The film stars Maricel Soriano and Richard Gomez as Adela and David.

Awards and nominations

Award[14] Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Picture William Wyler Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Actress Olivia de Havilland Won
Best Supporting Actor Ralph Richardson Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration – Black-and-White John Meehan, Harry Horner and Emile Kuri Won
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Leo Tover Nominated
Best Costume Design – Black and White Edith Head and Gile Steele Won
Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Aaron Copland Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture Olivia de Havilland Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Miriam Hopkins Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture William Wyler Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 4th Place
Best Actor Ralph Richardson (also for The Fallen Idol) Won
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor Ralph Richardson Nominated
Best Actress Olivia de Havilland Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Drama Ruth Goetz and August Goetz Nominated

See also

References

  1. ^ The Top Box Office Hits of 1950, Variety, January 3, 1951.
  2. ^ Variety Film Reviews, September 7, 1949, p. 11.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports and Film Reviews
  4. ^ Stern, Christopher (1996-12-03). "National Film Registry taps 25 more pix". Variety. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  5. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  6. ^ The Heiress at Turner Classic Movies
  7. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (October 7, 1949). "'The Heiress,' With Olivia de Havilland in Leading Role, Arrives at Music Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  8. ^ Sheaffer, Lew. "De Havilland Excellent as 'Heiress'." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 October 1949.
  9. ^ Martin, Mildred. " 'The Heiress' at Stanley Is Movie Melodrama." Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 December 1949.
  10. ^ TV Guide review
  11. ^ Time Out London review Archived 2009-03-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Channel 4 review
  13. ^ IMDB. "The Carol Burnett Show (1967–1978) Episode #8.21". Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  14. ^ "NY Times: The Heiress". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2008-12-20.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 January 2022, at 18:53
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