The Heiress (1949)

The Heiress was adapted from the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James.  Catherine (Olivia DeHavilland), a rather plain and naïve young woman, falls in love with a fortune hunter (played by Montgomery Clift).  Meanwhile, her cold and emotionally abusive father (played by Ralph Richardson), who anticipates the young man’s true motives, does everything he can to stave off the romance.  Dr. Sloper does in fact save the girl from herself, but succeeds in permanently embittering her.

Dr. Sloper eventually dies, and Catherine inherits his considerable fortune…and the fortune hunter returns.  What happens next is stunning.

Pluses:  Shakesperean actor Ralph Richardson beautifully plays the cold, cruel Dr. Sloper.  DeHavilland is masterful in a difficult part which requires her to transform from a young, naïve girl into a bitter old maid.

Minus:  Montgomery Clift’s Method acting does not stand up well to Richardson and DeHavilland’s more polished technique.

Rating:  Unrated

Black and White

This film is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies.  You can also find it on Prime or Instant Video.

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