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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Heiress (1949)

The Heiress (1949). Directed by William Wyler. Camera: Leo Tover. With Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins, Vanessa Brown, Betty Linley, Ray Collins, Mona Freeman, Selena Royle, Paul Lees, Harry Antrim, Russ Conway, David Thursby, Donald Kerr, Harry Pipe, Una Mortished, Ralph Sanford, Lester Dorr, Franklyn Farnum, Douglas Spencer, Jack Chefe.

A wealthy widowed physician Austin Sloper, does not understand why his socially awkward daughter Catherine, does not have all the wonderful qualities of her beautiful mother, even with all her schooling and training. Austin, asks his sister, Lavinia, to come stay with him to help teach his daughter social graces.

That night at a party, Austin's sister, Elizabeth and her husband Jefferson, announce the engagement of their daughter Marian to Arthur Townsend. Arthur's handsome cousin Morris, asks Catherine to dance. Although, she has two left feet, Morris does not seem to notice and asks if he could see her again. Morris, makes frequent visits to her home the following week, her father seems surprised that someone has taken any interest in his daughter.

One night, Lavinia pretends to have a headache and when she leaves Morris and Catherine alone together, he proposes. Catherine accepts, despite the fact Morris is unemployed, uneducated and squandered away his inheritance in Paris.

Catherine, who can not wait, announces her engagement to Austin, who then calls for Morris' sister, Mrs. Montgomery to come visit. She confirms Austin's suspicions, that Morris is after Catherine's substantial inheritance. Austin, convinces Catherine to travel with him to Europe for six months, and Morris promises to wait for her.

While Austin and Catherine are in Europe, Morris visits Lavinia and settles in to a luxurious life style. Austin, soon realizes that Catherine still still in love with Morris, and they return to New York. Where Austin, tells his daughter that because she is homely and dull, her only attraction is her money, and the only thing she does well is her neat embroidery work. Shocked by her father's feelings for her, Catherine plans to elope with Morris that night, and tells Morris her father's threat of disinheriting her. Catherine, is packed and ready and waiting, but, Morris never shows up. Lavinia, who agrees that Morris is a fortune-hunter, feels that he at least offered Catherine a small chance at happiness.

A week later, Austin becomes ill and Catherine learns that Morris has moved to California. Catherine, is heartbroken, and she refuses to see her father when as he lays dying.

Years later, Morris returns to see Catherine. Although she refuses to see him at first, she changes her mind when she hears his voice. Morris, then asks for her forgiveness and tells her the reason he left was so she would not loose her inheritance. Morris, proposes again, saying that he needs her love, and Catherine encourages him to elope that night. Will they now marry and live happily ever after?

Fun Fact:

Montgomery Clift learned to play the piano for the scene where he sings, "The Joys of Love" to Olivia de Havilland.

Olivia De Havilland's, performance from a naive girl to a bitter woman is perfectly believable. Montgomery Clift, performance was just right for his part as a fortune hunter. It is hard to know which side to root for.. You might agree with Dr. Sloper's thoughts about Morris and only wants to protect his daughter. Morris could be a fortune hunter, or he could be a man who could make her happy. A wonderfully told story.


Trippy Trellis said...

Olivia's performance as Catherine Sloper is the best ever by an actress (followed by Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire").

Tom said...

I agree. This is a performance for the ages.

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