The Heiress (1949)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

USA, 1949.  Paramount Pictures.  Screenplay by , , based on their play, adapted from the novel Washington Square by .   Cinematography by .  Produced by William Wyler.   Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Much of the narrative and dialogue from Henry James’ novel Washington Square, upon which the play by Augustus and Ruth Goetz and this film were based, have been changed to allow for more outwardly-directed drama as opposed to the novel’s inner subtlety and perception. Olivia de Havilland gives the performance of the decade as James’ heroine Catherine Sloper, a plain and painfully shy young woman who attracts the attentions of handsome (boy, he was handsome) Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift).  She wishes to marry him, but her father (Ralph Richardson) objects, insisting that Townsend is a fortune hunter or else why would such a fantastic catch want such a homely woman for a wife? The journey that Catherine undergoes towards self-confidence is fascinating, and if you liked the way the book worked out, wait until you see it performed here. Great filmmaking from a great filmmaker, rich with character and mood and topped off by De Havilland’s astonishingly brilliant work.

The Criterion Collection:  #974

Academy Awards:  Best Actress (Olivia de Havilland); Best Art Direction-BW; Best Costume Design-BW; Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson); Best Director (William Wyler); Best Cinematography-BW

Golden Globe Award:  Best Actress (Olivia de Havilland)
Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Miriam Hopkins); Best Director (William Wyler)

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