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The Heiress

The Heiress (1949)


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Release Date: Oct 6, 1949 Wide



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 2,853

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Movie Info

Henry James based his 1881 novella Washington Square on a real-life incident, wherein a young actor of his acquaintance married an unattractive but very wealthy young woman for the express purpose of living the rest of his life in luxury. Washington Square was turned into a stage play in 1946 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz; this, in turn was adapted for the movies under the title The Heiress. Olivia DeHavilland won an Academy Award (her second) for her portrayal of Catherine Sloper, the plain-Jane

Feb 6, 2007

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All Critics (13) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (0) | DVD (6)

[A]n outstanding literary adaptation and a superb example of Hollywood fare at its most intelligent and sharply honed.

August 15, 2012 Full Review Source:

More interesting for the things it leaves unsaid than the occasionally staid melodramatic story.

September 26, 2011 Full Review Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Though it had a poor box office upon its release, it eventually became recognized as a masterpiece.

February 20, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Wyler's superlative rendition of Henry James' novel Washington Square is meticulously mounted with great acting from Olivia De Havilland, Monty Clift, and particularly Ralph Richardson, dark-noirish lensing, and powerful score from Aaron Copeland.

February 25, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

The reputation of this exceedingly fine film has continued to grow as the decades have rolled on, and the performances of a strong cast certainly deserve much of that credit.

July 10, 2007 Full Review Source: DVD Review
DVD Review

Audience Reviews for The Heiress

Superlative version of the James novel sharpens and refines the book. Olivia, always a fine actress, gives one of her defining performances revealing the many layers of Catherine during her evolution from doormat to bruised and wary but empowered woman. Clift gives a sly performance, his natural beauty aiding in the belief that he could be a rake living off his looks. Sir Ralph Richardson is simply great as the thoughtlessly cruel father, hinting that in his own obtuse way he has no understanding of what he thinks of as protecting his daughter is actually crippling her and his malice towards her something he doesn't comprehend. Miriam Hopkins is perfectly cast as the flighty Aunt Penniman her fluttery gestures making her seem more vapid than she really is. Selena Royale is also fine as the other sister even though in a smaller role, she, Miriam and Richardson share a fantastic scene that clarifies the relationship of the entire family and his inability to see beyond his own view point no matter the cost. All their superior work would be for naught though were it not for Wylers sure handed direction that keeps the sometimes heavy dramatics feeling personal and involving.
July 9, 2013
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This movie explores the question: is it better to be happily married to someone who just wants your money, or to live a lonely life and keep your millions? Most of the movie is annoying and boring, and I don't like their answer to the question.
October 24, 2010

Super Reviewer

What a great closing scene, Morris (Montgomery Clift) pounding on Catherine's (Olivia de Havilland) door as the credits start to roll. Is he just the craven gold digger her father thinks he is, or does he really love her? Catherine isn't exactly loaded with social graces, nor do people find her very attractive or personable. Her father (Ralph Richardson) humors her to a degree, but he knows a lost cause when he sees one. That's why she's so surprised when Morris shows such a keen interest in her. Morris is outgoing, attractive, intelligent and warm. Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins), ever the romantic, pleads Morris' case to the father, but it's to no avail. De Havilland's transformation is so gradual and yet so drastic that by the end, the Catherine from the opening of the movie is scarcely recognizeable. The Heiress inherits a great deal more than money from those who surround her. As she says "Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters". The Heiress deals with the confrontation of one's own reality, and what effect that has on the psyche. Could Catherine be happy deceiving herself, trying to forget Morris only wants her for her money? The father wants Catherine to free her life of allusions, but is it always best to protect those you love from being hurt? In the end, everyone's lives are made up of a little bit of fantasy and a little bit of reality. We're all stars of our own stories, and sometimes it's better to live a lie, especially when the truth hurts.
August 11, 2010
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Not only is Olivia de Havilland utterly brilliant as the 'plain' heiress who may or may not be falling victim to an unscrupulous suitor, but the entire cast (especially Montgomery Clift) seems perfectly suited for their respective roles. An underrated CLASSIC from director William Wyler.
June 12, 2010
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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