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Olivia de Havilland is one of the greatest actresses of all time and she proves her credentials in this absolute stunner of a film as she is the picture of loveliness from the beginning of the film but is absolutely chilling in the final scenes. Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson round out a great supporting cast and William Wyler's solid direction impresses as he brings more ambience to this film than he does to the more generic Mrs. Miniver (1942) and Friendly Persuasion (1956). I would also call this the best of the films nominated for Best Picture in 1949 with Battleground (1949) and Twelve O'Clock High (1949) not being to my taste. This is the rare film from this time period that truly holds up when viewed through a modern lens as it still simultaneously entertains and devastates with it's various highly emotional plot beats.
The demure Catherine Sloper, Olivia de Havilland, has been under the sway of her domineering father Dr. Austin Sloper, Ralph Richardson, who projects all of his feelings about his deceased wife onto her. He is particularly concerned about the fact that men will only marry her because of the fortune that she will come into when he dies. His suspicions are aroused when the handsome Morris Townsend, Montgomery Clift, begins a relationship with her but Catherine is violently resistant to this idea and with the help of her Aunt Lavinia, Miriam Hopkins, she attempts to elope with Morris. He does not come to her however after learning that she will lose her inheritance by staying with him and Catherine is devastated. In the years following this event she becomes increasingly bitter and chooses to turn Morris away when he tries to reconcile with her.
Early scenes in the film are utterly spellbinding as we have the almost gothic familial relation between Catherine and her father set up with some strange sexual undertones. When we see the two of them finally have it out later in the film as she finds her voice after being subordinate to him for so long I found myself shivering with excitement, without knowing it I had built up anticipation for this confrontation and seeing it come to fruition filled me with joy. The meeting of Morris and Catherine is also well choreographed as de Havilland is perfect as the naïve, sweet young Catherine while Clift has the perfect slimy edge mixed with deceptive charm. All of this excitement is built up by the direction, acting and screenplay, all of which are superb.
The acting is superlative and de Havilland manages to top herself with her fantastic work in To Each His Own (1946) being eclipsed by a performance that is undeniably effecting and powerful. She gets all of the subtleties right as we are drawn in by her luminous presence and captivating sweetness and really feel for her as we see her manipulated by the men around her and forced to steel herself against men who are only out for her money. I think that this is one of the finest performances I have ever seen and de Havilland truly deserved the recognition she received. Richardson and Clift are pretty great too as Richardson chews the scenery as a villainous father and Clift finds some depth in what could have been a purely villainous role. The lovely Hopkins is also a delight to watch as the eager Aunt Lavinia as she is able to convey so much emotion in just a few facial expressions. I think that Hopkins' lack of nomination for her supporting role is disappointing and I hope that younger generations can rediscover this film and appreciate all of the amazing acting present in it.
I adore this film and not just because one of my favorite actresses performs in it, it's one of those films that initially appears to be one type of story, forbidden love, but then becomes something completely different but equally enthralling. If you love any of the cast members then this is a great show for their talents and if you want gothic romance this is one of the prime examples of the genre along with Wuthering Heights (1939) and Rebecca 1940, in other words, what's not to love?
Adapted from Henry Jamesâ(TM) Washington Square (1880, but set in the 1840s) for the stage and subsequently this film, directed by William Wyler. Olivia de Havilland plays Catherine Sloper, an awkward young woman who has inherited money from her deceased mother and is due to come into a large fortune from her father, a doctor played by Ralph Richardson. Given her shyness and poor social graces (undoubtedly a product of her fatherâ(TM)s glorification of her mother and disdain for her in comparison), she has had no suitors...until Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) appears to sweep her off her feet (aided and abetted by her widowed aunt played by Miriam Hopkins). Unfortunately, despite his charm and good looks, he has squandered whatever small inheritance he once had and thus garners the doctorâ(TM)s displeasure. Indeed, Dr Sloper quickly surmises that Townsend is nothing more than a fortune hunter, seeking his daughterâ(TM)s hand only because of her money. However, whether it is the screenplay, Wylerâ(TM)s direction or the acting by de Havilland (Best Actress), Richardson, and Clift (the latter with a jarring accent and method technique), we spend much of the film balanced on the edge of the proverbial knife, not knowing for sure whether Townsend really does love Catherine (as she so dearly wishes) or whether he is indeed mercenary (it is very easy to suspect the latter â" but he is very charming). Aaron Coplandâ(TM)s Oscar-winning score (perhaps tinkered with by the production team) is strange â" both minimalist and heavily accented by swelling strings â" its intrusiveness actually enhanced the picture. As things play out, we remain on Catherineâ(TM)s side, wanting and yearning for her to have things work out as they should â" and of course, in the end, they finally do. In the end, thatâ(TM)s satisfying but it is the tension derived from the ambiguity surrounding Morrisâ(TM)s love and the difficulty of knowing whether to choose truth or deception (when either one or the other might actually prove more beneficial for Catherine) that really elevates the film to something special.
Outstanding production values and an overall sterling example of what a monumental team effort a good film truly is, from the bottom to the top, excellence abounds in this pre-Civil War depiction of a societal ugly duckling (who's not really ugly) who comes under the thrall of a dashing young swain. Monty Clift and Miriam Hopkins both deliver nuanced performances that sharpen the gist of the piece, and Ralph Richardson as the caring father blinded by grief is memorable, but Olivia DeHavilland's Oscar-winning performance as an innocent who discovers the corruption around her is indeed all around her is unforgettable. Hollywood in all its splendor, and that's meant in a good way.
A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter.Stars: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson.
Academy Awards, USA 1950 Winner
Oscar : Best Actress in a Leading Role Olivia de Havilland !!
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. An underrated CLASSIC from director William Wyler. Though it had a poor box office upon its release, it eventually became recognized as a masterpiece.
A plain young woman in Manhattan towards the end of the 19th century (Oliva de Havilland) suffers from painful social awkwardness. Her wealthy father (Ralph Richardson) is a widower, and with memories of his beautiful and graceful wife in his mind, feels disappointment in his daughter. Enter Montgomery Clift, a young man without money or an occupation, who sees the good in her, and begins courting her. The father fears he is in it for the money, but the young man is steadfastly earnest in his protestations of true affection. Her aunt (Miriam Hopkins, who was so nice to see) tries to mediate between everyone involved.
I loved how Olivia de Havilland was made up to fit the part, unlike some of the other films I've seen where she's the 'plain one' but looks extraordinary (she is Oliva de Havilland, after all). Here, with her hair matted down into a helmet and her eyelashes thickened, she almost resembles Alfalfa from the old Little Rascals show in some of her scenes. More importantly, she acts the part, with what feels like authentically painful shyness. To see her character grow over the course of the movie, with de Havilland masterful at each stage, is wonderful. One can really see why she earned the second of her two Oscars with this performance.
The exchanges between Richardson and Clift, father and potential son-in-law, are fantastic. I just love the eloquent way they speak, expressing their viewpoints and emotions candidly, but always politely, even if pointedly. We really don't know how it's going to play out, and I won't spoil it, except to say that it's brilliant, especially the ending. There is such depth of emotion here, and the film highlights those moments in life where everything may pivot based on a few actions or comments. The themes of love, trust, acceptance of another's shortcomings, and supporting them just the same are all in play here. The film shows the damage one can do by being too blunt with one's (truthful) candor, in addition to that done by the opposite, being deceitful. Director William Wyler never lets up, and what may sound like a staid, potentially boring story is anything but that; it flies by in its 115 minute run time.
Olivia De Havilland gives one of the best screen performances of all time. Ralph Richardson is perfect as her cruel father. This is a masterpiece ending to a glorious film.
All characters were wonderful in this movie, Olivia de Havilland well deserving of a second oscar. Ralph Richardson was brillant as the harsh father. Miriam Hopkins was fabulous cast as aunt Lavinia. Montgomery Clift was good to avg in this movie but good enough to make his character believeable. Overall, "The Heiress", remains my favorite movie of all time. Also Olivia as my favorite actress of all time.
Great movie ,incredible acting the likes of which we never see from today's actors.This is a dark movie , in which we see the transformation of an innocent happy young girl , into a cynical lonely woman when she realises she was not loved by her father and that it is only because of her money that any man would show interest in her.
Finely crafted. De Havilland will melt your screen in the last scene.
New York, 1840s. Dr. Austin Sloper, a widower, is a wealthy man. He has one child - Catherine, who is in her 20s. Socially withdrawn and awkward, her father and her aunt, Lavinia, encourage her to be more outgoing and sociable but she seems content to spend her time embroidering. Then, at a party she meets young, handsome and almost penniless Morris Townsend. They get along very well and soon he is calling on her. In a very short space of time they are engaged to be married. Dr. Sloper believes Townsend is just after Catherine's sizable inheritance and refuses to bless the marriage. Furthermore, he threatens to cut Catherine out of his will. This puts a strain on not only the father-daughter relationship but also the Catherine-Townsend relationship.
Great drama, directed by William Wyler. Highly engaging, with some great character depth and development and interesting plot. Quite intriguing too, as you wonder whether Townsend is just in it for the money. Some interesting themes and a good exploration of relationships.
Some good twists along the way, especially towards the end, making for an enthralling movie. Clever, punchy, profound ending.
Superb performances by Olivia De Havilland as Catherine, Montgomery Clift as Townsend and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper. De Havilland won the 1950 Best Actress Oscar and Richardson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Clift was not nominated but gives a great reminder of his considerable talent.