‘The Heiress,’ a quasi-tragic, 1840s New York love story

- Advertisement -
The Heiress

The Heiress

Directed by William Wyler

Written by Augustus and Ruth Goetz

Starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, and Ralph Richardson

USA, 115 min – 1949.

William Wyler’s The Heiress tells the quasi-tragic story of Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland), a plain-jane, Gilded Age heiress, who’s naiveté leads her into a courtship, with fortune-hunter, Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift). Seeing the truth behind Morris’s charm, Catherine’s father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), forbids the match. Catherine must then choose between the loyalty of her father and her love for Morris.

The Heiress focuses more on the relationships between its characters than it does on plot. First is the exploration of Catherine and Dr. Sloper. A lot of Catherine’s naive, nervous personality comes, as a result of Dr. Sloper’s upbringing. He constantly compares Catherine to her deceased mother (who died giving birth to her), outwardly stating that Catherine is a disappointment to him. Catherine’s inability to be the properly mannered, physically beautiful woman, expected of 1840s New York society strains this filial relationship. Whatever kindness Dr. Sloper shows Catherine is always tinged with the knowledge that she will never be perfect.

The Heiress

When Morris appears, he capitalizes on this knowledge. Morris challenges Catherine to make her own choices and builds her confidence. He treats her as a person and not as a pale comparison of her mother. Catherine’s unloved character falls for Morris’s charm and the way he makes her feel whole. There has been lots of discussion on whether or not Morris truly wants Catherine for money. Montgomery Clift supposedly plays Morris ‘ambiguously.’ The side of this argument that we find ourselves on depends on whether we are rooting for Catherine or understand her father’s objections.

The final scene of The Heiress should end this argument. Morris remains the same desperate man, after he returns to New York, several years later. Catherine, however, has evolved into a woman, who can tell the difference between lies and the truth. She is bitter, hardened by the wrongs done to her, much like her father was earlier in the film. This alters the relationship dynamic between her and Morris. Catherine no longer needs Morris to feel confident; she has agency.

The Heiress

The Heiress is a classical hollywood film that does not finish with a stereotypical, ‘happy ending.’ Ironically, that is the film’s strength. The Heiress does not force its characters into unbelievable situations. It allows them – particularly Catherine and Morris – to come full circle in their desires. Morris’s charm is later plagued by hardship and desperation, further suggesting the falseness of his affections. Catherine’s bitterness is tragic, but also what permits her embarrassing revenge on Morris. That act sets Catherine free.

10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
Business man watching business go bankrupt
25 Iconic Companies that Filed for Bankruptcy
The cast of Married...With Children
25 Little-Known Facts about Married…With Children TV Show
Ice Cube at Straight Outta L.A. at Tribeca Film Festival in 2010
10 Best Ice Cube Movies When You Want to Watch Ice Cube
Luke Evans at the Los Angeles premiere of Beauty And The Beast held at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood
10 Best Luke Evans Movies (He did that?)
Football movie being filmed
The 25 Greatest Football Movies of All Time
26 Different Types of Onions
4 Different Types of Cauliflower (Plus Health Benefits)
12 Different Types of Pecans
28 Different Types of Pineapple
10 Different Types of Tow Trucks
Electric mountain bike on the trails
18 Things to Know Before Buying an Electric Bike
Side and rear view of black 2017 Audi A7
23 Things to Know Before Buying an Audi A7
Motorhome on highway going through Bryce Canyon in the USA
13 Types of RV’s (Recreational Vehicles) for All Kinds of Vacation Fun
13 Different Types of Dumbbells
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
Baseball player hitting ball
10 Types of Baseball Bats that Rip the Leather Off the Ball
16 Types of Barbells for All Types of Lifts and Workouts
Camera, lenses and other photography equipments.
45 of the Best Online Photography and Camera Stores
9 Different Types of Website Hosting
5 Different Types of Pulleys (Plus Examples in Daily Life)
Apple Wallet icon on iPhone
15 Things to Know Before Setting Up Apple Pay
Natural herbal vitamins.
10 of the Best Online Vitamin Stores