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The Heiress

the heiress, the heiress movie
The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend, and Ralph Richardson as Dr Sloper Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play The Heiress The play was suggested by the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James The film is about a young naive woman who falls in love with a handsome young man, despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter23

In 1996, The Heiress was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"


  • 1 Plot
  • 2 Cast
  • 3 Production
  • 4 Reception
  • 5 Awards and nominations
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links


Catherine Sloper Olivia de Havilland is a plain, painfully shy woman whose emotionally detached father, New York physician Austin Sloper Ralph Richardson, makes no secret of his disappointment in her He is terribly bitter about the loss of his charming and beautiful wife, whom he feels fate replaced with a simple and unalluring daughter Catherine is devoted to her father, however, and too innocent to fully comprehend his mistreatment or the reasons for it When she meets the charming Morris Townsend Montgomery Clift, she immediately is taken by the attention he lavishes upon her, attention she so desperately seeks from her father Catherine falls madly in love with Morris and they plan to marry

Dr Sloper believes Morris is an idler who is courting Catherine only to get her inheritance, and his interview with Morris' sister only reinforces his suspicion He tells the young couple his opinion of Morris and takes Catherine to Europe for an extended time, but she cannot forget her betrothed When they return to New York, Dr Sloper threatens to disinherit his daughter if she marries Morris Catherine does not care and plans to elope with him but not before telling him about her father's decision On the night they are to elope, Catherine eagerly waits at home for Morris to come and take her away, but he never arrives

Catherine is heartbroken A day or so later, she has a bitter argument with her father, who makes his disdain for her abundantly clear Soon afterwards, he reveals he is dying She tells her father she still loves Morris and challenges him to change his will if he is afraid they will waste his money after he dies He does not alter the will and dies a short time later, leaving her his entire estate

A few years later, Morris returns from California, having made nothing of himself but still professing his love for Catherine He claims that he left her behind because he could not bear to see her destitute Catherine pretends to forgive him and tells him she still wants to elope as they originally planned He promises to come back for her that night, and she tells him she will start packing her bags

Catherine coldly plots her revenge upon Morris Her aunt asks her how she can be so cruel, and she responds, "I have been taught by masters" When Morris returns, Catherine calmly orders the maid to bolt the door, leaving him locked outside, shouting her name The film fades out with Catherine silently ascending the stairs while Morris' despairing cries echo unanswered in the darkness


  • Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper
  • Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend
  • Ralph Richardson as Dr Austin Sloper
  • Miriam Hopkins as Lavinia Penniman
  • Vanessa Brown as Maria
  • Betty Linley as Mrs Montgomery
  • Ray Collins as Jefferson Almond
  • Mona Freeman as Marian Almond
  • Selena Royle as Elizabeth Almond
  • Paul Lees as Arthur Townsend
  • Harry Antrim as Mr Abeel
  • Russ Conway as Quintus
  • David Thursby as Geier


After seeing The Heiress on Broadway, Olivia de Havilland approached William Wyler about directing her in a screen adaptation of the play He agreed and encouraged Paramount Pictures executives to purchase the rights from the playwrights Ruth and Augustus Goetz for $250,000 and offer them $10,000 per week to write the screenplay The couple were asked to make Morris less of a villain than he was in their play and the original novel in deference to the studio's desire to capitalize on Montgomery Clift's reputation as a romantic leading man4

The film premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City

Ralph Richardson reprised the role of Austin Sloper he originated in the London production of the play

There also was a film called Washington Square in 1997 which was not based on the play, but based directly on the Henry James novel that the play was suggested by


The Heiress received universal critical acclaim and won four Academy Awards In his review in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther said the film "crackles with allusive life and fire in its tender and agonized telling of an extraordinarily characterful tale" and added, "Mr Wyler has given this somewhat austere drama an absorbing intimacy and a warming illusion of nearness that it did not have on the stage He has brought the full-bodied people very closely and vividly to view, while maintaining the clarity and sharpness of their personalities, their emotions and their styles The Heiress is one of the handsome, intense and adult dramas of the year"5

TV Guide rates the film five out of a possible five stars and adds, "This powerful and compelling drama owes its triumph to the deft hand of director William Wyler and a remarkable lead performance by Olivia de Havilland6

Time Out London calls the film "typically plush, painstaking and cold highly professional and heartless"7

Channel 4 says of the performances, "de Havilland's portrayal is spine-chilling Clift brings a subtle ambiguity to one of his least interesting roles, and Richardson is also excellent"8

Awards and nominationsedit

  • Academy Award for Best Actress Olivia de Havilland
  • Academy Award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Black and White John Meehan, Harry Horner, and Emile Kuri
  • Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black and White Edith Head, and Gile Steele
  • Academy Award for Original Music Score Aaron Copland
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Olivia de Havilland
  • National Board of Review Award for Best Actor Ralph Richardson
  • New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress Olivia de Havilland
  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Director
  • Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Ralph Richardson
  • Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black and White Leo Tover
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Miriam Hopkins
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture
  • Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Drama

See alsoedit

  • Gothic romance film


  1. ^ The Top Box Office Hits of 1950, Variety, January 3, 1951
  2. ^ Variety Film Reviews, September 7, 1949, p 11
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports and Film Reviews
  4. ^ The Heiress at Turner Classic Movies
  5. ^ New York Times review
  6. ^ TV Guide review
  7. ^ Time Out London review
  8. ^ Channel 4 review
  9. ^ "NY Times: The Heiress" NY Times Retrieved 2008-12-20 

External linksedit

  • The Heiress on Internet Movie Database
  • The Heiress at the TCM Movie Database
  • The Heiress at Rotten Tomatoes
  • The Heiress at AllMovie
  • The Heiress at the American Film Institute Catalog

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The Heiress

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