And the Oscar Goes to . . . .

      The Heiresss, written in 1948 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and based on the 1880 novel Washington Square, by Henry James, and filmed as The Heiress in 1949 by William Wyler, is the most likely to receive an Oscar for the wonderful performance depicting human emotions. The film brings out love, hatred, and greed in the characters, therefore, making it the most deserving of all the film and literature combinations. Emotions are feelings that one gets when he or she reads a piece of literature, whether it is a novel or play, or when he or she watches a film. Those emotions are used not only to portray a character but also to give the audience members a feeling that they know and understand the characters. The Heiress and Washington Square do a successful job of doing both.

      Love is one of the feelings used most often in literature, and it certainly appears in this work. Henry James's novel Washington Square, along with its film counterpart, deals with the psychology of love. Dr. Sloper's (Ralph Richardson) feeling of love is brought about by his absurd love for Catherine, his daughter (Olivia de Havilland). Their relationship is one of love-and-hate. Dr. Sloper loves her simply because she is his daughter. Ever since his wife has died, he has looked at Catherine as to what she could have been. He sees Catherine as unclever and unmarriageable, even though, he has always provided her with the best of everything. Catherine's love for his is a little different; she loves him unconditionally and does everything to try please him. Love in this novel is rather absurd especially when one is considering the father's love as well as Morris' (Montgomery Clift) "supposed" love for Catherine.

      Hatred is also a key ingredient to the success of this novel and film. Dr. Sloper has a hatred for Morris because he sees Morris for the selfish man that he is Dr. Sloper does not want Morris to have a cent of his money and, therefore, forbids Catherine's marriage. Dr. Sloper is willing to do anything to keep Morris from getting the money. Sloper also has a dislike for his sister Mrs. Penniman (Miriam Hopkins) especially when he realizes the role she has played in Catherine's romance. Towards the end of The Heiress, the audience begins to see Catherine's hatred for her father increasing. She has always been intimidated by her domineering father; therefore, in the end of the film she refuses to see her father on his deathbed. Catherine begins to be more confident in herself, and her hatred shows when she ascends the stairs to the sound of Morris banging on the door.

      Greed is the last emotion provided in this film-and-literature combination. Morris is the one character that has greed written all over his face. Morris is dying to devour Dr. Sloper's money; and, to do so he, pretends to love Catherine. Morris is out for money only, whereas Catherine needs the assurance that someone love her. As the novel and film progress, Morris is revealed to the audience more and more. His greed certainly shines through in the end. There is also another character that has revealed greed to the audience. Dr. Sloper has a greed of keeping his love for his wife. He refuses to give his memory of her away and continues to hold on to his distorted view.

      Love, hatred, and greed are all present in these two works. It is for these emotions that The Heiress and Washington Square deserve the Oscar. The characters in the book and film do an excellent job of showing the behavior and qualities of each. Morris shows his greed; Catherine shows her love; and Dr. Sloper shows his hatred, dislike, and greed. It is evident from the novel and film that emotions can play a very integral part in the success or failure of the work.

Leah Sims

Table of Contents