Sloper versus Balboa

     The 1949 movie The Heiress, directed by William Wyler, has very close parallels to the 1976 movie Rocky, directed by John G. Avildsen. The main character in The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) goes through many of the same trials and tribulations that the main character Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has endured in Rocky. In both movies the main characters are counted out from the beginning as not being able to overcome the challenges that face them.

     Catherine is the daughter of a domineering father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson), who emotionally abuses her, does not really care for her, and because she was not born a boy did not want her in the first place. Catherine overcomes her father's abusive relationship when she meets Morris (Montgomery Clift), who claims to be in love with her. It is not until later that she finds out he had only wanted to marry her for her inheritance money.

     Rocky Balboa has to overcome all the odds as a club boxer in Philadelphia. Rocky is very small for a boxer, does not have a lot of money, is not famous, and does not see to be going anywhere with his career. He overcomes his boxing odds when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), a heavyweight champion boxer, chooses Rocky as his next opponent. It is the opportunity at stardom that lifts Rocky out of his slump and helps take him out of Philadelphia, but he is blind to see the rough road that lies before him.

     In The Heiress Catherine has had to overcome the terrible way that her father had treated her as she grew up in his house. Dr. Sloper had tried to make Catherine live up to her mother's standards and compete with her even though she was dead. Dr. Sloper had also thought, as Catherine grew up, that she would be unable to marry because she had no social grace. Catherine falls deeply in love with Morris Townsend because he shows her the love and affection that her father never had. He had told her the things she had wanted to hear and treated her the way a gentleman should. When her father, Dr. Sloper, tells her he disapproves of Morris that pushes her closer into his arms until Morris asks her to marry him. Catherine's father tells her that Morris has no prospects and that,if she marries him, he would disinherit her. Blinded by love, Catherine agrees to marry Morris, only to get her heart broken when he does not show up to elope with her. Catherine has overcome all of her tragic events by shutting everyone out of her life. When her father dies, she does not seem to care or be fazed by his lose. Then when Morris does not show up for their wedding, she shuts him out of her life literally. Morris comes to back to Catherine's house after a few years had passed since he had avoided the wedding. She does not answer the door or let him in the house. He had hurt her and will no longer be allowed in her life. After overcoming the odds of not making something of herself, Catherine marches up the stairs as the movie ends, to sit on her throne as the queen of Washington Square.

     Rocky Balboa was counted out in the beginning as a famous boxer. Everyone had thought he would just always be the local hometown hero that never leaves Philadelphia. Rocky had felt the same way about himself because he had very little money, he did not have a lot of collateral, and he was not the brightest of people. Then he gets the chance to box Apollo Creed, a very famous heavyweight boxer, in Las Vegas. No one had ever been able to box more than three rounds with Apollo. Rocky trained rigorously for months before his battle with Apollo. He was picked as the underdog from the moment the fight was announced. While training for the fight with Apollo, Rocky falls in love with a shy girl from next door named Adrian (Talia Shire). This is the point that Rocky has to balance his romance and training while trying to make something of himself. As the fight with Apollo Creed approaches, Rocky begins to doubt himself and his own ability. It is Adrian that lifts his spirits and restores faith in himself. At the end of the movie, Apollo Creed defeats Rocky, but Rocky goes the full fifteen rounds. That is longer than the fighting time of any other opponent Apollo had ever faced. Rocky and Adrian profess their love for one another in the ring while blood and sweat pour off Rocky's face. It is at the end of the movie when one realizes that Rocky has overcome all the things that had counted him out. Even though he has lost the fight he gains fame and the love of a lifetime.

     Catherine Sloper and Rocky Balboa faced many hardships as they rose to the top. It was their desire to better their situation that helped them overcome challenges. In one case Catherine ends up unmarried but is happy by herself. In the other case Rocky has overcome hardships, become a famous boxer, and found love. In both cases the characters are better at the end of the movie than they were at the beginning.

Cullan Couleas

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