The Best Cast

         The film that seems to have had the best cast is The Heiress, directed by William Wyler in 1949 and based on Henry James’s Washington Square (1880). The film and novella tell the story of a young woman who is shy, who struggles to find a person that loves her because her father does not. The actors’ performances are such that a person can almost believe they are truly coping with the characters’ problems.

           Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) is shy and easily pushed around, and she only wants to please her father. One can see the emotions in de Havilland’s face, especially when she thinks Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) is either pleased or displeased with his daughter.

         Another example of the great acting abilities of de Havilland is evident when Morris (Montgomery Clift) stands her up. The pain in Catherine’s face is visible when she realizes that Morris is just after her money. One can also see her feelings clearly when she stands him up because of de Havilland’s ability to convey her character’s emotions realistically.

         Clift is also great as Morris, Catherine’s fiancé. Throughout the film, one can see a very happy young man plays the role very well, and when the part calls for Clift to show concern over what Catherine says about her money and her father, he shows it and then quickly hides his reaction from Catherine. Clift does this often and makes it seem natural. Another scene that demonstrates Clift’s acting ability is at the end of the movie when Catherine decides to stand him up. Not only can one see Morris’ realization; one can also perceive that Clift is quite able to convey Morris’ panic as Catherine walks upstairs.

        The role of Dr. Sloper may not be important, but Richardson plays it well. Throughout the film, he is as an arrogant, idiotic man who puts his wife on a pedestal and his daughter beneath his feet. One can see this when he talks to or about Catherine with an undertone of regret or sarcasm.

        Another somewhat important character is Catherine’s Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins), who always tries to help Catherine while still being herself. When Lavinia flirts at the beginning of the film, Hopkins makes the character seem like a harmless attention seeker. She further builds on this, making the character devious by allowing time for Catherine and Morris to be alone together.

           All of these actors give outstanding performances and are able to portray their characters effectively. Without such acting ability, the characters would not be believable, and the storyline would not flow as well.

Michelle Maden

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