Clueless Heiress

        The Heiress is a movie that was released in 1949 and directed by the famous director William Wyler and based on Henry James's 1880 Washington Square. A young, clueless heiress is courted by Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift, a suave young devil of a man who is, of course, a liar. This situation is obvious to the father of the heiress (Ralph Richardson) as well as the man's intentions. Throughout the majority of the duration of the film the young heiress remains blissfully ignorant and in love with him. Olivia de Havilland, who portrays the young heiress, Catherine, does very well with making her character fit the part of the clumsy, blubbering young girl.

         Her body language and her reactions to others in the movie further portray the role. She stutters and is unsure of herself, especially when she is near her father. Her father is quite the formidable figure. He is un-approving of her romance and also, of his daughter is all ways. He is constantly reminding her of how she will never live up to her graceful and beautiful mother. He compares his daughter to his late wife and finds Catherine lacking. He tortures her with this knowledge and eventually threatens to remove her from his will unless she refuses to marry Morris, although he backs down, unlike in the book, in which he leaves her only one-fifth. I find it ironic that her father decides to remove her from his will for this rebelliousness when it was he who wanted her to marry and become more like her mother. But he did not want her to marry Morris and give him his, Dr. Sloper's, money to squander.

         De Havilland makes Catherine appear to have little to no intelligence before her lover leaves her. After that, however, she becomes a pillar of strength and bitterness, much to her father's and Morris' sorrow.

Mary Moffitt

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