In the classic 1949 film The Heiress, directed by William Wyler, Ralph Richardson, the actor playing Dr. Sloper, does a great job portraying his character as described in Henry James's 1880 novel Washington Square. Throughout the film the viewers begin to see how Dr. Sloper resembles a detective. Early on in this film, when he first learns of Mr. Morris Townsend's (Montgomery Clift) interest in his daughter, Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), Dr. Sloper senses that something just does not feel right to him. He is not ready to trust Morris.
The film does a great job showing Dr. Sloper's suspicious interest in Morris. Dr. Sloper is not fully convinced that Morris is truly in love with Catherine. Dr. Sloper has a sneaking suspicion that Morris only wants to marry Catherine to get to her inheritance from her mother and father. The doctor goes to great lengths in order to find out more about Morris and who he really is. Dr. Sloper contacts Morris' sister, Mrs. Montgomery (Betty Linley), and asks her to come to his office to ask her some questions about and get some background information from someone who would know him the best, his sibling. He learns that Morris had received a small inheritance but spent it quickly and foolishly in his travels to Europe. This is the point when Dr. Sloper is completely convinced that Morris only wants to marry Catherine for her money, not for his supposed love for her.
After learning of Morris' true intentions, Dr. Sloper tells Catherine that they will be traveling to Europe for a while. His plan is to take Catherine as far away from home as possible in the hopes that she will just forget about Morris. However, his plan is foiled, and Catherine never forgets Morris. In fact she misses him and cannot wait to return home. Sickened by Catherine's decision, they return home.
All in all, Dr. Sloper's character is portrayed very well throughout the film. The film does a great job showing how much trouble he has endured when tackling two main issues. The first is the lengths he goes to in order to find out what kind of a person Morris Townsend truly is. The second is the frustration endured by him when his daughter refuses to listen to him. He is looking out for her best interest and wants her to make the right decision. I have to give my hat off to the actors, especially Ralph Richardson, along with the cast and crew of this film, who supported these actors. They all did an excellent job!