Happily Ever After

     The Heiress, a film done by William Wyler in 1949, was derived from the novel Washington Square, written by Henry James in 1880. This is a story about Catherine Sloper, the plain daughter of the talented Dr. Sloper. This story tells of Catherine's struggle to please her overbearing and bitter father. Then to her father's disbelief, a twist occurs in the story, when a man begins to show interest in Catherine. Morris Townsend begins to court the fumbling and shy Catherine.

     In the movie Wyler shows the characters falling in love and the good doctor (Ralph Richardson) objecting to the courtship. This leads Dr. Sloper to threaten his disinheritance of Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) when marriage is eventually proposed. It is at this point that I would like the story to take a different route. Wyler has Catherine and Dr. Sloper go off to Europe. This would be the doctor's last attempt to convince Catherine that Mr. Townsend (Montgomery Clift) is just after her money and she should not marry him. Meanwhile, Morris is making himself at home in Dr. Sloper's residence with the doctor's sister and Catherine's Aunt Lavinia (Miriam Hopkins), and this poor man sure enjoys the good life. The audience is now led to believe that Morris is really just after Catherine's money. This is found to be definitely true when he stands Catherine up on the night of their planned elopement.

     I would change this section of the movie and have Catherine and Morris Townsend marry. Catherine would go away with Morris and they would elope. They would live in the country with their children. Catherine would be disinherited by her father but would still receive 10,000 dollars from her mother's death. Morris would get a job teaching to add to Catherine's money in order to live eloquently. Instead of the doctor dying early in the story, I would have him live the rest of his days alone and even bitterer than ever with no one to point his over critical finger at except himself.

Krista Germann

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