As captivating as William Wyler's 1949 film, The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, is, I could not seem to take my eyes away from the screen for Morris' (Montgomery Clift) return at the end. The possibilities rolled through my head of how Wyler would end the film. Would he please the audience by Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) forgiving Morris? Would Catherine remove the knife thrust into her back and place where it really belonged? I was on the edge of my seat as Catherine's devious plan unfolded before me.
As I admired her emotionless face, while Morris pounded on the door, I could only think one thing. "You go, girl!" That phrase, obviously dug up from the fourteen-year-old girl within myself, repeated in my head as a smile formed on my face. I could not have been happier.
I find the characters in this film to be very interesting. While some of their characteristics stray from the original novel, each of them has certain mannerisms that lead them throughout the film. Whether Catherine's father (Ralph Richardson) was right about Morris or not, she eventually seemed to succumb to his decision. I personally believe she made the decision on her own behalf, but it could seem that his influence was present after his death.
Morris is a very hard character to read in the film. The film presents him with a boyish charm that makes him lovable to most viewers. To me this did not last long. He may be somewhat innocent, but is more self-centered than anything. Catherine's strong-willed demeanor that develops throughout the story scares him off.
The question of whether or not Morris actually loved Catherine is of no concern. He may have, in a way, been trying to help Catherine not disobey her father, but circumstance shows that her fortune was his main objective. As a result, the strong will he helped Catherine maintain turned on him.