Never Judge a Book by Its Cover

         It has always been said that one should never judge a book by its cover, and I totally agree. This goes along with meeting people, as everyone knows. When one first meets someone, the only thing one can do is judge him or her on their appearance until one gets to know them during and subsequent to a blind date.

         Morris in The Heiress, William Wyler's 1949 adaptation of Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. At first, Morris Townsend, as portrayed by Montgomery Clift, appears to be the perfect man, or at least he did to me. Morris in The Heiress is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. He is the definition of tall, dark, and handsome. To top it off, he has been to Europe; but it is apparent that he has a hidden motive. Surprisingly, he is interested in Catherine, the "Plain Jane" heiress (Olivia de Havilland).

         Morris is not financially stable, and obviously Catherine is an heiress. It has been said that father knows best; and, according to The Heiress, that is very accurate. Her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), realizes from the beginning Morris's motives; and he vows to prevent them from marrying. Catherine is devastated and holds it against her father, but it is a blessing in disguise when she does not marry him.

         Catherine matures a lot throughout the movie, and I would like to think that she eventually finds her true one true love. She goes from the shy, naïve heiress to a strong, independent woman. At the end, she demonstrates her independence and maturity by giving the still handsome Morris, unlike the bearded, balding, overweight man in the book, a taste of his own medicine. I admire Catherine in a lot of ways because she has changed so much and does not back down from anybody, even from her Aunt Lavinia Pennimen (Miriam Hopkins) who is determined to get Catherine and Morris married probably for her own benefit. Revenge is sweet.

Misty Hays

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