She Was No Fool

        Catherine Sloper was a shy young girl seeking the approval of her father. Her situation was not unlike many children that had lost one parent, constantly seeking the existing parent’s affection and approval. Dr. Sloper only considers his daughter, so different from her mother, as a plain, dull and common young woman.

        The Heiress, made in 1949 by William Wyler, was base on the novel Washington Square, written in 1880 by Henry James. Catherine (played by Olivia de Havilland) was not at all, what her father thought of her. She was a very clever woman, she might not have the dramatic looks of her mother, but she dressed well, was very gracious and carried herself very much like a lady.

        Aunt Lavinia Penniman, (played by Miriam Hopkins) was a widow of a penniless clergyman, who was asked by Dr. Sloper to be a surrogate mother to Catherine. She played a major role in the romance between Morris (played Montgomery Clift) and Catherine. There were many good and rational reasons the young couple was not suited, but she persisted.

        Morris Townsend was a young man who had already blown his small inheritance and was living off his widowed sister, when he entered Catherine’s life. Morris was very lively, attentive, and very clever, everything that a young woman would find endearing. However, his motive might have been leaning towards the nice fat inheritance of Catherine’s estate.

        I personally like the ending of The Heiress better then the novel. Morris jilts Catherine, when he finds out that she was threaten to lose a large part of the inheritance if she married him. He leaves, without notice, no letters, nothing for twenty odd years. Not long after the death of Dr. Sloper, Morris shows back up, and begs Catherine to reconsider their engagement. She plays him up, saying, “Go get a carriage and I’ll be ready,” and leaves him beating on the door trying to get in, while she calmly do needlepoint.

        Dr. Sloper (played by Ralph Richardson) thought that Catherine was simple enough to fall for just Morris’s charm. She would have even up everything in the name of love, but she was no fool.

Andrea Broach

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