Party Differences

         Henry James's 1880 Washington Square shows the reality version of the way things would have been at a party during that time. William Wyler's 1949 movie, The Heiress, has many differences in the party scene at the Almonds from the one in the book but the movie shows a more interesting side of things. That cinematic view gave a much stronger image of Catherine and Morris.

         In the book Catherine's cousin, Marian, introduced Morris to her. In the movie Morris (Montgomery Clift) showed his eagerness by introducing himself. The most obvious of Catherine's lack of social skills revolves around the dancing. In the book it gives no sign of trouble for Catherine except that she was a little dizzy when dancing with Morris. Of course, who would not be dizzy after sitting on the sidelines for so long and then finally getting the chance to dance with a handsome man?

         The movie may have been a little off when it showed a wealthy girl that could not dance. However, it was a very amusing sight to see Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) stomp on her partner's feet. It bothered the first dance partner so bad that he abandoned her by going to get her a drink and not coming back. Therefore, when Morris offered her a drink after he had quickly taught her how to dance, she cried out in fear of losing another young man's interest.

         She was whisked away by an older gentleman to dance one polka after another; and, to her surprise, Morris came back with two drinks and a rejected look on his face. This was a change to see Morris in the position of the one left to sit on the sidelines. At that time he had the image of a desperate young man in search for a young lady. He showed his desperation again when Catherine had to leave, and he followed her as long as he could.

         In the movie one could definitely see how strong Morris came on to Catherine even after the party scene, in which he was so aggressive. He would always sit or lean as close as he could to her, as she kept backing away. The party scene of The Heiress gave a more successful image than the book did of the way both Catherine and Morris are viewed.

Jessica Chandler

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