Petty Larceny

         In the 1880 novel Washington Square, written by Henry James, Catherine refuses to give Morris even a small hope that there might be a chance for them to be married. In the 1947 play and 1948 film The Heiress, directed by Jack Clayton, however, she (Olivia de Havilland) instructs Morris (Montomery Clift) to go home and pack his clothing so that they can elope. When he comes back, she tells Maria (Vanessa Brown) to bolt the door and refuses to answer his cries. If I had written Heiress, I would have made Catherine Sloper the quiet, innocent heroine that James wrote about in his wonderful novel, instead of the malicious, spiteful girl who appears in the movie.

         All her life, Catherine had been gentle and sweet. She had never showed any signs of being vindictive or cruel; however the Goetzs depicted her as being both of those things. What cause would a girl of Catherine's benevolent grace have for playing such a cruel trick on Morris? She had none, in my opinion. I think that, although he would have (and did), played such a nasty trick on her without a second thought, she would have shown more compassion for his feelings. All through the book and film, Catherine is kind and gentle with everyone. She is even nice to Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson) after he makes fun of her and says cruel things to her.

         I do not believe that she would act any differently toward her father or Morris even though he had stood her up when they were planning to elope the first time when he had found out she would be disinherited by her father. They were both guilty of the same crime towards Catherine: making her believe they loved her when they did not.

         While it is gratifying to see Morris get what he ultimately deserves, I think that it would be more likely that Mrs. Penniman (Miriam Hopkins) or Dr. Sloper would pull a stunt like this, not Catherine. Ruth and Augustus Goetz should have paid more attention to Catherine's mannerisms in the novel to realize that she would not do something like this.

Rachel Jones

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