I was not very excited the day of class that I knew we were going to watch William Wyler's 1947 adaptation of Washington Square, The Heiress. I had read the 1880 book, and I did not like it, and normally the movie is never as good as the book, so you can see why I had some reservations about seeing the film. Henry James did not write in a good leading lady that I could relate to, or that I really had strong emotions about.
Catherine seemed to be a very unfortunate girl that took the hand she was dealt and did nothing to try and increase her odds. Every leading character should have a redeeming quality about him or her that makes up for any faults that he or she might posses. In the book, I did not feel that her good qualities in character were enough to create an emotional tie to the character for the reader.
I found myself not really caring what happened to Catherine, and this definitely should not happen with the main character. The end of the book was frustrating to me because of the uneventful end to it all. I guess I stuck with the book, waiting for some redeeming ending to make up for it all. The end of the book was just as boring as the book itself.
To my surprise and delight, the movie was much better than the book. Wyler did an excellent job of breathing life into Catherine and the other characters. I really liked Olivia de Havilland's awkward "coming of age" Catherine in the movie and was rooting for her to prevail in the end. I love the altered ending to the movie. Dramatically fooled by Catherine, Montgomery Clift's Morris is left out in the cold, while she ascends up the stairs to bed. As each one of his poundings on the door grew louder, my smile grew bigger.
Washington Square is a book that I would have read and forgot about shortly after, but the movie, The Heiress, was a very enjoyable film that creates a lasting effect by the creative way it tells the story.