The First "How to Be a Player"

     Men often get a much-deserved reputation for being shallow and possessive in movies and theater. It is in the core of the male being it seems, but is highlighted in some cinematic works. One of these works is William Wyler's 1949 The Heiress, based on Henry James's 1880 novel, Washington Square. Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) could be classified as the typical "player." Much like most of the characters in Def Comedy Jam's How to Be a Player, Morris Townsend uses women for whatever he wants, then just simply leaves them.

     He bites off more than he can chew when he meets Catherine (Olivia de Havilland), though, and winds up actually falling in love with her. Her father, Dr. Sloper (Ralph Richardson), is leery of him, though, and thinks Morris is actually after Catherine's money instead of wanting to marry her for love. Morris then leaves to go on a long trip, during which Catherine loses her feelings for him because she does not know why he had left. When he returns in the novel, he is old and balding but still loves her, his love having survived the long time apart. She, on the other hand, loses, or rather denies her feelings for him, and sends him away when he comes calling on her. In the movie, he comes back much sooner and still handsome, so she lures him into thinking they will elope this time, unlike the time he stood her up, only to bolt the door to him and stride in triumph up the stairs.

     The modern How to Be a Player goes about this in a somewhat different fashion. Where there still is a trip, it is a trip filled with other women. In both Washington Square and The Heiress it is left up to the reader's/viewer's imagination as to whether or not Morris has had other women while he is on the trip. Then in the end they are both sent away from the woman that they actually love. In the novel, he had had a wife but had lost her.

     A person would like to think that, when presented with stories like, all of the would-be "players" of the world would realize the error of that lifestyle and the consequences of their actions. Not only do they hurt the women whom they are with, but also they sometimes father children whom they will have to support for the rest of their lives.

     It raises the question, though: did Morris regret his actions and accept his life as it would be, alone? Also if Catherine had ever married would she have been truly happy?

Bryan D. McGregor

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