Saturday, 22 April 2017

''The Heiress'' (1949 film)- Review

Directed by: William Wyler
Released: 1949
Country: United States

Genre: Drama

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


William Wyler's ''The Heiress'' is set in the 19th century, in New York. The protagonist, Catherine Sloper, is played by Olivia de Havilland. She is the meek and introverted daughter of the wealthy Dr. Austin Sloper, played by Ralph Richardson. Dr Sloper has never been happy with his daughter, always comparing her to her late mother. He believes that Catherine is neither beautiful nor skilled. Catherine has not met his expectations when it comes to social issues: she does not like attending parties and events, which, Dr Austin thinks, are necessary for a young woman of her class. However, Catherine is very skilled at embroidery, something that her father never praises her for. Dr Sloper has rarely shown affection for Catherine, often criticizing her. Catherine, however, is very timid and has never uttered any word of protest. 

One evening, in a party, Catherine meets the handsome Morris Townsend, played by Montgomery Clift. She eventually falls in love with him over the course of several meetings and Morris proposes to marry her. However, Dr Sloper believes that Morris- who has spent his entire inheritance- is only interested in Catherine's money: she has inherited a considerable amount from her late mother and will inherit even more upon her father's death. Catherine does not believe this, but Dr Sloper is firm in his belief. This leads to a series of events that eventually helps Catherine to transform  into a very mature person.

I felt so bad when I saw Dr Sloper criticizing Catherine the way he did. Dr Sloper might not be an antagonist, but he is often so harsh with Catherine that it is rather painful to witness it. It is so very sad when parents cannot accept their children for who they are.

The best thing about ''The Heiress'' is Olivia de Havilland's excellent performance. Catherine's  transition from a meek young woman to a mature woman is very convincing. When we first meet her she is very meek, shy and socially awkward. The moments in which she was emotionally hurt are made more painful by the meekness of the character. De Havilland portrays the timidity of the character with perfection. Over the course of the film, certain events help the character transform, and thanks to de Havilland's excellent performance, this is very convincing. It is painful to see the ordeals through which the character has to go through over the course of the film, and I applauded for her when I saw that she had transformed into a mature person.

I love Gothic films, I really do. I instantly became comfortable with the atmosphere of ''The Heiress''. Being someone who deeply longs for the past, I really like such films as ''The Heiress''. The great character development of Catherine Sloper made the film even more lovable to me. It is a very well-written, well-directed and well-acted film (excellent performances by Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson and Miriam Hopkins {Hopkins plays Catherine's aunt}).

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