Honey's Treasures

Honey's Treasures

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gold digger or true love?

The Heiress
1949 The Heiress
Starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson in The Heiress.  One of my all time favorite films, Olivia de Havilland in her best performance ever, hands down.  It's the middle of the 19th century and Catherine Sloper (de Havilland) lives with her emotionally detached father, Dr. Sloper, (Richardson) in Washington Square, an upper class neighborhood of New York.
Dr. Sloper has never gotten over the death of his spouse and is constantly comparing his sweet daughter to the wife whom he idolizes.  His wife was beautiful, Catherine is homely.  She was talented, Catherine's only talent is her embroidery.  The wife was outgoing, witty and delightful company, Catherine is extremely shy and tongue tied in social affairs.  It's obvious to the viewer that no matter what the daughter does she'll never live up to her father's unrealistic expectations.
Olivia de Havilland as Catherine
In love
To complicate matters, Catherine lives on a tidy inheritance left by her mother of $10,000 per year.  In the event her father passes away, she stands to inherit another $20,000 annually and the very opulent family home. 

According to the father, it's not likely that Catherine will ever marry because of her extreme shyness and lack of social skills.  Due to the lack of affection from the father, it's only natural that when handsome and smooth talking Morris Townsend (Clift) comes along and gives her the attention she so desperately craves, she falls fast and hard in love.

Dr. Sloper suspects that Morris is after Catherine for one thing only: her riches.  It doesn't help Catherine that her unintelligent and hopelessly romantic Aunt Lavinia (Mariam Hopkins) encourages her to pursue this relationship regardless of her father's voiced suspicion.
Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend
With a little hard work Morris obtains a devoted promise of marriage from Catherine.  Morris inadvertently finds out Dr. Sloper plans to disinherit Catherine if she marries Morris against his wishes.  On the eve of their planned elopement, she eagerly waits for him to arrive to sweep her far, far away from her father whom she has come to believe has never truly loved her. Morris never appears.  Catherine is shattered and heartbroken.  A day or so later Catherine and her father get into an argument to which she challenges him to alter his will.  He refuses and in fact has informed his daughter that he is dying. 

Several years pass and Catherine is now a very wealthy woman.  Guess who comes knocking on her door?  You got it!  Morris has the nerve to confess his undying love for her and that he only deserted Catherine because he didn't want her to lose her inheritance.  He's conceitedly wrapped up in himself that he doesn't notice her coldness and how she backs away from his every touch.  She lets him believe she still loves him, sends him on his way believing she's going to pack her belongings for their wedlock and honeymoon. 

When he returns, she calmly has the door bolted leaving Morris desperately pounding it as he repeatedly cries her name.  She finishes the last embroidery stitches, gathers her lighted glass oil lamp and steadily ascends the stairs retiring for the night.
Bitterness and revenge
Olivia de Havilland gives an impeccable performance.  She begins her character as the insecure and shy Catherine (blank face, meek, fading into the background) which transforms into the madly in love Catherine (gleaming eyes, vibrant and facial expressions full of life) and finally into the jilted Catherine (hardened features, vindictive eyes, full of self assurance in her determined movements).

I highly recommend this movie even though I've told you so much already!  You won't regret it, in fact, I plan on watching this one again someday, for the brilliant acting skills alone. 

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