- The Heiress review by Steve
Olivia de Havilland won her second Oscar for this lavish mid-nineteenth century period drama based on a Broadway adaptation of Henry James' Washington Square. And it's a perfect vehicle for the star, one in a series of exceptional roles she created after WWII, when she escaped from her unhappy contract with Warner Brothers.
This is also one of William Wyler's many great films. Olivia plays Catherine Sloper, a rich but gauche spinster from an upper middle class family who is suffocated by the authority of her dominant father (Ralph Richardson) who resents his daughter for not being as beautiful and sophisticated as his deceased wife.
When she is courted by an attractive, charming idler (Montgomery Clift), Mr Sloper seeks to sabotage the proposal by convincing her that no man could want to marry her because she is too plain and dull! We know that the gentleman caller is after her money, so the business of the film is to judge whether it is preferable for this lonely woman to be exploited, if it would save her from a life of emotional emptiness.
Olivia creates a powerful impression of an abused woman consumed by loneliness. She is a study of disappointment and repression. Catherine has no artfulness but she learns how to deceive by finally closing down her heart to love. De Havilland's performance is sometimes raw, but she is also haunting, and tragic.
0 out of 0 members found this review helpful.