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The Heiress Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

Henry James based his 1881 novella Washington Square on a real-life incident, wherein a young actor of his acquaintance married an unattractive but very wealthy young woman for the express purpose of living the rest of his life in luxury. Washington Square was turned into a stage play in 1946 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz; this, in turn was adapted for the movies under the title The Heiress. Olivia DeHavilland won an Academy Award (her second) for her portrayal of Catherine Sloper, the plain-Jane daughter of wealthy widower Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson). Catherine is not only unattractive, but lacks most of the social graces, thanks in great part to the domineering attitudes of her father. When Catherine falls in love with handsome young Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), she is convinced that her love is reciprocated, else why would Morris be so affectionate towards her? Dr. Sloper sees things differently, correctly perceiving that Morris is a callow fortune hunter. Standing up to her father for the first time in her life, Catherine insists that she will elope with Morris; but when Dr. Sloper threatens to cut off her dowry, Morris disappears. Still, Catherine threatens to run off with the next young man who pays any attention to her; Sloper, belatedly realizing how much he has hurt his only child, arranges to leave her his entire fortune. Years pass: Morris returns, insisting that he'd only left because he didn't want to cause Catherine the "grief" of being disinherited. Seemingly touched by Morris' "sincerity", Catherine agrees to elope with him immediately. But when Morris arrives at the appointed hour, he finds the door locked and bolted. Asked how she can treat Morris so cruelly, Catherine replies coldly "Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters." Though The Heiress ends on a downbeat note, the audience is gratified to know that Catherine Sloper has matured from ugly-duckling loser to a tower of strength who will never allow herself to be manipulated by anyone ever again. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:October 6, 1949

Awards

Awarded by
Nominee
Category
Year
Status
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Emile Kuri Best Black and White Art Direction 1949 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Edith Head Best Black and White Costume Design 1949 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Harry Horner Best Black and White Art Direction 1949 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Leo Tover Best Black and White Cinematography 1949 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Olivia de Havilland Best Actress 1949 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Olivia de Havilland Best Actress 1949 Winner
New York Film Critics Circle Olivia de Havilland Best Actress 1949 Winner
Hollywood Foreign Press Association Miriam Hopkins Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture 1949 Nominee
Hollywood Foreign Press Association William Wyler Best Director 1949 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences William Wyler Best Director 1949 Nominee
National Board of Review Ralph Richardson Best Actor 1949 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Ralph Richardson Best Supporting Actor 1949 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Gile Steele Best Black and White Costume Design 1949 Winner

Cast

Olivia de Havilland
as Catherine Sloper
Montgomery Clift
as Morris Townsend
Ralph Richardson
as Dr. Austin Sloper
Miriam Hopkins
as Lavinia Penniman
Vanessa Brown
as Maria
Mona Freeman
as Marian Almond
Ray Collins
as Jefferson Almond
Selena Royle
as Elizabeth Almond
Russ Conway
as Quintus
David Thursby
as Geier

Crew

William Wyler
Director
William Wyler
Producer
Augustus Goetz
Play Author
Augustus Goetz
Screenwriter
Ruth Goetz
Play Author
Ruth Goetz
Screenwriter
Leo Tover
Cinematographer
Jay Livingston
Songwriter
William W. Hornbeck
Editor
Harry Horner
Art Director
Emile Kuri
Art Director
Robert Wyler
Associate Producer
Emile Kuri
Set Designer
Gile Steele
Costume Designer
Edith Head
Costume Designer
Gordon Jennings
Special Effects
Hal Lierley
Makeup
Wally Westmore
Makeup
Bill Woods
Makeup
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