The Heiress

1949, 115m, DCP, U.S.

In 1840s New York, lonely Olivia de Havilland envisions escaping icy father Ralph Richardson by making off with suitor Montgomery Clift. Wyler directed his actors to go for the emotional jugular in his handsome screen version of Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s adaptation of their hit play based on James’ Washington Square. Four Oscars went to the picture, including to Aaron Copland for his score and to de Havilland as Best Actress.

Showcasing the range and depth of a 19th century spinster, from sweet smiles and cute curtsies to steely language and developed physicality, Catherine Sloper is one of Olivia de Havilland’s finest and most formidable performances. I have seen “The Heiress” countless times, seeking it out whenever on the big screen and unable to flip by when it’s on the small one. I watch it not only for the aforementioned qualities and cut-to-the-core direction but also as a litmus test of sorts to assess myself as romantic and pessimist. Am I still as naive as Catherine early on or have I been embittered with her father’s suspicion? As Montgomery Clift’s Morris Townsend coyly coos the melancholic tune of Plaisir d’Amour, we simultaneously fall for Morris’ charms while separately wary about the sincerity of his arms. – Diana Drumm, Front of House Staff

A film by William Wyler