The Heiress Reviews
Academy Awards, USA 1950 Winner
Oscar : Best Actress in a Leading Role Olivia de Havilland !!
Superlative version of the James novel sharpens and refines the book. Olivia, always a fine actress, gives one of her defining performances revealing the many layers of Catherine during her evolution from doormat to bruised and wary but empowered woman. Clift gives a sly performance, his natural beauty aiding in the belief that he could be a rake living off his looks. Sir Ralph Richardson is simply great as the thoughtlessly cruel father, hinting that in his own obtuse way he has no understanding of what he thinks of as protecting his daughter is actually crippling her and his malice towards her something he doesn't comprehend. An underrated CLASSIC from director William Wyler. Though it had a poor box office upon its release, it eventually became recognized as a masterpiece.
I loved how Olivia de Havilland was made up to fit the part, unlike some of the other films I've seen where she's the 'plain one' but looks extraordinary (she is Oliva de Havilland, after all). Here, with her hair matted down into a helmet and her eyelashes thickened, she almost resembles Alfalfa from the old Little Rascals show in some of her scenes. More importantly, she acts the part, with what feels like authentically painful shyness. To see her character grow over the course of the movie, with de Havilland masterful at each stage, is wonderful. One can really see why she earned the second of her two Oscars with this performance.
The exchanges between Richardson and Clift, father and potential son-in-law, are fantastic. I just love the eloquent way they speak, expressing their viewpoints and emotions candidly, but always politely, even if pointedly. We really don't know how it's going to play out, and I won't spoil it, except to say that it's brilliant, especially the ending. There is such depth of emotion here, and the film highlights those moments in life where everything may pivot based on a few actions or comments. The themes of love, trust, acceptance of another's shortcomings, and supporting them just the same are all in play here. The film shows the damage one can do by being too blunt with one's (truthful) candor, in addition to that done by the opposite, being deceitful. Director William Wyler never lets up, and what may sound like a staid, potentially boring story is anything but that; it flies by in its 115 minute run time.
Great drama, directed by William Wyler. Highly engaging, with some great character depth and development and interesting plot. Quite intriguing too, as you wonder whether Townsend is just in it for the money. Some interesting themes and a good exploration of relationships.
Some good twists along the way, especially towards the end, making for an enthralling movie. Clever, punchy, profound ending.
Superb performances by Olivia De Havilland as Catherine, Montgomery Clift as Townsend and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper. De Havilland won the 1950 Best Actress Oscar and Richardson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Clift was not nominated but gives a great reminder of his considerable talent.