Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland), a young woman who will inherit her father's large fortune, falls in love when she meets Morris (Montgomery Clift), who gives her the love and affection her father doesn't, and which she desperately needs. Catherine's father, Dr Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), believing Morris is only after the money, tells Catherine she will be disinherited if she marries him. Morris' true intentions are put to the test when he finds out about the amended will.
So, William Wyler was an American filmmaker who passed away in 1981. Considered by his peers as second only to John Ford as a master craftsman of cinema. He won three Best Director Academy Awards, second again only to Ford's four.
Wyler Directed a fair few of the films that I have on my play-list; Roman Holiday, The Little Foxes, Jezebel, The Collector, The Children's Hour (way before its time) and, you get the idea, I kinda like his work.
But, I digress, back to The Heiress, a film that has stood the test of time and is as relevant today as it was in 1949. Olivia de Havilland plays two distinct roles in this film, a naive, gullible girl and a sad, aggressive woman. It's a breathtaking performance and one for which she won an Academy Award. In my opinion she should also have won for Gone With The Wind, as Miss Melly, Ashley's wife.
When we meet Catherine she is shy and awkward and has no confidence in herself. Until she meets Morris at a Ball and he talks to her and teaches her to dance. It's a lovely scene, one that endears Morris to both Catherine and the audience as he is gentle and kind and concerned for Catherine's well being.
Very soon Catherine is dancing and laughing and when Morris kisses her hand as she is leaving she is positively glowing, while Morris is looking lovelorn as she follows her parents home.
Dr Sloper is not impressed that Morris has appeared for dinner and he seems to be bemused by him at first but by the end of the meal you know Daddy is not pleased.
The cruelty that Catherine suffers at the hand of her Father hits her like a ballistic missile. She realises that her Father doesn't actually like her, in fact, never has, and despises that she is awkward and inadequate in public and lacking any social graces at all.
Catherine wants to marry Morris but he and Dr Sloper have a huge argument and Daddy gives Catherine an absolute "No" to the marriage idea. He tells her she has to go to Europe for 6 months to think about it and then decide.
The tension in this film is quite dramatic and drawn out, as just when you think things are on track they go screaming off the rails again. For instance, the Europe trip proves unsuccessful as Catherine is still pining for Morris, so, Father and Daughter return early.
And, as if he hasn't been cruel enough, he tells Catherine that she has nothing to offer a man except her money.
Shy Catherine suddenly gets some gumption and decides to disinherit herself from Daddy. And, we see Morris' face is clouded and he has a far off look in his eye as he agrees to an elopement later that night.
And, Morris doesn't come. Catherine is devastated and cries and cries. She finds out that he has fled to California, where he will remain for a few years.
But eventually, he comes crawling back and asking to see her. At first she says no and then with her new forceful self you see her smirk and ask him to come in.
Basically, she lies to him, saying they will elope and he should come back later that night. She locks up the whole house, puts up shutters and when Morris does call, no one will open the door. He realises what is happening and just stands banging on the door and pleading to be let in.
Cue Catherine walking upstairs and smiling to herself, her revenge complete.
The film earned $2.3mil, not bad for 1949.