How much did you know about the classic film?
Did you know that Montgomery Clift at the time he costarred with Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress, was considered a budding romantic lead?
Although a great looking 28-year-old when he made the picture, he emerges as something much less than a dashing romantic hero in this William Wyler outing. Critic David Denby observed that in the Fifties and early Sixties Clift’s extreme sensitivity could be unnerving, as if he were indecisive about everything. But in ‘The Heiress’ he’s fresh and eager.
What about the put-upon character of Catherine Sloper played by de Havilland? What was she like — really?
The movie’s source material paints a pretty complete picture. Sloper is described as not ugly; she had simply a plain, dull, gentle countenance …. She was excellently, imperturbably good; affectionate , docile, obedient, and much addicted to speaking the truth.
How, then, to explain her concluding remark that: Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters?
And let’s not overlook the superb performance of Ralph Richardson as one of those masters. (Take another look at The Heiress and all this will become clear.)
Ok, on the answers to our The Heiress Quiz.
Question 1) The Heiress is based on a 1947 stage play by the writing team of Augustus and Ruth Goetz, which in turn was based on a novel by which of these distinguished American writers? a) Edith Wharton; b) Louisa May Alcott; c) Jane Addams; or d) Henry James.
Answer: d) The Heiress was adapted from the 1949 stage play, which was based on Washington Square, a Henry James novel.
Question 2) One of the movie’s most memorable lines, delivered by de Havilland’s character, is which one of the following: a) “I don’t Know Nothing About Birthin’ Babies”; b) “You Don’t Understand”; c) “We Are Not In Kansas Anymore” or d) “Yes, I Can Be Very Cruel. I Have Been Taught By Masters.”
Answer: As indicated in our opener, the right answer is (d).
Question 3) What makes the movie’s Catherine Sloper especially attractive is the prospect of her inheriting a considerable sum of money. How much? a) $10,000 yearly; b) $20,000 per annum; c) $100,000; or d) $30,000.
Answer: d) $30,000 per year. That amount in 1880 (when the James novel came out) is worth some $800,000 today.
Question 4) The profession of Montgomery Clift’s gold digging character is a) a pianist; b) a stock broker; c) a police captain; or d) undetermined.
Answer: d). Although Clift’s character moves in wealthy social circles, what he does for a living is not nailed down.
Question 5) It’s said that his performance in The Heiress was Clift “acting against type.” What was considered then as his “type?” a) a moody western actor; b) a tortured Method practitioner; c) a long suffering underdog; or d) a romantic leading man.
Answer: d) romantic leading man.