Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Heiress

Grade: F
Title: The Heiress (1949)
Director: William Wyler
Notable Actors: Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift

The Heiress. I can't tell y'all how much I adore this film! I found it fascinating, haunting, and provocative for many different reasons. Also, I thought this movie, with its intense focus on just a few key characters, presents an enthralling portrait and study of humanity. A little side note, not that I only care about awards, but I hope you noted the fact that The Heiress won FOUR Academy Awards (including Best Actress) - pretty impressive, huh!

It is no wonder that Olivia de Havilland won an Oscar, which she had done once before for her role in To Each His Own, because she is a wonderful actress. First of all, she made a number of exciting actiony movies with Errol Flynn, and then she took a complete change of direction by insisting on doing the role of Melanie in Gone with the Wind. She showed her versatility and her ability to play someone who was not chiefly a beauty. Montgomery Clift also established himself as a brilliant actor (although he never won an Academy Award...he was nominated for four - and I think the fact that he didn't win for A Place in the Sun is a travesty...an AMAZING movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters - watch it now).

The Heiress is mainly concerned with a woman from a rich family as she "enjoys" society. She is naturally shy and so finds it difficult to be completely comfortable at parties or other social gatherings. People are kind to her, but her painful awkwardness is highlighted over and over again (remember, this is before awkwardness became a tool for comedy - see The Office). Within the first ten minutes, I felt attached to her because she just kept doing the wrong thing, and I really wanted to help her. Anyway, she attends yet another party and meets a dashing young man, Clift.

She is flattered by him and wants to develop their relationship because he is the only one who has ever shown any interest in her. However, her overbearing father quickly undermines her hope. In fact, the most compelling element, for me. in the movie is the relationship between the father and the daughter. It is something I find so heartbreakingly sad - what a waste of what could be a beautiful relationship. He is a widower, lonely and cold and his daughter could provide comfort and warmth for his life. Instead, he continually pushes her away, refusing to see her virtues and condemning her to a loveless life.

Ultimately, The Heiress is a love story, of sorts. You have a boy who seems to be falling in love with a girl who seems to be falling in love with him. What could go wrong? Of course, love is never that simple because whenever we fall in love we second guess ourselves - and the person we are falling in love with. This leads to a quagmire of questions and worries within the heiress' life as she hopes that Clift really loves her.

After being gone for years, Clift comes back from the West to seek out de Haviland. He is sporting a mustache (good choice? doubtful) and promises to love her now that he has returned. Is she happy? Will she trust him? I am not going to mention any of those questions; rather, I will let you discover the truth. The emotions at the end of this film run high and should hold you tightly to your seat.

The Heiress is a must see movie! I would recommend you buy it right away (I know I did), which you can do here:
http://http//www.amazon.com/Heiress-Universal-Cinema-Classics/dp/B000KGGJ1I, or if you don't quite have the funds or the inclination you can watch it free on youtube: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOAxiZ1fAY0. Really, it is a good time for pretty much anyone of any age. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

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