The Heiress

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The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film.[1][2] It was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play of the same title that was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film was directed by William Wyler, with starring performances by Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend, and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper.

Contents

Plot synopsis

Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) is a plain, painfully shy woman whose emotionally detached father (Ralph Richardson) makes no secret of his disappointment in her. When she meets the charming Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), she immediately is taken by the attention that he lavishes upon her, attention she so desperately seeks from her father. Catherine falls madly in love with Morris and they plan to marry.

Catherine's father believes Morris is courting Catherine only to get her inheritance and threatens to disinherit her if she marries him. Catherine does not care, and plans to elope with Morris but not before telling him about her father's decision. On the night they are to elope, Catherine eagerly waits at home for Morris to come and take her away, but he never arrives.

Catherine is heartbroken. A day or so later, she has a bitter argument with her father, who reveals he is dying. She tells her father she still loves Morris and challenges him to change his will if he's afraid of how she will spend his money after he dies. He does not and dies a short time later, leaving her his entire estate.

A few years later, Morris returns from California, having made nothing of himself and eyeing the Slopers' luxurious house with more obvious eagerness. Again he professes his love for Catherine, claiming that he left her behind because he could not bear to see her destitute. Catherine pretends to forgive him and tells him she still wants to elope as they originally planned. He promises to come back that night for her, and she tells him she'll start packing her bags.

When Morris returns, Catherine takes her revenge. She calmly orders the maid to bolt the door, leaving Morris locked outside, shouting her name. Her aunt asks her how she can be so cruel, and she responds, "I have been taught by masters." The film fades out with Catherine silently ascending the stairs while Morris' despairing cries echo unanswered through the darkness.

Cast and characters

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