The Heiress (1949)

115 or 120 mins | Drama | 28 December 1949

Director:

William Wyler

Producer:

William Wyler

Cinematographer:

Leo Tover

Production Designer:

John Meehan

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Washington Square . Opening cast credits differ slightly in their order from end credits, which lists Betty Linley above the credits for Ray Collins. Betty Linley, who made her screen debut in the film, also appeared as "Mrs. Montgomery" in the original American stage play, and Ralph Richardson re-enacted his role from the 1949 London production. According to a Sep 1947 LAEx news item, producer Fred F. Finklehoffe planned to film a version of the play with the original Broadway cast, but that production was never realized. The Heiress originally was to be produced by Liberty Films, Inc., an independent production company headed, in part, by William Wyler, but when Paramount absorbed the production company in 1948, the studio took on the film. According to modern sources, Olivia de Havilland, who had seen the Broadway play, approached Wyler about adapting it for a screen version which would feature her in the lead role. According to Paramount press information contained in copyright records, excerpts from the following musical pieces were heard in the film: "Galop di bravura," by Julius Schulhoff; "Gavotte," by François Joseph Gossec; "Coquette polka," by Charles d'Albert; "Gaetana" and "Queen of the Flowers," by Eugène Ketterer. Paramount borrowed Vanessa Brown from Twentieth Century-Fox. Olivia de Havilland won her second Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film also won awards for Best Art Direction/Set Direction (black and white), Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Costume Design (Black-and-White), and was nominated for awards in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson), Best Direction and Best Cinematography. In 1954, NBC-TV aired ... More Less

The working title of this film was Washington Square . Opening cast credits differ slightly in their order from end credits, which lists Betty Linley above the credits for Ray Collins. Betty Linley, who made her screen debut in the film, also appeared as "Mrs. Montgomery" in the original American stage play, and Ralph Richardson re-enacted his role from the 1949 London production. According to a Sep 1947 LAEx news item, producer Fred F. Finklehoffe planned to film a version of the play with the original Broadway cast, but that production was never realized. The Heiress originally was to be produced by Liberty Films, Inc., an independent production company headed, in part, by William Wyler, but when Paramount absorbed the production company in 1948, the studio took on the film. According to modern sources, Olivia de Havilland, who had seen the Broadway play, approached Wyler about adapting it for a screen version which would feature her in the lead role. According to Paramount press information contained in copyright records, excerpts from the following musical pieces were heard in the film: "Galop di bravura," by Julius Schulhoff; "Gavotte," by François Joseph Gossec; "Coquette polka," by Charles d'Albert; "Gaetana" and "Queen of the Flowers," by Eugène Ketterer. Paramount borrowed Vanessa Brown from Twentieth Century-Fox. Olivia de Havilland won her second Academy Award for Best Actress, and the film also won awards for Best Art Direction/Set Direction (black and white), Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Costume Design (Black-and-White), and was nominated for awards in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ralph Richardson), Best Direction and Best Cinematography. In 1954, NBC-TV aired a version of The Heiress based on the Paramount film for Lux Video Theatre, starring Vincent Price, Marilyn Erskine, Donald Murphy and Ellen Corby; and in 1961, a version based on the play was televised on CBS for Family Classics, and starred Julie Harris and Farley Granger. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
17 Sep 1949.
---
Daily Variety
7 Sep 49
p. 3, 7
Film Daily
7 Sep 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 48
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 48
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 49
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 49
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 49
p. 12.
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Sep 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
10 Sep 49
p. 9.
New York Times
7 Oct 49
p. 35.
New York Times
8 Apr 1951.
---
Variety
7 Sep 49
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Wrt for the screen by, Wrt for the scr by
Wrt for the screen by, Wrt for the scr by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Prod des
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
Men's ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dance coach
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Scr supv
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Heiress by Ruth and Augustus Goetz (New York, 29 Sep 1947), suggested by the novel Washington Square by Henry James (London, 1881).
SONGS
"Plaisir d'amour," music and lyrics by Johann A. P. Schwartzendorf and Jean-Pierre Florian.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Washington Square
Release Date:
28 December 1949
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 6 October 1949
Los Angeles opening: 20 October 1949
Production Date:
21 June--early September 1948
Addl scenes: 13 January 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 December 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2725
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
115 or 120
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1800's, in New York's Washington Square, wealthy widowed physician Austin Sloper bemoans the fact that although his daughter Catherine has had superior schooling and training, she lacks the refined qualities of her beautiful mother, and is "an entirely mediocre creature." Austin consequently asks his sister, widow Lavinia Penniman, to encourage his homely daughter to become more social. That night at a party, Austin's other sister, Elizabeth Almond, and her husband Jefferson, announce the engagement of their daughter Marian to Arthur Townsend, an eligible bachelor. Arthur's handsome and charming cousin Morris surprises Catherine by asking her to dance. Although she is clumsy, Morris is deferential and full of flattery, and before the evening's end, he asks to see her again. Morris becomes a frequent visitor at the Sloper home during the ensuing week, and Austin is reservedly pleased that someone is taking an interest in his spinster daughter. One night, Lavinia ignores Austin's request that she chaperone them, and when she leaves Morris and Catherine alone together, he proposes. Catherine accepts without hesitation, despite Morris' warning that her father may think he is a mercenary because he is unemployed, uneducated and frittered away his inheritance in Paris. Instead of having her suitor request her father's permission as convention dictates, Catherine announces her engagement to Austin, who then sends for Morris' sister, Mrs. Montgomery. Austin's suspicion that Morris is after Catherine's substantial inheritance is confirmed, despite Mrs. Montgomery's reticence to condemn her wastrel brother. Austin is outraged that his naïve daughter is being duped and is deaf to Catherine's earnest pleas that she is in love, forbidding the marriage. To distract her, he convinces Catherine to ... +


In the mid-1800's, in New York's Washington Square, wealthy widowed physician Austin Sloper bemoans the fact that although his daughter Catherine has had superior schooling and training, she lacks the refined qualities of her beautiful mother, and is "an entirely mediocre creature." Austin consequently asks his sister, widow Lavinia Penniman, to encourage his homely daughter to become more social. That night at a party, Austin's other sister, Elizabeth Almond, and her husband Jefferson, announce the engagement of their daughter Marian to Arthur Townsend, an eligible bachelor. Arthur's handsome and charming cousin Morris surprises Catherine by asking her to dance. Although she is clumsy, Morris is deferential and full of flattery, and before the evening's end, he asks to see her again. Morris becomes a frequent visitor at the Sloper home during the ensuing week, and Austin is reservedly pleased that someone is taking an interest in his spinster daughter. One night, Lavinia ignores Austin's request that she chaperone them, and when she leaves Morris and Catherine alone together, he proposes. Catherine accepts without hesitation, despite Morris' warning that her father may think he is a mercenary because he is unemployed, uneducated and frittered away his inheritance in Paris. Instead of having her suitor request her father's permission as convention dictates, Catherine announces her engagement to Austin, who then sends for Morris' sister, Mrs. Montgomery. Austin's suspicion that Morris is after Catherine's substantial inheritance is confirmed, despite Mrs. Montgomery's reticence to condemn her wastrel brother. Austin is outraged that his naïve daughter is being duped and is deaf to Catherine's earnest pleas that she is in love, forbidding the marriage. To distract her, he convinces Catherine to accompany him to Europe for six months, and Morris vows to wait for her. While Austin and Catherine are away, Morris visits Lavinia at the Sloper home, and settles in to a luxurious life style. After a few months, Austin realizes that Catherine still clings to her love, and they return to New York. When Catherine insists on marrying Morris despite his threats to disinherit her, Austin angrily tells his daughter that because she is homely and dull, her only attraction is her money, and that her only talent is her neat embroidery work. Shocked by her father's cruel disdain, Catherine plans to elope with Morris that night, and reveals to her fiancé her father's threat. Although Catherine is ready and waiting at the appointed hour, Morris never shows up. Lavinia, who acknowledges that Morris is a fortune-hunter, feels that he at least offered Catherine a small chance at happiness, and chides her niece for revealing her disinheritance. A week later, Austin falls ill with heart disease, and Catherine learns that Morris has borrowed money to move to California. The shock of rejection leaves Catherine heartless and cold, and she refuses to see her father even as he lays dying. Despite Austin's prior threats, Catherine receives her full inheritance after his death. Years later, Morris returns to see Catherine. Although she initially refuses him entry to the house, she changes her mind when she hears his voice. Morris then begs her forgiveness and attempts to vindicate himself by saying that he left in order to keep her from losing her inheritance. When Catherine reservedly grants her forgiveness, Morris boldly proposes again, saying that he needs her love, and Catherine encourages him to elope that night. However, after he leaves, she tells Lavinia that she intends to reject Morris so that he will never return. She then steadily works on the embroidery sampler she began when Morris first abandoned her, and finishes just as he knocks on the door at the hour of their rendezvous. Ignoring his entreaties, Catherine douses the light, bolts the door from the inside, and climbs the stairs to her room, turning her back on Morris. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.