11 April 2008 | evanston_dad
All Is Not Well in Washington Square
A handsome, icy film adaptation of Henry James's novel "Washington Square."
Olivia de Havilland is a far cry from Melanie Wilkes as Catherine Sloper, a socially awkward ugly duckling who becomes the target of a gold digger, the dashing Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), who loves the idea of Catherine's inheritance more than he loves her. Catherine's father, imperiously played by Ralph Richardson, is horrible to Catherine, always comparing her to his late wife and finding her lacking, but he does feel a protective instinct for her and sees Morris for what he is. When her father threatens to disinherit her if she moves forward with marrying Morris, Morris himself takes to the hills, leaving Catherine jilted and devastated. Scorned one too many times, she becomes a bitter, hollowed out shell of her former self and displays a cold cruelty that rivals her father's.
"The Heiress" is masterfully directed by William Wyler, and it's surprisingly suspenseful. The acting is superb from everyone: de Havilland, Clift, Richardson (who can reduce someone to a shriveled husk with the raise of an eyebrow), and Miriam Hopkins, in the role of Catherine's romantic and not-so-very-practical aunt. My only quibble with the film is its abrupt ending that stops short. I wasn't ready for it, and expected the story to go further. In a way, though, that's a compliment, because it's basically saying that I didn't want the movie to end.