The Heiress


D: William Wyler

Paramount (William Wyler)

US 🇺🇸 1949

115 mins




W: Augustus Goetz & Ruth Goetz [based on their play; based on the novel “Washington Square” by Henry James]

DP: Leo Tover

Ed: William Hornbeck

Mus: Aaron Copland

PD: Harry Horner

Cos: Edith Head & Gile Steele


Olivia de Havilland (Catherine Sloper), Montgomery Clift (Morris Townsend), Ralph Richardson (Dr. Austin Sloper), Miriam Hopkins (Lavinia Penniman), Vanessa Brown (Maria)


Based on a play that itself was an adaptation of Henry James’ 1880 novel, The Heiress stars Olivia de Havilland as the plain-looking Catherine Sloper, a woman of high society who is romanced by Montgomery Clift’s suave suitor, Morris Townsend. 

This courting is much to the dislike of Catherine’s emotionally manipulative father (Ralph Richardson), who believes that these romantic intentions are only due to the family’s wealth and threatens to cut his daughter out of his will should the relationship flourish any further.

Olivia de Havilland won the Best Actress Oscar (her second) for her lead performance, and whilst it is her performance that controls the narrative, the entire cast also deserve their fair share of kudos as they are all perfect in their parts, whilst director William Wyler’s touches give exactly the right atmosphere to balance this just as much a Hitchcockian thriller as it is a period drama.

A 1940’s classic.




Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress