Il faut absolument redécouvrir ce chef d'oeuvre. Comme souvent il s'agit au départ d'une pièce de theâtre : un lieu clos (une grande maison bourgeoise) et trois personnages. Ralph Richardson est omniprésent dans le rôle du père. Imposant physiquement et moralement, il repousse sa fille aux limites de l'autisme, parce qu'elle ne possède pas, selon lui, les qualités physiques et intellectuelles de sa défunte épouse. Il faut voir comment il la refoule, du regard et de la voix, chaque fois qu'elle ose prendre la parole. Dans ce contexte, Olivia de Havilland campe une jeune fille humiliée et réduite à la simple obéissance. L'apparition de Montgomery Clift semble lui offrir soudain une porte de sortie à sa pauvre existence. Il est beau, jeune, frémissant, et qu'importe qu'il soit sans le sou puisqu'elle a une rente, donnée par sa mère en mourant. Mais le bellâtre vise plus haut : il veut la dot entière. En apprenant que le père ne voudra pas la donner si elle part avec lui, il la laisse tomber. Elle tombe, oui, et quand elle se relévera, et qu'il reviendra, à la mort du père, elle se refermera complétement, et le rejettera, inexorablement. De sa fenêtre elle ne verra plus que le petit square, devant sa porte, et tous ses rêves se seront enfuis à jamais. Toute la vérité de ce film tient à la justesse des caractères : comment une jeune fille dont le père a refoulé les charmes pourrait encore espérer dans l'amour d'un jeune homme qui arrive dans sa vie sans crier gare? La sensibilité de Montgomery Clift lui permet de ne pas se complaire dans le rôle d'un simple coureur de dot, et son affrontement avec Ralph Richardson lui donne l'occasion de faire croire que, peut-être, il aime vraiment la jeune fille... Le doute reste donc permis, et la frustration est encore plus grande!
Chef d'oeuvre à découvrir, même si ce n'est pas le plus grand rôle de Montgomerry Cilft.... Quand à olivia de havilland, dont je connais assez peu son jeu est très crédible dans le rôle de cette vieille fille renfermée, complexée au début du film qui se transformera sous l'effet de la perversion d'un père et de l'abandon en une femme froide déterminée. C'est un huit clos "psychologique", 3 personnages principaux :
- un père, médecin, renommé, établit et riche, qui vit depuis le décès de sa femme dans le souvenir magnifié de cette dernière... Modèle idéalisé, inaccessible... ombre castratrice de sa fille, jouée par Olivia de Havilland. Très rapidement on se met à ressentir de l'aversion pour cet homme, ce père qui dévalue sans cesse sa fille, par des remarques cinglantes et humiliantes, des regards et des attitudes qui au cours des années ont amputés sa fille de tout son être.
- Un fille, timide, renfermée, prisonnière de ce regard paternel dévalorisant, dont l'horizon se limite aux murs de la maison paternelle, être sans vie propre, sans pensée, sans volonté... Je n'ai pas suffisant vu de films de cette actrice pour savoir si elle était séduisante ou belle... Mais véritablement dans ce film l'actrice est quasiment laide, elle ne possède rien physiquement des attributs féminins qui pourraient la rendre attirante... Elle peut dans certaines scènes afficher un profil "batracien"... si si , vraiment, elle est gauche, avec un regard vide sans la moindre étincelle d'intelligence... Ce regard deviendra froid comme l'acier à la fin de ce drame familial, alors même que son apparence physique se sera féminisée après la mort du père castrateur
L'hisoire de Catherine qui tombe amoureuse d'un jeune homme. Il l'a courtise, mais le père de la jeune femme se dresse contre cet amour, suspectant le jeune homme d'en vouloir à sa fortune. Olivia de Havilland est magistrale, Montgomery Clift comme à son habitude est habité par son rôle et donne un vrai relief à son personnage.
Avec son rôle dans "The Heiress", l'héritière, Olivia de Havilland obtint un oscar fort mérité. Elle y interprète avec conviction le rôle d'une vieille fille un peu nunuche vivant avec son père, et qui tombe sous le charme d'un homme intéressé par sa seule fortune. Mais cet homme trop gourmand, renonce à l'épouser car il espérait bien plus... Mais quand il reviendra, la revanche de cette vieille fille que l'épreuve aura fait grandir sera terrible, et humiliante...
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Perhaps one of the finest screen performances ever1 juillet 2002
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette vidéo
The unsatisfying film adaptation of James' WASHINGTON SQUARE starring Jennifer Jason-Leigh only shows how wise William Wyler was to film the Goetz's stage version rather than retain James's original storyline. James's little novel about an Old New York heiress, Catherine Sloper caught in a tug-of-war between her heartless father and her fortune-hunting suitor (Morris Townsend) ends with a very Jamesian ending: Catherine learns to grow beyond her father's and Morris's petty battle, and in so doing shows her superiority to both of them. In adapting this novel for the stage, the Goetzes decided that such an ending (admittedly sublime on the printed page) would be hard to do onstage, and instead retain the Balzacian melodramatic air James drew upon by allowing Catherine her vengeance on father and Morris alike. The result is spellbinding. William Wyler crafted out of this melodrama one of the most hard-to-forget films of the Hollywood era, a masterful little exercise in emotional cruelty that has been championed by (among others) Martin Scorsese, who regularly lists it as one of the five films that most influenced his own work.
The sets are superb, and there's a lovely film score by Aaron Copland. But what really makes the film is the acting. There are only four major performers--Olivia De Havilland as Catherine, Sir Ralph Richardson as her father, Montgomery Clift as Morris, and Miriam Hopkins as Aunt Penniman--and all four give their best performances ever here; they seem to spur one another on to better work than you'd imagine them capable of doing. De Havilland is the one who most stands out: at first, though suitably old, she seems too beautiful to be effective as Catherine. But her fine portrayal of Catherine's crippling shyness makes her unattractiveness to both Morris and Dr. Sloper exceptionally believable. When Catherine undergoes her awful education, De Havilland very bravely allows herself to change a great deal so that while she's still Catherine you're aware of how radically she's changed. The highlight of the entire film is Catherine's showdown with her father, when she more than outmaneuvers him and utterly devastates him: De Havilland here does some of the acting the screen has ever seen. The scene begins with De Havilland's simple words, "Morris deserted me," which she delivers with about a hundred different levels of feeling at once, from shame at herself for being fooled, to almost bemused exasperation at Morris's shallowness, to fury at her father. It ends with her dramatic (and surprisingly frightening) declaration to her broken father, "That's it , Father--you'll never know, will you?", which leaves you aware not only of how thoroughly Catherine has beaten her father but at what a cost to her own soul. I can't imagine even one of the great stage actors doing more with this scene than De Havilland does. It's the performance of a lifetime.
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'Bolt the Door, Maria!'23 février 2003
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette vidéo
THE HEIRESS is a surprisingly complex drama of paternal brutality, starry-eyed love, and bitter revenge. Director William Wyler adapted Henry James' short novel WASHINGTON SQUARE and during the film's nearly two hours managed to convey the collision of conflicting dreams. Each of the three major characters: Ralph Richardson as Doctor Sloper, Olivia de Havilland as his dowdy daughter Catherine Sloper, and Montgomery Clift as the mercenary Morris Townsend all dance a three-partnered minuet in which emotional ties clasp and unclasp in ways that are suggested more by gentle innuendo than by overt deed. Doctor Sloper is a uncaring brute who rules his house with vicious wit and the threat of withheld inheritance. To him, there are two kinds of men: those who have already made their mark in the world (like him) and those who have not (like Morris) but seek to obtain it deceitfully through marriage to plain but rich women (like Catherine). The more Sloper puts Catherine down with harsh barbs, the more he increases the inevitability that Catherine will someday rebel by latching onto the first glib male golddigger, thereby proving himself right all along. Sloper's problem is that his paternal tunnel vision does not allow the possibility that Catherine might be more than a one-dimensional stick figure forever doomed to spinsterhood. For Catherine, life is a gilded cage, plenty of the physical necessities, but not a whit of the emotional ones. The more she is starved for affection, the more she will reach out even to those men like Morris who are likely mercenary. One of the film's bitter ironies is that her father's oft repeated warnings about Morris's motivations might yet be valid. When Morris promises to elope with her, then abruptly changes his mind after finding out that Catherine will be disinherited, his disappearance results in one of filmdom's most tragic of underplayed scenes--that of her waiting forelornly for a doorknock that does not come. For Morris, his motivation as a gigolo is not crystal clear. He may very well be as mercenary as Doctor Sloper accuses, or he may humanely have concluded that it is better to dump Catherine at the mock alter of the Sloper door than to risk leaving her destitute. THE HEIRESS is a movie of several memorable scenes, nearly all of which take place within the Sloper living room. When Morris fails to appear, Catherine expects a modicum of understanding from her father. Instead he delivers yet his most vicious of cutting remarks. Catherine replies that she would have married him anyway, knowing that he did not love her, if only he would have offered the illusion of warmth and human contact. The closing scene in which Catherine orders her maid 'Bolt the door, Maria,' shows that the passing of time has done more to harden her heart against a man who just may be as greedy as charged--or perhaps his earlier explanation that he wished not to impoverish her may be true. We never know his motivation, but THE HEIRESS makes clear hers. When she defends her decision to seek revenge against Morris, Catherine replies coldly, that of cruelty, 'I have been taught by masters.' The bolting of the door is the symbolic equivalent of the closing of her heart. It is no surprise that Morris's loud pounding on the Sloper door does not resonate with a heart that has learned only too well the lessons taught by Doctor Sloper.
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Watch closely21 janvier 2004
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette vidéo
"The Heiress" is William Wyler's screen adaptation of Henry James' novella, "Washington Square." For a modern viewer trained to seek out heros and villains in any story the structure of this film might be summarized thus: The insecure and none too bright young woman played by Olivia de Havilland does eventually get it through her thick skull that her father (played by Ralph Richardson) has a deep-seated contempt for her and that her suitor (played by Montgomery Clift) is after nothing but her fortune. Newly armed with this knowledge she is able to see her father's threat to disinherit her as the bluff it is and call him on it, and to close the door on Montgomery Clift's advances. Someone inclined to see the movie this way would thrill to our heroine's triumph over the two villainous men in her life while reserving a little sadness for the fact that she's resigned herself to a life of spinsterhood. The film is well worth watching even if you choose to read the film this way because the performances by the three principal actors are a beauty to behold (de Havilland won an Oscar for her performance) and Wyler's cinematic story telling techniques are so accomplished. For instance, watch Ralph Richardson open and close those pocket doors between rooms. It lets Wyler move seamlessly from cut to cut while appearing to maintain the flow of a long scene while at the same time suggesting Richardson's controlling nature. But a more careful look at the Clift and de Havilland characters is what gives this film the richness and subtlety of a five star movie. In the opening minutes of the film we see a short interchange between de Havilland and a servant in the household which reveals de Havilland to have a clever sense of humor. It's her insecurity with her father and with social situations with strangers that freezes her up and makes her appear much more dimwitted than she is. Likewise, shortly after Montgomery Clift appears at a party we see the revealing crack of insecurity in his facade of charm when he fetches de Havilland a drink and momentarilly thinks he's been ditched when he returns (nicely mirroring de Havilland's experience of being ditched by an earlier party companion). So what we see when we look closely is a woman with an insecure exterior who has an inner capacity for charm that dovetails with Clift's public charm, and in Clift a man with the potential to discover and appreciate those hidden charms even though his overwhelming initial motivation is that of a male gold-digger. It's that vulnerable charm of Clift's that makes him much more than simply a cad. And Clift's subtle portrayal of that unexpected depth and vulnerability is what's so often missed by viewers. I think Clift was the greatest actor of his generation and the upwardly striving, vulnerable charmer role is suited for him perfectly (see his more famous performance in "A Place in the Sun"). It's that possibility that this imperfect man, for all his mercenary motives, might be de Havilland's best, though slight, hope to find a soul mate that makes that locked door between them at the end of the movie as tragic as it is.
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I Can't Praise this film highly enough! (contains spoilers)28 juin 2003
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Cassette vidéo
The Heiress is the poignant 1949 film which won Olivia de Havilland a well deserved Oscar for Best Actress. Based on the book "Washington Square" the story is set in the 1840s, focusing on Catherine (de Havilland), a timid naive woman who happens to have an inheritance of $10,000 a year from her mother, and $20,000 a year after her father's death. Ralph Richardson also gives an outstanding performance here as the father who holds her up to the standard of her late mother. His view of her not measuring up is one thing that keeps her down.
Montgomery Clift plays Morris, the man who courts her. She falls in love with him, while he's more in love with her money, though she doesn't suspect his alterior motive until it's too late. Throughout we get sharp witted dialogue, sometimes leaving us subtle between-the-lines clues. For instance when Morris echoes Catherine's thought that when alone with her Aunt Lavinia he is more eloquent (this implies Lavinia told him of her similar thoughts). And when in Paris she tells her father that her Aunt's letter gives a first hand account of Paris (implying her Aunt has been talking to Morris). Her father finally tells her how worthless he feels she is, but for her inheritance, so she then puts all her faith in Morris. They set the time for him to come and take her away to elope, fueling her romantic fantasies of the relationship and she tells him of her falling out with (and apparent disinheritance from) her father, then goes to pack. The scenes that follow are some of the most moving and disturbing ever set to film. As she waits for Morris with elated anticipation, her Aunt tells her of her belief in Morris' money motive. Catherine denies this: "Morris will love me, where others did not." After the set time for his arrival comes and goes it dawns on her what has happened and she breaks down. In the morning she is completely transformed, older, bitter, and drained as she slowly drags her suitcases back up the long dark stairway. For the rest of the film she "finds her voice" as her father says, a lower toned, darker, disillusioned, and bitter voice. And her father and Morris both find that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Another Oscar went to Aaron Copland for the excellent film score. If you know the song "I Can't Help Falling in Love", you'll notice it's a rip off of this score. Overall one of the top 5 films of the 1940s.
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She Was Taught To Love And Hate . . . By Masters!1 mars 2007
Matthew G. Sherwin
- Publié sur Amazon.com
The Heiress deals with numerous topics that many people experience and can therefore understand. We see Catherine's pain of being socially awkward and vulnerable to a young man's advances that might not be so honorable; the verbal abuse of an adult child who failed to live up to a strict parent's expectations; revenge and degrees of cold heartedness that would be too cold even for the hardest of hearts!
Catherine Sloper is a spinster who lives with her wealthy father in New York's Washington Square during the 1840s. Catherine can at best be described as rather plain and unimaginative; her sole interest is doing needlepoint in the family parlor. Catherine must bear a heavy burden: her father, played brilliantly by Ralph Richardson, treats Catherine rather cruelly and he never offers Catherine the natural warmth of fatherly love for a daughter.
Enter Morris Townsend who is played by a rather young Montgomery Clift. Morris makes advances toward Catherine and they all too quickly plan to marry. Their wedding engagement does not sit well with Catherine's father, Dr. Sloper. Dr. Sloper remains convinced that his daughter is being taken in by a "fortune hunter" and makes threats to disinherit Catherine if she marries Morris. Catherine and Morris plan to elope--but from this point on events and other things that were previously unexpected begin to happen with more and more regularity.
Olivia de Havilland deserved her Oscar for her skillful portrayal of Catherine. Olivia can take Catherine in any direction she wishes. Olivia initially plays Catherine as the shy, good hearted and gushing spinster taken by the handsome Morris Townsend. However, Olivia can also play Catherine in such an entirely different voice and demeanor that one truly begins to wonder if Catherine has become possessed. Olivia makes Catherine transform very convincingly on the screen; this is one performance you're not going to forget. In addition, Ralph Richardson plays the aloof, verbally abusive but yet protective father, Dr. Sloper. Sloper berates Catherine at every turn by either comparing her to her mother or telling Catherine she is a worthless human being. Moreover, Montgomery Clift turns in a fine performance as Morris Townsend, the good looking young man who chases after Catherine. It is true that we will never know for sure that Morris wants Catherine for her money alone. However, the scene in the parlor in which Morris drinks the father's brandy and then smokes the father's cigars leads me to conclude that he was most likely a gold digger.
The movie was shot in black and white and this somehow enhances the beauty and wonder of the acting. The choreography shines through particularly well in the dance scenes near the beginning of the movie; and the cinematography leaves little to be desired.
The Heiress will remain an excellent example of a true movie classic for quite some while to come. The movie holds your attention very well and the pace of the plot development moves at just the right speed.
I recommend this film for movie buffs and people who want to pursue the formal study of the development of American film as art. Fans of great actors like Montgomery Clift and Olivia de Havilland will not be disappointed with this movie. William Wyler did an excellent job of directing this motion picture. The DVD extras may be slim--but the movie represents a gem of a masterpiece. Great job, everyone!