The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
In the mid-1800's, the wealthy Sloper family - widowed surgeon Dr. Austin Sloper, his adult daughter Catherine Sloper (Dr. Sloper's only surviving child), and Dr. Sloper's recently widowed sister Lavinia Penniman - live in an opulent house at 16 Washington Square, New York City. They have accrued their wealth largely through Dr. Sloper's hard work. Despite the lessons that Dr. Sloper has paid for in all the social graces for her, Catherine is a plain, simple, awkward and extremely shy woman who spends all her free time alone doing embroidery when she is not doting on her father. Catherine's lack of social charm and beauty - unlike her deceased mother - is obvious to Dr. Sloper, who hopes that Lavinia will act as her guardian in becoming more of a social person, and ultimately as chaperon if Catherine were ever to meet the right man. The first man ever to show Catherine any attention is the handsome Morris Townsend, who she met at a family party. Catherine is initially uncertain as to ... Written by
There is no doubt that "The Heiress" was a triumph for two great stars - Olivia de Havilland and Ralph Richardson. Made over 50 years ago, this film is still extremely watchable, and the performances stand up as good as anything today. de Havilland's Oscar was well and truly warranted, as this is an acting achievement which covers every range of emotion from innocence to cruelty in an amazing way. As the plain daughter of a very bitter man, she is able to convey the frustrations, hurt and bitter revenge in a way that is completely believable - just a stunning characterization. As the unfeeling father Ralph Richardson shows his class, and warranted Best Supporting Actor recognition. Montgomery Clift was miscast to a certain degree, but under William Wyler's direction, he got through Okay. But truly, the film belongs to the two headliners alone.
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