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The Heiress
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The Heiress (1949) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 5% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Ruth Goetz (written for the screen by) and
Augustus Goetz (written for the screen by) ...
View company contact information for The Heiress on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
28 December 1949 (USA) See more »
When a Woman Loves a Man . . . She Doesn't Want to Know the Truth About Him ! See more »
A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Won 4 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 7 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
"The Master" in WASHINGTON SQUARE See more (123 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Olivia de Havilland ... Catherine Sloper

Montgomery Clift ... Morris Townsend

Ralph Richardson ... Dr. Austin Sloper

Miriam Hopkins ... Lavinia Penniman

Vanessa Brown ... Maria

Betty Linley ... Mrs. Montgomery

Ray Collins ... Jefferson Almond

Mona Freeman ... Marian Almond

Selena Royle ... Elizabeth Almond
Paul Lees ... Arthur Townsend
Harry Antrim ... Mr. Abeel

Russ Conway ... Quintus
David Thursby ... Geier
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nan Boardman ... French Maid (uncredited)
Jack Chefe ... French Waiter (uncredited)
Marcel De la Brosse ... French Porter (uncredited)
Ray De Ravenne ... French Waiter (uncredited)

Lester Dorr ... Groom (uncredited)
Arthur Dulac ... French Bellboy (uncredited)

Franklyn Farnum ... Dr. Isaacs (uncredited)
Sam Harris ... Party Guest (uncredited)
Donald Kerr ... Fish Peddler (uncredited)

Louise Lorimer ... Dr. Sloper's Secretary (uncredited)
Sherri Morse ... Little Girl (uncredited)
Una Mortished ... Chambermaid (uncredited)
Harry Pipe ... Mr. Gebhardt (uncredited)
Albert Pollet ... French Porter (uncredited)
Loulette Sablon ... French Maid (uncredited)

Ralph Sanford ... Captain of the Castle Queen (uncredited)
Douglas Spencer ... Minister (uncredited)
Bobby Taylor ... Little Boy (uncredited)

Dorothy Vernon ... Delivery Woman (uncredited)

Directed by
William Wyler 
Writing credits
Ruth Goetz (written for the screen by) and
Augustus Goetz (written for the screen by)

Ruth Goetz (from the play "The Heiress"by) and
Augustus Goetz (from the play "The Heiress"by)

Henry James (suggested by the novel "Washington Square" by)

Produced by
Lester Koenig .... associate producer
Robert Wyler .... associate producer
William Wyler .... producer
Original Music by
Aaron Copland 
Cinematography by
Leo Tover (director of photography)
Film Editing by
William Hornbeck (edited by)
Production Design by
Harry Horner (production designed by)
Art Direction by
John Meehan 
Harry Horner (uncredited)
Set Decoration by
Emile Kuri (uncredited)
Costume Design by
Edith Head (costumes)
Makeup Department
Wally Westmore .... makeup supervisor
Hal Lierley .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Lenore Weaver .... hair stylist (uncredited)
William Woods .... makeup artist (uncredited)
Production Management
Charles Woolstenhulme .... production manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Charles C. Coleman .... assistant director (as C.C. Coleman Jr.)
Sound Department
Leon Becker .... sound supervisor
John Cope .... sound recordist
Hugo Grenzbach .... sound recordist
Visual Effects by
Gordon Jennings .... special photographic effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Haskell B. Boggs .... camera operator (uncredited)
Earl Crowell .... gaffer (uncredited)
Irv Newmeyer .... grip (uncredited)
Irving Newmeyer .... grip (uncredited)
G.E. Richardson .... still photographer (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Gile Steele .... wardrobe: men
Joan Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Music Department
Aaron Copland .... conductor (uncredited)
Louis Kaufman .... musician: violin (uncredited)
Van Cleave .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Other crew
Josephine Earl .... dance coach (uncredited)
Harry F. Hogan .... script supervisor (uncredited)
Ronnie Lubin .... script supervisor (uncredited)
Susan Lyman .... technical advisor (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
115 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Argentina:13 | Finland:S | Netherlands:AL (original rating) (1950) | South Korea:12 | Sweden:Btl | UK:U | USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:Approved (PCA #12306) | West Germany:12 (f)

Did You Know?

This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1996.See more »
Continuity: When Dr. Sloper goes into his office to examine himself because he isn't feeling well, as he opens up his doctor's bag, the middle finger of his right hand is shown quite unusually extended, but then the next cut shot shows it in a different position.See more »
Catherine Sloper:Father won't abuse you, he doesn't know you well enough.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in And the Oscar Goes To... (2014) (TV)See more »
Plaisir d'amour (The Joys of Love)See more »


Where can I hear an audio adaptation of the play this movie was based on?
See more »
48 out of 54 people found the following review useful.
"The Master" in WASHINGTON SQUARE, 17 March 2006
Author: theowinthrop from United States

Because he so identified with England in his last thirty years (and even became a British citizen during World War I) people tend to forget that Henry James was an American - as American as his celebrated psychologist/philosopher brother William (the "good" James Boys, as opposed to their non-relatives Frank and Jesse), and his fellow Gilded Age novelists Sam Clemens/"Mark Twain" and William Dean Howells. His early writings, including "The American", "The Portait Of A Lady", and "The Europeans" were written while he was an American citizen. His later classics, "The Spoils Of Poynton", "What Maisie Knew", "The Ambassadors", "The Golden Bowl", and "The Wings Of The Dove", were written when he resided in England. The novels he wrote through 1897 ("What Maissie Knew" being the last of these) were short and controlled in terms of descriptions. But his final set of novels (beginning with "The Ambassadors")had a more flowery writing, as James struggled to find "le mot juste" in every description. Many like this, but I find it a peculiar failure. It takes him three pages of description in "The Wings Of The Dove" to show Mily Theale is looking down from an Alpine peak to the valley thousands of feet below.

"Washington Square" was written in the late 1870s, and was based on an anecdote James heard about a fortune hunter who tried to move in on one of James' neighbors in Manhattan. The neighbor, when a young woman, was wealthy and and would be wealthier when her father died (she was an only child). The father did not think highly of the daughter's choice of boyfriend, and a war of wills between the two men left the young woman scarred. James took the story and fleshed it out.

One has to recall that while ultimately this is based on James' great novel, the film proper is based on the dramatization by the Goetzs. So there are changes (one of which I will mention later). But the basic confrontation between the father and the suitor remains true. On stage the father was played by Basil Rathbone, and in his memoirs ("In And Out Of Character"), Rathbone makes a case that Dr. Sloper (his role) was not the villain in the novel - it was Sloper who was trying to protect his naive daughter Catherine from the clutches of fortune hunting suitor Morris Townshend. It's a nice argument, and one can believe that Rathbone/Sloper was less villainous than Morris. But his desire to protect Catherine does not prevent his cold and aloof treatment of her - he has little respect for her personality. This is tied to the Doctor's constant mourning of his wife (Catherine's perfect mother). It enables Dr. Sloper to compare and belittle his daughter.

The Goetz play and screenplay show (as does the novel) that the battle of wills between the two men only hurts poor, simple Catherine. There are only two major changes from the novel. First, in the novel Dr. Sloper does not discover how his contempt for his child loses her love. He only sees that Catherine will not see reason about what a loser Morris is. So he does disinherit her (she only has her mother's fortune of $10,000.00 a year, not her father's additional $20,000.00). Secondly, when Morris does return in the end in the novel, years have passed, and he is a querulous fat man. The dramatic high point when Catherine locks the door of the house on Morris is not in the novel.

Olivia De Haviland's performance as Catherine is among her most sympathetic and satisfying ones, as she tries to navigate between two egotists, and manages to avoid a shipwreck that neither would totally disapprove of for their own selfish reasons). Her second Oscar was deserved. Ralph Richardson's Sloper is a curious combination of cultured gentleman, egotist, and caring father, who only realizes what his behavior costs him when he is dying and it is too late. Montgomery Clift's Morris is a clever scoundrel, able to hide his fortune-hunting tricks behind a mask of care and seeming devotion to Catherine. Only when he learns that she has broken with her father does Morris show his true colors - suggesting that a reconciliation may still be possible. Finally there is Miriam Hopkins as Aunt Penniman, a talkative blood relative who does have a sense of reality and romance in her - she does try to make a case with Dr. Sloper that he accept Morris for Catherine's emotional happiness, but Sloper rejects the idea because he distrusts Morris so much. These four performances dominate the film, and make it a wonderful, enriching experience - as only "the Master's" best writings usually are.

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