THE HEIRESS (1949) B/W 115m dir: William Wyler
w/Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman, Ray Collins, Betty Linley, Selena Royale, Paul Lees
Wyler's direction is careful and methodical (rather Victorian itself) in this version of the play adapted from Henry James' novella Washington Square. De Havilland won an Oscar for playing the homely young woman who falls in love with dashing fortune-hunter Clift, but Richardson dominates the movie with his restrained portrayal of her ramrod father.
From The Movie Guide: "This was one of de Havilland's greatest roles; Wyler finally breaks her of her habit of sweet smiles (she'd later revert) and her transformation from docile emotional victim to rational, resolved adult is a masterpiece of acting. Ralph Richardson is equally good, injecting a majestic presence into his portrait of a hateful man who is really so fearful of his daughter's future that he will incur her permanent loathing to protect that future. Miriam Hopkins is fine, too, as the one eternally bright spot in de Havilland's life, but Clift is surprisingly weak.
"Wyler worked hard to produce this masterpiece. He had requested Gregg Toland (with whom he had collaborated memorably on films like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and THE LITTLE FOXES) for his cinematographer, and instead got Leo Tover. When Wyler asked for a setup calling for deep focus, Tover took half a day to make preparations, where Toland would have achieved the setup in an hour. The director did score a coup, however, when he secured Aaron Copland's services as the film's composer. Copland had written memorable music for such films as OF MICE AND MEN, OUR TOWN and NORTH STAR but gained a 'Red' taint as a result of his involvement in the last and, in the suspicious climate of 1949, Wyler had to argue heavily with Paramount executives to retain Copland who came through with a haunting, telling score."
Oscars were also awarded for Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Copland), B&W Art Direction (John Meehan, Harry Horner, Emile Kuri), and B&W Costume Design (Edith Head, Gile Steele). The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Richardson), and B&W Cinematography (Tover).