The Heiress

The Heiress

Criterion Collection Edition #974

Directed with a keen sense of ambiguity by William Wyler, this film based on a hit stage adaptation of Henry James’s “Washington Square” pivots on a question of motive. When shy, emotionally fragile Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland, in a heartbreaking, Oscar-winning turn), the daughter of a wealthy New York doctor, begins to receive calls from the handsome spendthrift Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), she becomes possessed by the promise of romance. Are his smoldering professions of love sincere, as she believes they are? Or is Catherine’s calculating father (Ralph Richardson) correct in judging Morris a venal fortune seeker? A graceful drawing-room drama boasting Academy Award–winning costume design by Edith Head, THE HEIRESS is also a piercing character study riven by emotional uncertainty and lacerating cruelty, in a triumph of classic Hollywood filmmaking at its most psychologically nuanced.

The Heiress
  • The Heiress

    Directed by William Wyler • 1949 • United States
    Starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson

    Directed with a keen sense of ambiguity by William Wyler, this film based on a hit stage adaptation of Henry James’s “Washington Square” pivots on a question of motive. When shy, emo...

Extras

  • Jay Cocks and Farran Smith Nehme on THE HEIRESS

    In this 2018 Criterion Collection program, screenwriter Jay Cocks and film critic Farran Smith Nehme discuss the adaptation for the film version of THE HEIRESS of the 1947 play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, which was itself inspired by the 1880 Henry James novel Washington Square.

  • William Wyler on The Merv Griffin Show

    In 1973, the “Merv Griffin Show” presented a tribute to director William Wyler. In the following segments, Griffin speaks with actors and Wyler collaborators Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and Walter Pidgeon; Wyler himself makes a brief appearance as well.

  • William Wyler AFI Tribute

    Presented here is William Wyler’s speech at the American Film Institute’s 1976 tribute program.

  • Olivia de Havilland on THE HEIRESS

    In 1986, actor Olivia de Havilland gave talk-show host Paul Ryan this extensive two-part interview, in which she discusses her life and career, including her work in THE HEIRESS.

  • Ralph Richardson on THE HEIRESS

    This interview with Ralph Richardson was filmed in 1981 for the documentary DIRECTED BY WILLIAM WYLER. The film aired on PBS’s “American Masters” series and was directed by Aviva Slesin and produced by Catherine Tatge and Catherine Wyler.

  • The Costume Designer

    Costume designer Edith Head won an Academy Award for her work on THE HEIRESS. Presented here is THE COSTUME DESIGNER, a 1950 promotional short featuring Head and produced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

  • Larry McQueen on Edith Head

    Presented here is a 2019 interview with costume collector and historian Larry McQueen.