Thursday, July 29, 2010

Olivia de Havilland in "The Heiress"

Olivia de Havilland won her second Oscar for playing Catharine Sloper, in The Heiress.


The Heiress is a well made, well written, and all around well acted film. The story follows an awkward young woman, who is bearing down on becoming a spinster, which is horrible for her father, a rich doctor (Ralph Richardson). He does whatever he can for his quiet, uncharismatic daughter to become more sociable and fancy. Her life immediately changes when a young man (Montgomery Clift) takes an interest in her...


Catharine is a woman who has always been frowned upon. She can't live up to her dead mother's image, or her father's dream and perfect image of her. She's not dumb or naive, she's simply a shy, clumsy woman who's never had the acceptance of anyone. So, it's only obvious that when handsome, charming Morris charges into her life, she falls completely head over heels, but the romance is doomed, since Catharine becomes only prey for Morris.


Olivia de Havilland starts out very normal in the film, just like Catharine. There's not much special about her, but she's always interesting. It isn't until there romance takes a fateful turn, when Catharine slowly starts to change her outlook on life. From that point on, she turns into a hateful, vindictive woman, forever changed by the perceptions people wanted her to be. De Havilland holds this character so well, the transition from shy, awkward girl to hateful, cruel woman is astonishingly real. Whenever she is waiting for Morris to come, and finally breaks down after all the pain and lost love, she does it so well, without overdoing the emotions of the shy girl or the cruelness of the woman.

It certainly proves you can give a great performance without having a flashy role or as in the 40s, a "strong" woman. From what it seems, she held back nothing in the part of Catharine, and it all shows. The slow arc from what Catharine used to be is brilliantly played by de Havilland, with intense, fascinating results.

7 comments:

Louis Morgan said...

I agree completely she is great. She will probably be your choice. What did you think of Richardson?

Sage Slowdive said...

From what I've seen of him, I am normally completely turned off of his acting style which is very theatrical and very loud.

But, he really was great in The Heiress...he's my pick for the win that year, espeically over Dean Jagger.

joe burns said...

She is incredible! Strong writeup too! She'll be your pick, unless Crain or Hayward pulls off a surprise.

hey deanie said...

Yay! :-) I can't wait to see what you'll have to say about her in The Snake Pit when you do that yearrrrr

Fritz said...

Well, what else! Seems like hers is one of the few universally loved wins in this category.

Sage Slowdive said...

Well said, Fritz. The only other universally loved win I can think of is Liz Taylor in Virginia Woolf...

Canadian Classics Fan said...

I would bet the de Havilland victory in 1949 was a very lopsided win. First of all,(in my opinion) the competition was weak. Secondly, she had lost the year before for another remarkable performance (The Snake Pit), so there may have been a feeling of owing her. And thirdly, this performance is simply outstanding. From the body language, vocal tones, facial expressions, you name it, she completely nails this character in all stages of her development from young and unconfident to older and jaded. One of the greats!