The first man in a woman’s life is her father. No matter how old she gets or whom she meets (especially in the realm of romantic relationships, if she is straight), her father will always cast a shadow in her life.
In the 1949 movie, The Heiress (based on the book by Henry James), Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) appears, on the surface to have it all. A loving father, a secure home, clean clothes, fresh food, etc. But appearances are deceiving. Her widower physician father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson) is still in mourning for his late wife and son decades after their deaths. His treatment of his daughter, who is his only surviving child, borders on emotional abuse.
When Catherine meets Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), it looks like she has found a spouse and lifetime partner. But Dr. Sloper has a different view of Morris. He believes that Morris is only interested in his daughter for her fortune. Catherine is torn between loyalty to her father and her love for Morris. In the end, she must choose one man and resign a relationship with the other man.
I enjoy this film for several reasons. The first is, that unlike other film adaptations of novels from this period, the screenwriters and creative team kept to the source material. What the reader reads on the page is what the audience sees on-screen. The other reason is that it is my favorite Olivia de Havilland performance. Her performance is quiet and subtle, with moments of strength and emotion that are surprising.
I absolutely recommend this film.