If we lived in an ideal world, we would all live to old age. But we do not live in an ideal world. If one is lucky enough to see the golden years of their lives, then perhaps, they have come close to an ideal world.
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.
What they don’t know is that a wardrobe in the home leads to a magical world of Narnia where the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) rules with an iron first. They are not ordinary children. A prophecy states that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve with the help of Aslaan (voiced by Liam Neeson) will lead a rebellion against the witch. Are these the children whose fate it is to free Narnia or will they perish on the battlefield of this magical land?
The good thing about technology is that it has caught up with the imagination of the author. Unlike many movies, the special effects do what they were intended to do: add to the movie’s overall appeal, not fill in weak areas in the script.
Eight years earlier, in 1997, Henry James’s 19th century novel, Washington Square filled movie screens. Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) is the original poor little rich girl. She is set to inherit quite a tidy sum upon the death of her widower father. But she is socially awkward and her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (Albert Finney) has low expectations of his daughter. Enter Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin). Morris is charming and attractive and Catherine starts to see a future with him. But her father is dead set against the match and will do anything to prevent their marriage, including labeling Morris a gold digger. Does Catherine have the emotional strength to stand up to her father or is she destined to spend her life alone?
I happen to enjoy this movie very much. There is something simplistic about this story, but in a good way. Unlike other female heroines of the era, Catherine does not have the emotional strength or the ability to stand up to her father. A lesson for many parents to learn from this novel is that emotional support and teaching your children self esteem is just as important, if not more as the material items in life.