The Heiress is a meticulous reproduction of the Victorian scene, so faithful to its mores that it is a museum piece.
William Wyler, in his producer-director role, has seen fit to cling exactly to the period portrayed in the Ruth and Augustus Goetz script, based on their stage play suggested by Henry James’ novel Washington Square.
Olivia de Havilland, in the title role, is the homely daughter of a wealthy physician. A social shyness that cloaks the quick wit and puckishness has kept her suitorless despite a sizeable wealth that will be augmented when her father passes. Montgomery Clift is the first male to show her attention. The father sees through his courting, tries to break up a quick engagement.
Clift plays the difficult part of an ambiguous character who is more opportunist than crook in his fortune-hunting. Ralph Richardson is grand as the stern, strait-laced father.
1949: Best Actress (Olivia de Havilland), B&W Art Direction, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, B&W Costume Design.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supp. Actor (Ralph Richardson), B&W Cinematography