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The Heiress Criterion Blu-ray Review


“The Heiress” is an acting tour de force.

Based on the stage play “Washington Square” by Henry James and adapted for the screen by Ruth and Augustus Goez, director William Wyler’s “The Heiress” revolves around the daughter (Catherine) of a wealthy Doctor. Catherine is a shy homebody who enjoys embroidery. She’s not very social and she’s not married much to her overly critical and often cruel father’s dismay. One day while at a dance, Catherine meets a man named Morris who woos her. Catherine falls for him and wishes to marry him, but her father thinks he’s a gold digger and denies their marriage. Will Catherine stand up to her father and marry Morris anyway? Is Morris what her father says he is?

This 1949 period piece could have easily been just another romantic melodrama, but it’s much more than. “The Heiress” is very much a character study about maturing, family, love, and adulthood. More than that, however, it’s actually a bold Hollywood film. I won’t spoil what happens, but there’s no forced happy ending here much to my surprise. Instead, the ending depicts real character growth and strength.

On the subject of the characters, this movie is an acting showcase. Olivia de Havilland (who won an Oscar for her performance) has so much to work with her with the character of Catherine. There’s such a range of emotions on display and she has a huge character arc that makes her such a strong female character. Ralph Richardson (who plays Catherine’s father Austin) arguably steals the show here. His character elicits such emotion from the viewer so you know he’s doing his job well. Montgomery Clift may seem an odd choice for a film like this but he holds his own. Is it one of his best performances? No, but he plays well off of everyone.

In terms of the production values, this is the type of old Hollywood spectacle that you rarely see these days. The sets are big and lavish and the costumes by Edith Head are stunning. It’s a very visual film to be sure.


Presentation: 1.37:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital transfer is crisp throughout. Leo Tover’s cinematography has never looked better.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? A surprisingly sharp Mono track.

* A double sided booklet containing a poster, credits and an essay by writer/critic Pamela Hutchinson
* “The Heiress” trailer.
* A 23 minute conversation between screenwriter Jay Cocks and film critic Farran Smith Nehme about “The Heiress.”
* A tribute to William Wyler from “The Merv Griffin Show.”
* William Wyler’s speech at the AFI tribute to Wyler in 1976.
* An extensive, revealing, and in-depth 45 minute 1986 interview between Olivia de Havilland and host Paul Ryan.
* An interview with Ralph Richardson from the 1981 documentary “Directed By William Wyler.”
* An interview with costume collector and costume historian Larry McQueen about Edith Head.
* A 1950 short titled “The Costume Designer” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that features Edith Head.

May 15, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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