The Heiress

The Heiress is a 1949 American drama film produced and directed by William Wyler and starring Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend, and Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper. Written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play The Heiress. The play was suggested by the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James. The film is about a young naive woman who falls in love with a handsome young man, despite the objections of her emotionally abusive father who suspects the man of being a fortune hunter.


In 1850s New York City, Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) is a plain, painfully shy woman whose exacting and emotionally detached father, physician Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), makes no secret of his disappointment in her. He is terribly bitter about losing his charming and beautiful wife, whom he feels fate replaced with a simple and unalluring daughter. However, Catherine is devoted to her father and too innocent to fully comprehend his mistreatment or its reasons. Catherine enjoys quiet pursuits, such as caring for her father and embroidery, and seldom ventures out socially.