The Heiress, one of the most intense psychological dramas to issue from 1940s Hollywood, unfolds almost entirely under one roof: that of the well-appointed Manhattan town house where tremulous Catherine Sloper (an Oscar-winning Olivia de Havilland) lives with her domineering father (Ralph Richardson), and is courted by a strapping young man (Montgomery Clift) of uncertain intentions. Though the 1840s-set film, based on a theatrical adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square, seldom strays from this single location, director William Wyler and his cast use the subtlest of gestures to construct a world that doesn’t feel the least bit stage-bound. As screenwriter Jay Cocks and critic Farran Smith Nehme observe in the video above, taken from a supplement on our chock-full new edition of The Heiress, the movie’s unostentatious camera movement invites viewers into the action rather than simply punctuating it. Cocks and Nehme also go on to discuss how Wyler and de Havilland transform one particular borrowing from James’s novel—Catherine’s embroidery—into a brilliantly piercing visual motif.
Career Women in the Land of Lubitsch
Critics Molly Haskell and Farran Smith Nehme talk about the highly idiosyncratic heroines who populate Ernst Lubitsch’s comedies, including the protagonist of his final film, Cluny Brown.
Ritwik Ghatak’s Pursuit of Truth Beyond Realism
Acclaimed Indian filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza and Kumar Shahani discuss how the Bengali master mixed expressionism and naturalism in his devastating domestic tragedy The Cloud-Capped Star.
A Howl of Defiance from the Italian Sixties
Marco Bellocchio’s subversive debut feature, Fists in the Pocket, emerged out of a period of social unrest, taking aim at both bourgeois values and Catholic hypocrisy.