Manny P. here…
The Heiress was a big-budget motion picture directed by William Wyler in 1949. It was based on a novel by Henry James. Called Washington Square, it was originally published in 1880 as a serial in Cornhill Magazine and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The story was inspired by the life of Gertrude Tredwell, who was born in the Merchant House in 1840, and lived there until her death.
The Heiress is the dramatic story of a sheltered daughter of a prominent New Yorker. Caught between the demands of an autocratic father and the attentions of a greedy young suitor, Catherine Sloper navigates the feelings of love and regret, a chance for happiness, desire and duty, and the burden of inheriting a fortune… as only an heiress can.
Ruth and Augustus Goetz brought the novel to the theater, which originally ran on Broadway in 1947, with Wendy Hiller as Catherine and Basil Rathbone as Dr. Sloper. The writers adapted a screenplay, and it starred Olivia de Havilland, Ralph Richardson and Montgomery Clift (as Morris Townsend). The film’s score was composed by Aaron Copeland. The Heiress was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and it received four Oscars, including Best Actress, Best Set Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Music. In 1996, the cinematic classic was preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
The current run of The Heiress is at the quaint Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th St., between Broadway & 8th Ave. It boasts a very familiar cast, including Jessica Chastain, who currently stars in Zero Dark Thirty; David Strathairn, my choice for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Lincoln; and Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. This compelling drama runs through February, and it has Tony Award written all over it!
The Merchant’s House Museum, located at 29 East 4th St. near Washington Square, occupies the only nineteenth century family home in New York City that is preserved intact. The house was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and it heavily influenced the design of the 1947 Broadway production, the 1949 film, and the current revival of The Heiress.
Until next time> “never forget”