Thought this was an adaptation of a Henry James novel, but it’s actually taken from a stage play based on the book… which would explain a certain degree of staginess that the film doesn’t quite avoid. (Cf. the scene where Catherine finally realises Morris isn’t coming and Lavinia draws the sliding doors shut, just like a theatrical curtain.) This is an obviously high-grade production from the golden age, big director, big actors, big number of Oscar nominations… but something about it doesn’t quite click with me. I don’t entirely buy the transformation of Catherine from a fairly hapless spinster into the cold hard thing (much like her old man, here played by Ralph Richardson; if ever there’s a competition for ghastliest screen father, surely he must win it) she finally becomes. Still, it’s an obviously well-done piece of work, you could hold it up justly as a strong example of classical Hollywood major league production, and I admire it for having the courage to go for the unhappy (?) ending rather than a spurious reconciliation.
The Heiress (1949)