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DownGoesFrazier

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES

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So true rosebette. Wyler had loaded the suitcases with heavy books that Olivia was carrying when she first climbs up the staircase when Morris has first abandoned her, to show how truly wary and bedragled she was. The last shot of Olivia climbing the staircase looking triumphant after HER rejection of Morris is what we remember. The line I was Taught by Masters is also what we remember.

 

Montgomery Clift was unhappy by his performance, and yes any young, handsome actor could have played that part.

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Yes, thanks to another poster I now know that based on the novel Catherine decides she wants to be alone.

 

That doesn't change my question on why Wyler decided to have Catherine give up her hobby. Wyler is a very thoughful director. He didn't change that scene for no reason.

 

The scene as written in the novel makes it clear she wants to live a life alone. I feel the way Wyler decided to change the scene implies she was able to put her bitterness behind her (again, which is different than the novel).

 

So while I love the ending of the movie, I still don't know why Wyler felt the need to say she had given up on her hobby.

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>It's the close-up of Catherine with the lamp, climbing the stairs, that sticks.

 

I disagree. When I first saw THE HEIRESS years ago, that was the scene that stuck. But when I see it now, it's the scene of Monty pounding on the door that sticks. I think it is significant that he gets the last shot, not her. He is not done with her or any of this, even as the credits roll.

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Possibly because now that she has become the Master of her life, she no longer needs the innocent, childish hobby anymore. She is now independent, strong and her own person.

She needs no one, she needs nothing (the embrodery) to comfort her. She has herself

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To everyone: Regarding the fancy-work with the cloth..... In the days before TV or radio, each evening, it was common for both young and older middle and upper class women to do some kind of sewing at night. Either making a dress, mending clothes, or creating something such as knitting or making a picture on cloth out of colored thread, such as embroidery. The old pre-Civil War mansions and museums of Natchez and Vicksburg are filled with this beautiful work on display. At night the men often sat and read magazines and books on various topics, such as world travel, the latest discoveries of science, different kinds of literature, or different kinds of novels and short stories.

 

So, continuing to do the fancy-work at the end of the novel suggests that the girl will never marry and never have any kids or a husband to tend to. Stopping doing the work (as in the film?s ending) has a meaning that I?m still not aware of, unless the director thought it would mean to a modern audience that she was going to turn over a new leaf, and go out in some new direction (maybe she would travel to Europe with her Aunt), with the fancy-work representing her mundane typically do-nothing think-nothing womans-type hobby of her earlier years. But I don?t know for sure.

 

After reading over some of the novel and studying the movie, I?m still convinced that both Olivia and Monty are somewhat slow, mentally, and just slightly ****. Since he never can find a job to be successful at, and she can?t find a husband and settles for a life alone as an old maid.

 

Also, it seems that Olivia, at times, was also concerned about the extra money she could get from her father, as concerned as Monty was. Marry him and lose it. Abandon him and get it. After all, a women who has hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, never has to do any work, always has a big grand house to live in, and has plenty of maids and servants to do everything around the house for her.

 

In the book, by the way, Monty is gone for about 20 years and they are both much older at the end. Monty has tried many jobs and professions but failed at all of them, making me think he wasn?t so lazy, but perhaps was a little **** or stupid.

 

I can envision both he and her having a grand time, being married, even with her lesser income from her mother, which was still a lot of money back in those days. So, they would have some free money, and love and romance too, and never have to work at all. :P

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>Wouldnt that have been the screenwriter's choice?

 

To change the ending about the sewing?

 

It could have been the choice of the director, screenwriter, or producer.

 

It depended on who called all the main shots on the film, and that varied from film to film. Such as when Selznick, as a producer, got involved with all his films and called all the shots. Everyone had to do what he said. On the other hand, sometimes a director or screenwriter would demand that everyone else should do what he wanted to do with the story. And sometimes a studio head would issue orders to "change it around a little" so it would not be exactly like the novel or the play, so people wouldn't say, "Oh, I read the book so I don't need to see the movie."

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Fred, you really like this idea of Catherine being "****", don't you?

 

I copied this from the Henry James text, from the very link you posted here a little while ago:

 

"...Catherine was decidedly not clever; she was not quick with her book, nor, indeed, with anything else. She was not abnormally deficient, and she mustered learning enough to acquit herself respectably in conversation with her contemporaries, among whom it must be avowed, however, that she occupied a secondary place. ..."

 

Italics mine.

 

It is possible to not be brilliant, clever, witty, or outstanding in academic achievement, without being "****".

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Rosebette, since you have read the novel I'm interesting in your view on why Wyler (screenwriter, producer) would change that scene as it relates to the embroidery. Ok, maybe I?m reading too much into the change, but since I didn?t know how the novel ended until today, I always felt that by showing Catherine deciding to never do that mundane embroidery (something one does alone), this was a way to tell the audience that she was closing out this chapter of her life.

 

The scene you mention from the novel is a lot sadder.

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>since I didnt know how the novel ended until today

 

I'm glad I provided everyone with a link to the original novel today. :)

 

I'm glad I could be so helpful to everyone. :)

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I can't say I really know the answer to that question. I think lavenderblue's interpretation is a good one. Certainly dramatically clipping the thread to indicate she's done with that "project" creates a strong impression, maybe cutting the "thread" of affection that tied her with Morris? It's also different from the ending of the book, where she continues the embroidery, which is a solitary activity. What makes the film so interesting is that there are clearly some "loose threads" and plenty of room for interpretation, or this "thread" wouldn't be so active!

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While I feel lavenderblue's interpretation of the MOVIE ending has merit an independent, strong and mature women (if that is what Catherine was at the end) has options other than being alone. But yea, that is the romantic in me talking.

 

But thanks for saying "What makes the film so interesting is that there are clearly some "loose threads" and plenty of room for interpretation". I got the feeling that I was the only one that saw some loose threads as it relates to the movie ending (to me the novel is a lot more clear cut).

 

Hey, for all we know Wyler was told to leave a loose thread by the producer just in case the studio wanted to make a sequel!

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misswonderly,

 

I am going to side with Fred on this. I think it can be said that the author made a point of saying she was not abnormal, because quite frankly how can you have a bestseller about an abnormal heroine. But much of the action that occurs in the story really does seem to contradict that statement. She is definitely 'slow' and quite possibly in the sense that she was mentally handicapped. So I do not think Fred is out of bounds with his interpretation. I think what everyone is having a problem with is his use of the word '****,' because it seems very un-politically correct.

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>I think it can be said that the author made a point of saying she was not abnormal, because quite frankly how can you have a bestseller about an abnormal heroine.

 

It's Henry James, for god's sake ! I think he knew what he was doing in the creation of his own characters. In fact, James was much more a "character" novelist than a "plot" novelist. He is known for the complexity of his characters.

 

If he'd wanted to write a story about a "****" woman, he would have. and he would have made it plain that she was such, not skirted around the matter because he wanted to have a "bestseller".

 

While I won't deny that even in the 19th century fiction writers wanted to make money from their work (Dickens is the perfect example of this -he was the "rock star" of the 1860s), I doubt very much that foremost in Henry James' mind when he was writing "Washington Square" was the desire to create a heroine who would be appealing enough to be a commercial success with his readers.

 

It is actually astonishing to me that you and James are so persistent in this notion that Catherine Sloper was mentally challenged (as the PC phrase goes now.)

 

I will say this again: James wanted to make it clear that the heroine of "Washington Square" was "dull", that is to say, completely ordinary in terms of her intellectual abilities. She was neither brilliant nor "****". A person can be lacking in original thinking, wit, and exceptional academic ability without being "****".

 

If you read any part of the novel, you can clearly perceive a very conscious, self-aware woman who may not be quick-witted, but who observes the behaviour of those around her and thinks about it, in a way that I doubt "deficient" human beings are able to.

 

For heaven's sake, I actually quoted the passage where James declares she is NOT "abnormally deficient". And I am positive he did not just add that in the interest of higher sales of the novel.

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I am going to disagree with you again on this point, misswonderly. Yes, you have quoted something from the text, but I think the author contradicted that statement as he developed Catherine dramatically and told her story. She would have to be somewhat abnormally deficient, or else there would be no conflict or room for the character to grow.

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>Yes, you have quoted something from the text, but I think the author >contradicted that statement as he developed Catherine dramatically and >told her story. She would have to be somewhat abnormally deficient, or

>else there would be no conflict or room for the character to grow.

 

Whaaat? Let me ask you, have you ever actually read anything by Henry James? He knew exactly what he was doing, and I have no doubt that his characters were fully formed in his mind before he started his books about them. In fact, it is extremely common for good fiction writers to have such strong characters in their imaginations that they sometimes can't make the character do what they want them to do, in terms of the story.

 

Although far from a favourite of mine, James was an extremely skilled writer and a very intelligent man. There's no way he'd change his mind about his characters part-way through writing his novels.

 

And as for Catherine having to be "somewhat abnormally deficient or else there would be no conflict or room for the character to grow", are you saying that characters in film and fiction have to be "deficient" in order for them to learn or change?

 

I do think, unless you are a Henry James authority, or at least have read one or two of his novels/short stories, that it is presumptious to assume you know what his goals and aspirations were as he was writing his books.

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Henry James wasn't the Nicholas Sparks of his day, writing "bestsellers" to please the crowd. He wrote quite complex novels that expressed his closely observed reflections on character and the social mores of the day.

 

Why would someone have to be "abnormally deficient" to experience growth? Most human beings experience growth and change in their adult lives without being abnormally deficient. I guess by that definition most people, except for rigid personalities who don't change all once they reach maturity, could be seen as ****. If you look at the medical definition of mentally ****, that is a person with an IQ of 75 or below, typically someone not capable of learning beyond the 6th grade level (and sometimes not even able to reach that stage of learning). Catherine is na?ve and socially awkward, perhaps immature, but not ****.

 

The woman who is capable of the kind of self-reflection an resolve that James described is not "****." Fred also seems to think Morris is "****" because he drifts and doesn't get work. Back in the day, we'd call him a "wastrel," a young man of some ability who doesn't settle down an work to his full potential, but lives off the generosity of others. However, there are many people, young and old, both in the past an today, who may not be using their full potential or lacking in goals. For instance, many students graduate from college and drift around for a couple of years trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Are all those people "****"? Do we apply this term to everyone who does not fulfill society's standards of a successful life? Perhaps immature and lacking direction, but "****" is not simply politically incorrect, but inaccurate and offensive in this context.

 

Are we all watching the same movie? Or are we mistaking The Heiress for another movie in which Olivia deHavilland appears, The Light in the Piazza, in which the daughter who suffered a head injury may very well be what we would call mildly ****?

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Thumbs down, misswonderly. I think you are the one who may be rather presumptuous here, trying to interpret (perhaps deliberately misinterpret) my comments about the story and the main character.

 

There should be plenty of room on the boards for divergent viewpoints.

 

Again, I happen to agree with FredCDobbs on the idea that Catherine Sloper is mentally deficient. I feel that de Havilland saw her that way, too, and that seems to be the way she is playing her.

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>She is definitely 'slow' and quite possibly in the sense that she was mentally handicapped. So I do not think Fred is out of bounds with his interpretation. I think what everyone is having a problem with is his use of the word '****,' because it seems very un-politically correct.

 

I apologize to everyone if I offended anyone by the use of this old word. I'm 71 years old and I just can't keep up with the latest list of words that are no longer "allowed".

 

I have often told people that I am "math-****", meaning I'm not very good with math. I'm memory-**** too, in some ways. I NEVER could learn to recite the Gettysburg Address from memory. I still can't. I got an F on a verbal test in about the 6th Grade because I couldn't do it. My feeling was, if it is THAT important, just photocopy it and keep the copy in your purse or wallet. Of course, it wasn't important at all, except to see who in that class had the best memory for short speeches. I became a successful journalist dispite these retardations. But I never could have become a mathemitician or an actor (I could never remember my lines) :)

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> If you look at the medical definition of mentally ****, that is a person with an IQ of 75 or below,

 

Among my friends, 100 is considered to be "****". :)

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Are your friends all geniuses in Mensa? 100 is the average IQ. I used to call myself "technically ****" because I'm not good at technical things, but began to stop doing so because one of the places where I work is an educational environment where there may be people who work with the disabled.

 

I never thought of Olivia deHavilland's portrayal as that of a **** person. In fact, I believe the lady would be insulted by that interpretation.

 

Edited by: rosebette on Feb 13, 2014 9:29 PM

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>I never interpreted Olivia deHavilland's portrayal as that of a **** person. In fact, I believe the lady would be insulted by that evaluation.

 

How do you know she would be insulted by it? She might be intrigued that people saw other dimensions in the performance that she may (or may not) have been suggesting given the limitations of the production code.

 

Giving voice to characters that suffer mental setbacks could be a rewarding thing for an actor or actress. It shouldn't be considered insulting at all.

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>If you look at the medical definition of mentally ****, that is a person with an IQ of 75 or below,

 

>Among my friends, 100 is considered to be "****". :)

 

Well, I certainly hope Fred's friends are at least kind to him.

 

(...ya know, you people REALLY need to stop settin' me up like this around here!!!)

 

LOL

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