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DownGoesFrazier

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES

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

 

You the man Fred.

 

dancing-guy-smiley-emoticon.gif

 

Jake in the Heartland

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LOL

 

Yeah, this baby went even more askew than usual, didn't it?!

 

(...maybe this thread's title should be changed to read: "A LETTER TO THREE **** HEIRESSES"!!!)

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rosebette:

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

 

TopBilled:

"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."

 

Wow, this thread is getting twisted into some bizarre black hole of reality that is beginning to have no connection with Henry James, his character, or the fact that the sky is blue.

Since there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that neither Henry James nor William Wyler saw the Catherine Sloper character as even slightly "****", it would indeed be insulting for Olivia de Havilland to have people believe she was playing the role that way.

A "mental setback" is hardly the same thing as having an exceptionally low IQ.

 

And while those with developmental challenges are to be respected and treated the same as everyone else as much as possible, I venture to say that someone who does not live with an intellectual disability would indeed be insulted if they were perceived as having one.

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"Giving voice to characters that suffer mental setbacks" is exactly what deHavilland did in The Snake Pit, when she played a young wife suffering from mental illness. I don't believe that this is what she was doing in The Heiress. In an interview she gave about her career, she describes Catherine Sloper as someone who feels inadequate, unloved, and uncomfortable in her own home. In fact, she talks about how Ralph Richardson, by playing with his gloves during key scenes, would unnerve her, and that Wyler allowed this to increase the tension in the scenes between them. DeHavilland describes Wyler and Richardson creating what you might consider a "hostile" work environment so that she would feel inadequate, the way Catherine feels: "None of the two gentlemen speaking, no one paying any attention to me at all, and it is entirely possible that Willie did that deliberately to make me feel sort of inadequate and sort of uninteresting and well, certainly not the focus of attention." This supports the idea that The Heiress is not about a person with a mental deficiency or mental illness, but someone trapped in an emotionally cold environment where she felt "less than." If Catherine Sloper was mentally challenged, ****, disabled, or however you may term it, how does that explain the calculation, dignity, and resolve that she shows in the last scene? Could a mentally disabled person change that dramatically? If she were mentally challenged, wouldn't she just be "taken in" by Morris' character again?

 

Instead of diagnosing or seeing meanings that aren't there, go back to the film or the text.

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Yep, well said, rosebette and Miss W.

 

Gotta say I'm a little "mentally-challenged" MYSELF here, because for the life of me, I can't understand how some folks who have been on this earth long enough to have learned the difference between the concepts of "intellectually-challenged" and "emotionally-challenged", haven't somehow learned this difference.

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>Gotta say I'm a little "mentally-challenged" MYSELF here, because for the life of me, I can't understand how some folks who have been on this earth long enough to have learned the difference between the concepts of "intellectually-challenged" and "emotionally-challenged", haven't somehow learned this difference.

 

See what that coke did to ya?

 

Jake in the Heartland

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LOL

 

Not bad, Jake...not bad at all !

 

(...ya see, I KNEW you had a sense o' humor down deep inside ya somewhere!) ;)

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>If Catherine Sloper was mentally challenged, ****, disabled, or however you may term it, how does that explain the calculation, dignity, and resolve that she shows in the last scene? Could a mentally disabled person change that dramatically?

 

Hey, it's a mooveeeee. Anything can happen in a mooveeeee.

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>Wow, this thread is getting twisted into some bizarre black hole of reality that is beginning to have no connection

 

Haha, may I add to it? I want to go back to the embroidery....

 

In the past, embroidery was the first thing taught to young girls. It was to teach good sewing skills (for mending, sewing) that would be expected of you as a good wife & mother. Samplers were exhibited throughout the house to advertise this to others.

 

Catherine is not mending or sewing, but creating decorative crewel works, pretty frivolous busywork-not anything of practicality. So the embroidery that she does throughout the story illustrates that she is honing her "skills" for marriage in a symbolic fashion. (servants mend and she has the means to buy clothing)

 

Could her snipping the thread symbolize her realization of the pointlessness of "training to be good wife & mother" to her? Saying it was her "last one" symbolize the changing of her goal from love and marriage to one of quiet solitude?

 

I also like the interpretation of "snipping her life". That's what makes movies like this one great- visual symbolism.

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>"Giving voice to characters that suffer mental setbacks" is exactly what deHavilland did in The Snake Pit, when she played a young wife suffering from mental illness.

 

Now that statement I do agree with...but...I do not think de Havilland limited herself to that bag of tricks for one film. At this point in her career, she did seem to select stories that featured women who were quite psychologically handicapped. THE DARK MIRROR has her playing twins, and one of them is very abnormal. THE SNAKE PIT has her playing a very abnormal character, and I think in a subtle way, she is applying this same type of abnormality to her characterization of Catherine Sloper, building on something that she found deep in the role, whether it was fully fleshed out in the book or not.

 

We have to remember that the story did evolve a bit from novel to stage play to screenplay. It would be interesting if there was footage of how Wendy Hiller played it on Broadway, because my guess is that she did it a bit more British and uptight, while Olivia really taps into the emotional and intellectual lows of the character and her plight.

 

As I write this, something occurs to me. I think all of it probably started with her portrayal of Melanie Hamilton. Even Melanie seems a bit off, too easily duped by Scarlett and a victim of a southern belle's machinations. Surely, if Melanie had grown up in the south around a bunch of flamboyant femmes, she would have seen other scheming vixens and had been a bit more wise and less opaque about the ways of the world.

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Yes, Fred, I know that. But someone aways back on this thread said that Wyler changed the ending from the novel. Did he really do that? (I dont know) Was the film different from the screenplay? (that I dont know either).....

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TopBilled wrote earlier in this thread (about Catherine Sloper):

 

>See, I don't read it that way at all. I don't think the end of the movie was the end of their relationship. I think she just taught him a good lesson that night, and knowing him, he tried again and knocked on the door each night until she felt he had changed enough to let him back in.

 

>I think at the end of this film she has reached a point where she is asserting herself. She is sexier than she was before, and now they are more evenly matched. Feminism is about the balance of power and a woman turning the tables on abusive male adolescence. She has done that here...

 

TopBilled, How can you continue in your insistence that Catherine is developmentally challenged, when you yourself cite these examples of her decision to turn Morris away?

Many many "challenged" people are smarter than others give them credit for; there is still a lot of ignorance around this segment of the population.

Still, having said that, do you not think it unlikely that a "****" person would have the complexity of thought to manipulate the situation with Morris as she does, and as you yourself state she does quite clearly?

That kind of psychological thinking ("...until she felt he had changed enough to let him back in..." ) usually goes with people of normal intelligence.

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misswonderly,

 

In my humble opinion, you are really going too far with this. I do not remember seeing so many little 'attacks' from you on this board before. You seem to have been deliberately insulting Fred and now me for siding with Fred. I can continue to say that Catherine is psychologically handicapped because that is how I see her when I watch the film. I am sorry you do not agree with this assessment, but in all honesty, no amount of badgering or misapplied quotes from you is going to change my views on this. I am very disappointed in your unwillingness to allow a divergent viewpoint on this subject. Again, another thumbs down to you.

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Ok, I'm beginning to wonder if all this is a question of semantics.

 

There is a lot of misunderstanding around and misuse of the word "****". Which is now usually referred to as "developmentally challenged" or having an "intellectual disability".

 

The term "****" and "deficient" has been thrown around here with little heed to its actual meaning.

 

If all along you have simply been saying that Catherine Sloper is "psychologically handicapped", meaning she has has "issues" with self-esteem, extreme shyness, and a difficulty in being assertive due to a profound lack of confidence in her own judgment, than we are in agreement.

To me, a "psychological handicap" is very different from an "intellectual disability".

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"The Heiress" just finished a run on Broadway:

http://www.theheiressonbroadway.com/

 

The web site for the Broadway play includes an excellent discussion guide with background on the characters, the world the play takes place in, relationships between the characters, etc...

It's a PDF document:

http://www.theheiressonbroadway.com/files/6813/5396/8168/HEIRESS.DiscussionGuide.pdf

 

TCM's article on the film, written by Frank Miller, states that Olivia de Havilland saw the Broadway play in 1948 and was inspired by it to play Catherine.

De Havilland then approached William Wyler about making a film:

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/77655/The-Heiress/articles.html

 

As for "A Letter to Three Wives," there's a chapter in the book "Women's Film and Female Experience: 1940-1950" by Andrea Walsh that deals with the characters in the film.

The chapter is titled "Suspicion Explored and Denied:

'A Letter to Three Wives' (1949)" and starts on page 185 (online at Google Books):

http://books.google.ca/books?id=GZDJq2AQq3cC&q=alettertothreewives#v=snippet&q=suspicion%20explored%20and%20denied%20a%20letter%20to%20three%20wives&f=false

 

As an aside, I think it's sort of humorous that so many men here on the message board are commenting on female characters in these films.

What do the female message board users think of the female characters??

 

Anyway, just trying to be helpful...

 

P.S. This isn't a direct reply to you, Miss W. Just a general reply to all...

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Well after read this "James was an extremely skilled writer and a very intelligent man", I was going to post 'thank you!', but I see you're talking some dude named Henry!

 

As for Catherine; Based on her character in the movie I don't see her as being "abnormally deficient" just socially 'off''.

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That's funny ! I did actually wonder if you'd thought I meant you. But then, I always write your name in lower case (because it's how you write your screen name.)

 

Could be everyone's all argued out here. I know I am.

 

If we were to continue a discussion of *The Heiress*, I would like to say that with a father like that, who wouldn't be a little socially "off"?

 

Ralph Richardson does a marvelous job as Catherine's cold critical unloving father. But it always breaks my heart to see him treating his daughter that way.

The scene where she finally realizes that her father does not love her is one of the saddest in film.

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Ralph Richardson is wonderful in The Heiress (aside from Olivia de Havilland's scene stealing concerns about him). However, a very large part of me wishes that Basil Rathbone would have been allowed to continue from his stage success as Dr. Sloper in the film version.

 

Among other things, it would have been an on screen reunion of Olivia and Basil from the Adventures of Robin Hood. (Ironically, there has been some talk, whether true or not I don't know, that Errol Flynn turned down the role of Morris for the first version before the part was re-thought by Wyler and awarded to Monty Clift).

 

Now that really would have been something if it had happened. The three leads from Robin Hood reunited eleven years later in The Heiress, all in far different roles from before, obviously.

 

1948a.jpg

 

Rathbone on stage as Dr. Sloper

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>Yes, Fred, I know that. But someone aways back on this thread said that Wyler changed the ending from the novel. Did he really do that? (I dont know) Was the film different from the screenplay? (that I dont know either).....

 

Yes the original book is different from the movie version, and different in several ways. I think the book tends to be more complex and it also tends to blame many of the various problems on each of the main characters, the father, Morris, Catharine, and her Aunt.

 

For example, Morris admits to the Aunt that he IS interested in the money and he does love Catherine.

 

Here is an exchange between the Aunt and Moris:

 

"Ah, you know what it is, then?" said Mrs. Penniman, shaking her finger at him. "He pretends that you like--you like the money."

 

Morris hesitated a moment; and then, as if he spoke advisedly, "I DO like the money!"

 

"Ah, but not--but not as he means it. You don't like it more than Catherine?"

 

He leaned his elbows on the table and buried his head in his hands. "You torture me!" he murmured. And, indeed, this was almost the effect of the poor lady's too importunate interest in his situation.

 

In the book, Morris doesn't desert Catherine, they have a long discussion in which he explains that he must go to New Orleans on a big business deal worth several thousand dollars to him. He is definitely trying to work and make his own money. But Catherine demands that they get married and that she should go with him, but he doesn't want her to go since he is going to be concentrating mainly on a complex business deal involving cotton sales, and feels he can't combine a business trip with a vacation for her and a happy honeymoon.

 

He goes to New Orleans without her and is gone for 20 years, and for a while, he winds up in Europe trying different businesses. He gets married in Europe but that marriage doesn't work out. All during that time he tries many professions and fails at all of them. When he finally returns and meets with Catherine again, all he tries to do with her is remain friends with her, and she rejects his friendship. The father had died and has cut her out of most of his will, even though she doesn't marry Morris.

 

Morris leaves her house after that last visit, and the Aunt follows, asking him to return again, but he says he doesn't want to ever return to that house and he thought Catherine treated him rudely and he doesn't want to have anymore to do with her.

 

In the book, Morris has this discussion with the Aunt:

 

Morris took no notice of her question; he stood musing an instant, with his hat on. "But why the deuce, then, would she never marry (anyone in 20 years)?"

 

"Yes--why indeed?" sighed Mrs. Penniman. And then, as if from a sense of the inadequacy of this explanation, "But you will not despair--you will come back?"

 

"Come back? Damnation!" And Morris Townsend strode out of the house, leaving Mrs. Penniman staring.

 

Catherine, meanwhile, in the parlour, picking up her morsel of fancy-work, had seated herself with it again--for life, as it were.

 

That's the ending of the book, and it seems that all four main characters make bad choices and mistakes during the entire affair.

 

The Aunt is a meddler all through the story, who tries to manipulate the relationships between Morris, Catherine, and her father, although both Morris and Catherine want her to keep out of it and leave them alone. Morris and Catherine suspects the Aunt is causing more trouble than is needed in an already complex situation. The father is far more cruel and insulting to Catherine for a longer period of time.

 

Here is the book:

http://www2.newpaltz.edu/~hathawar/washsq.html

 

 

Here is the movie:

THE HEIRESS (1949)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHK_rw9RNBs

 

The movie, on the other hand, makes it seem as if Morris is only concerned about getting to the money and quickly abandons Catherine so her father won't disinherit her. He goes to California for a couple of years to try to make a business success of himself, but he fails at that and returns to Catherine and tries again to marry her, after her father has died and she has inherited all of the father's money.

 

So, in the movie, the blame is placed on both Morris and the Father, while in the book all four of the main characters have serious conflicts and the whole thing turns into a fiasco, with no particular blame placed on Morris, and part of the blame is placed on all four characters.

 

So, the story in the book is complex, while in the movie it is simple and Morris gets most of the blame.

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Has anyone seen the later movie, *Washington Square*, with Albert Finney and Jennifer Jason Leigh? Forgive me if this has already been mentioned but in that movie the story starts much earlier. The midwife holds the baby up for Mr Sloper to hold, but he walks right by her and tends to his wife who is bed having just given birth. Olivia never had a chance with her father. Later Olivia, about nine or ten years old, tries to play the violin before a few visitors at home but **** right there on the spot. She is terrified at the possible disapproval of her father. The reasons for Olivia's awkwardness is less obvious at first with Wyler's version, Olivia is already an adult. There is that early moment when Olivia presents herself to her father wanting his opinion on her new dress. Her father says something to effect that the dress would have looked so much better on his late wife and Olivia's face just falls. The lack of support of love and support from her father is less dramatized in the Wyler version but it is still there. There is no question in either version that the source of Olivia's problems are with the father, it's embedded right there in the story. This business of Asperger's or congenital conditions, what ever word is used, is just odd.

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*TikiSoo* wrote:

>In the past, embroidery was the first thing taught to young girls. It was to teach good sewing skills (for mending, sewing) that would be expected of you as a good wife & mother. Samplers were exhibited throughout the house to advertise this to others....Catherine is not mending or sewing, but creating decorative crewel works, pretty frivolous busywork-not anything of practicality. So the embroidery that she does throughout the story illustrates that she is honing her "skills" for marriage in a symbolic fashion. (servants mend and she has the means to buy clothing) ...Could her snipping the thread symbolize her realization of the pointlessness of "training to be good wife & mother" to her? Saying it was her "last one" symbolize the changing of her goal from love and marriage to one of quiet solitude?

 

I like that.

 

*Fred* : Thanks for the overview on the novel. As represented, it would have been really difficult to remain absolutely faithful to the novel, at least for Hollywood. The BBC in one of their mini-series productions could have nailed it as is, I'm sure.

 

Edited by: laffite on Feb 14, 2014 12:24 PM

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So another major difference between the book and the movie is the time that passes before Morris comes back. In the movie I don't recall any specific number of years being mentioned. Based on the looks of the actors I assumed less than 5 years. E.g. the make-up department didn't go out of their way to age the actors. Even young looking Monty would look older after 20 years.

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>As for Catherine; Based on her character in the movie I don't see her as being "abnormally deficient" just socially 'off''.

 

It's surprising to me that there are some here who think Catherine is mentally deficient.

 

Catherine has grown up with a father, who from the beginning of her life, has told her that she will never, ever be the woman her mother was.

 

This is a man, a father, who should love his daughter unconditionally and yet, he never misses an opportunity to let her know how she just never measures up and never will.

 

And she's the one with the problem?

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