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DownGoesFrazier

A LETTER TO THREE WIVES

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

 

The girl was so dumb, when she knew Morris was going off to get them a glass of punch, and some old man came up to her and asked her to dance, she said yes and completely forgot about Morris and the punch.

 

And when he came back with the punch, she had no idea what to do and just kept dancing and looking at Morris with the punch, while having a perplexed look on her face because this situation was just too baffling for her to comprehend or to know what to do about it.

 

That is dumb.

 

The first guy who danced with her made an excuse to get away from her and he didn't want to have anything else to do with her, and she had no one listed in her dance notebook to dance with because no other man but Morris and the old guy wanted to dance with her.

 

I think Morris wasn't very sharp either, thus his failure in business and relationships, and he had no one on his dance list either.

 

She meets Morris, a total stranger, at a dance and a couple of days later she is in love with him and agrees to marry him, without knowing anything at all about him. That is dumb.

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I agree, Fred. She is not depicted as a very bright gal in this story. Her father's treatment of her makes one wonder if he knew she was off when she was born. Perhaps her mother had great intellect and by comparison, Catherine just never would be able to measure up-- and the father knew that and wasted no time berating her for it.

 

I think that is why it is such a sad and difficult story to watch play out-- not because of her immature relationship with Morris-- which is quite nearly a subplot to this other larger story about a father who believes he has an idiot daughter.

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>The girl was so dumb

 

Maybe by your standards.

 

Some of us see a socially awkward young woman who has on one hand, sheltered by her father and the other, the victim of his cruel remarks.

 

She is not as pretty, as witty, as social graceful as her mother was and to the father this is not only an injustice against him but some kind of cruel trick of fate.

 

She is an embarrassment to her father and rather than accept that his daughter is rather plain compared to her mother, he does all he can to stifle her development thinking that it will be for her good to remain on the sidelines of life. Since she is not beautiful, witty, gracious like her mother, she is unworthy of love.

 

Unlike Charlotte Vail, who had support around her (Dr. J, and even her sister, her niece who eventually came to see her as a confident and secure woman), Catherine had no one. Her aunt tries but is also hung up on the idea that a person must be beautiful on the outside to be worthy of love.

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Thank You Lynn, that's what I've been saying all along. Catherine was not dumb or mentally challenged. Catherine was clever enough to exact her cold and CALCULATED revenge on her father while he was dying. She was also clever and CALCULATING enough to make Morris believe she would marry him so that he would come back later and she could exact her desertion of him as he had done to her. Those are not the actions of a mentally challenged or dumb person.

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>Those are not the actions of a mentally challenged or dumb person.

 

The director simply changed her personality for no vaid reason. Had she been so wise and intelligent in the first half of the movie, she would have had lots of boyfriends and she would have been much more clever. And we would have no movie.

 

This other girl had a bad mean father, yet she was not stupid or ****:

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaNo_Asmmag*

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A mentally challenged person can enact some sort of revenge-- it may not be entirely beyond their abilities to follow-through on some sort of vengeance scheme. I have an aunt like this, in fact. My uncle has spent years berating her, treating her in a most cavalier fashion in front of family and their employees, when she does something dopey. But she is aware that he has made fun of her and it hurts her to the point that she tries to get back at him. She still has enough wits about her to concoct a scheme and execute it.

 

In terms of Olivia's characterization, I think she is a highly intelligent actress and is almost winking at us through her portrayal. She knows that Catherine has severe psychological issues and is extremely impaired when it comes to emotional matters. In some scenes, when it seems like Olivia is really winking hard, the story plays like a black comedy.

 

In an earlier film, TO EACH HIS OWN, she plays it much more melodramatically (under Mitchell Leisen's direction). But here, it is a more in-the-know depiction, that we cannot really take this character's plight too seriously, because if we did it would be rather absurd. And yet, because we want to take it seriously and we do get sucked into the absurdity, it becomes that much more tragic. That is the mastery of Olivia's performance, and why in my view she received the Oscar. She is taking an unlikable character in an unlikable situation and making us root for her, despite all the strange trappings.

 

Perhaps it is because of this paradox that people are having a tough time accepting the theories set forth by FredCDobbs in this thread. The audience watches THE HEIRESS and really feels like they can almost identify with Catherine Sloper. But then when it is spelled out that she may be mentally deficient, it is almost like being told your sister or your daughter is not quite right, and that's not easy to accept. Instead, we want to accept that Morris is the abnormal one, because then we do not have to deal with how unnatural Catherine may be.

 

We are also dealing with the fact that people have a major hang-up about the word '****.' It's like the n word of the mental health community.

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Yes, Dr Sloper as I've pointed out numerous times on this thread was one of the Masters that taught her.Catherine was an unloved, brow beaten girl by her father. She was made to feel unworthy, unattractive, plain, dull etc. We've gone over this on at least 11 pages on this thread. Catherine was not stupid or "****" . We watch a shy, innocent, socially awkward girl, become a woman who will no longer allow anyone to take advantage of her. She knows her self-worth in the end.

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Lavender,

 

Thanks!

 

I still fnd it fascinating that some here see the problem as Catherine who they view as too stupid/too dumb for not knowing how to act around men or in social situations.

 

But, her father, who should love her unconditionally has instead verbally let her know what a failure she is and has been since she was born. And then there is Monty, who loves her for her money.

 

They are just men behaving like men do. No problem there.

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Here is another mentally deficient girl in an old 19th Century novel and movie:

 

Mary Bennet of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

 

Z_PP_09_SPARKLE_MARSHA-1.jpg

 

 

From Wiki:

 

Mary Bennet is the only plain (not pretty) Bennet sister, and rather than join in some of the family activities, she mostly reads and practices music, although she is often impatient to display her accomplishments. She works hard for knowledge and accomplishment, but she has neither genius nor taste. Like her two younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia, she is seen as being silly by Mr Bennet. Mary is not very intelligent but thinks of herself as being wise. When Mr Collins is refused by Lizzy, Mrs Bennet hopes Mary may be prevailed upon to accept him and we are led to believe that Mary has some hopes in this direction but neither of them know that he is already engaged to Charlotte Lucas by this time. Mary does not appear often in the novel.

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So because Mary Bennett is plain looking and she has neither genius nor taste she is, in your words,a "mentally deficient girl"

 

Neither she or her mother knows that Mr. Collins, who was turned away by Mary's sister Lizzy, is engaged to another woman.

 

So, Mary and her mother are stupid for not knowing that Mr. Collins is engaged but no problem with Mr. Collins for being deceitful in that matter and not coming clean from the get go.

 

Interesting that it is the women who are the stupid, deficient ones and the men who treat them shabbily, hey, they're just men.

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>So, Mary and her mother are stupid for not knowing that Mr. Collins is engaged but no problem with Mr. Collins for being deceitful in that matter and not coming clean from the get go.

 

I don't know what you are talking about or who you are talking to. You are making stuff up here that makes no sense at all. No one has said anything at all about Mary's mother being "stupid".

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You know, Fred, I'm really curious to know if you've actually read any of the literary works these movies are based on. Or anything by these writers at all.

 

Now, leaving aside wikipedia, which I know you love, have you ever read Henry James, Jane Austen, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Robert Browning?

Continually quoting from wikipedia and using it as your primary resource only confirms to me that you haven't actually read any of these authors.

 

Also: You seem to think being socially awkward, being slow to make decisions, and a lack of quick wit is the same as having an intellectual disability (or being "****" as you call it.)

By your definition, Albert Einstein was "****".

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I was posting in response to you, Fred and your post about *Pride and Prejudice*.

 

 

In that you called Mary Bennett stupid and deficient and the description included that she was plain and not very intelligent. It was also hinted at that despite her studies she wasn't very smart. The rest of the blurb hints that Mary is too stupid to realize that Mr. Collins is already engaged and since her mother pushed her towards Mr. Collins hoping that they might spark, the mother must be stupid by default for not knowing Mr. Collins was engaged.

 

It seems in this thread that the men in these movies and books can treat women horribly but it is the women who are the problem and are called stupid and mentally deficient.

 

Don't know how to tell you, but the men in these movies are even bigger problem than this so-called problem affecting the women who are socially awkward, not always pretty and not wise in the ways of the world.

 

One of the reasons the women in these films are like that is because of the way they have been treated by the men around them.

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>you called Mary Bennett stupid

 

The Wiki review says:

 

"Mary is not very intelligent but thinks of herself as being wise."

 

The scene of her in the film is designed to make her look silly and stupid. These are facts of life and you have to live with them:

 

Z_PP_09_SPARKLE_MARSHA-1.jpg

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By the way ,someone on this thread (and I'm sorry to say, I don't remember who, and as the thread's so long I don't want to scroll back until I find it) mentioned the film *Marty* and pointed out that Ernest Borgnine's character is plain (or, in the case of men, "unattractive" ?) and very ordinary, not a brilliant conversationalist and shy and awkward around women. He still lives with his mother, even though he's well past 30, and he does not have graceful social skills.

Sound familiar? Change a couple of details and we could be talking about Catherine Sloper (ok, she's younger that 30).

 

The poster who cited *Marty* pointed out that he was a good example of a character who's all of the above, and yet nobody would say he was "mentally deficient".

 

By the way, interestingly enough, *Marty* is on tonight on TCM at 10:15. I plan to watch it, haven't seen it for ages.

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>The Wiki review says:

 

>"Mary is not very intelligent but thinks of herself as being wise."

 

>The scene of her in the film is designed to make her look silly and stupid. These are facts of life and you have to live with them:

 

No, I don't because I don't believe that girls or women who may not be intelligent in the ways of the world are stupid or mentally deficient the way you do.

 

Women (young and old) aren't all pretty, not all women are socially graceful, not all women know how to react around a man but that certainly doesn't equate to being stupid or mentally deficient.

 

That's just being human, not being stupid, **** or mentally deficient. Sorry, FredC, but that dog just won't hunt as my mother used to say.

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Sorry but I view the point you're making now about the two men in Catherine life as downright silly. You're using a debate technique that is a very weak straw man. The old 'well the men are so and so,, well,,,, that means Catherine isn't so and so'. This is a weak straw man technique because BOTH points can be true. I.e. just because the men are a-holes doesn?t mean Catherine isn?t ?mental?.

 

Anyhow, I agree that Catherine doesn't appear to have a defined, clinical, mental health problem. But many of her actions as shown in the movie are what I would call the acts of someone that isn't very intelligent. Some people call that stupid.

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I am glad someone brought MARTY up. He (the character as played by Ernest Borgnine) is certainly socially inept, and I would go so far as to say that he probably suffers a few mental deficiencies as well. He would be very much like Catherine Sloper in that regard, despite the differences in age and ethnic background. I am talking about how he is presented in the film, I do not know if he was seen less 'deficient' in the television version, though I doubt it. The screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, had a point to make-- and in many ways, he is laying the foundation for Tom Hanks and Forrest Gump (that's another subtopic).

 

But whether Marty has handicaps of his own or not, it is somewhat irrelevant to a discussion about Catherine Sloper. These characters exist in two different universes. A discussion of THE HEIRESS should not involve characters that appear in outside stories, unless they were written by the same author, or played by the same performer, as a continuing thesis of what is seen with Catherine in this story.

 

As I stated earlier, I think in some ways de Havilland's work as Catherine Sloper is an extension of the ideas she began presenting with Melanie Hamilton, about privileged women who are not fully equipped to handle the complexities of an adult world. Even after THE HEIRESS, she continues this with roles in MY COUSIN RACHEL and THE AMBASSADOR'S DAUGHTER. It isn't until she reaches LIBEL that she lets other costars take on this sort of role-- Dirk Bogarde as a psychologically handicapped prisoner of war in LIBEL; and Yvette Mimieux as a slow, somewhat dimwitted daughter in A LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.

 

What's interesting about the films at this stage of Olivia's career is that it can be suggested that the mental deficiencies played by Olivia's earlier characters, like Catherine Sloper, have been transferred. They have been dramatically and thematically handed over to her husband, as personified by Bogarde, or handed down to her daughter, as personified by Mimieux. So although Olivia's character is no longer a split personality herself (as seen in THE SNAKE PIT and THE DARK MIRROR), her husband (Bogarde) now has the split personality-- three distinct identities in fact; and her daughter (Mimieux) has absorbed some of the other characteristics. As an actress, Miss de Havilland specifically chose these kinds of stories because she had a personal thesis to convey to audiences.

 

What we see in MARTY does not have direct bearing on Miss de Havilland's selections and performances. But it does have a bearing on Borgnine's dramatic thesis, as observed by his own body of work. Both de Havilland and Borgnine have honed in on a kind of mentally deficient character and perfected it dramatically, over the course of many films. Along the way, they both took Oscars home for it. It is their calling card, if you will, either by choice or due to typecasting (they became specialists in these kinds of portrayals).

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There is no comparison between Marty and Catherine Sloper. Marty is only handicapped in comparison to the usual lead characters that one saw in films up until 1955. Chyefsky's strength was urban realism, and Marty was a normal guy who just didn't have that much going for him in terms of looks, brains, skills with women, etc. Catherine was definitely socially inept, given her envioronment and station in society..

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Regardless of whether one views Catherine as just socially 'off' or that she has a more clinical mental defect I found this statement very poignant:

That is the mastery of Olivia's performance, and why in my view she received the Oscar. She is taking an unlikable character in an unlikable situation and making us root for her, despite all the strange trappings.

 

I do find myself rooting for Catherine, but just barely. With a different actress and director my feeling toward Catherine could easily of been along the lines of ?hey, dummy, snap out of it!!!?. Instead I view the men in her life harshly. The scene when her father is dying and asks the maid to ask her to visit him: When Catherine says no I?m still sympathizing with Catherine but again just barely. i.e. I?m not clapping and saying ?right on Catherine, stick to your guns?, but more along the lines of ?wow, that is being very cold,,, but yea, I understand why you?re not letting go?.

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I think that TopBilled is misinterpreting both the remarks made about Marty in relationship to Catherine Sloper in The Heiress and also that she is misinterpreting the character of Melanie Hamilton.

 

First the comparison to Marty was to demonstrate the somewhat misogynist characterization of a woman with average intelligence and limited social skills with the opposite sex as mentally deficient or "****" by some of the posters, while a male exhibiting some of the same characteristics is just seen as an ordinary guy, and maybe even a beloved character.

 

Secondly, to identify Melanie Hamilton and de Havilland's work as Catherine Sloper as an extension of the ideas she began presenting with Melanie Hamilton as part of a trajectory of characters played by DeHavilland who were "privileged women who are not fully equipped to handle the complexities of an adult world" is a major misreading of Melanie's character. DeHavilland said once in an interview that Cukor once said in directing her as Melanie to remember that Melanie truly means everything she says. Melanie is presented as a completely sincere, honest person who is able to see the true reality within everyone she meets. This is exhibited in her treatment of Belle Watling, a prostitute and an outcast in decent society. It's clear in the end that Melanie's not "duped" by Scarlett, but that she understands that Ashley doesn't truly love Scarlett and therefore, Melanie doesn't feel threatened by Scarlett. Melanie consistently shows quiet strength and compassion, reaching out to others when they are in need; observe the scene with Rhett Butler after the death of Bonnie, when he is on the edge of mental collapse. She is brave throughout the movie -- working in the confederate hospital, helping Scarlett after she shoots the Yankee soldier, risking a pregnancy that ultimately costs her life. She is even described by other characters as being brave. What makes Melanie interesting is that she's not really the "mealy-mouthed" submissive creature Scarlett assumes her to be -- she is real with everyone she meets.

 

The other assumption is that towards the end of her career, deHavilland had the same choices that she had earlier. Are her characters in Libel or Light in the Piazza her choice or the director's? What roles were available for a "mature" actress? Dirk Borgarde gets to play the jucier role in Libel because he is now the up and coming star, not because Olivia chose that. You are also assuming that everything about these movies were the actress' perogative. Even the interpretation of the character in The Heiress is as much Wyler's as hers. She herself stated that Wyler created the environment on the set that would elicit the performance he envisioned.

 

Edited by: rosebette on Feb 15, 2014 3:14 PM

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>First the comparison to Marty was to demonstrate the somewhat misogynist characterization of a woman with average intelligence and limited social skills with the opposite sex as mentally deficient or "****" by some of the posters, while a male exhibiting some of the same characteristics is just seen as an ordinary guy, and maybe even a beloved character.

 

I think most people can figure out why MARTY was brought in to the conversation. It was done to flip Fred's argument around, to say that his claims about Catherine can be applied to Marty. It seemed like the wrong road to go down, quite frankly, because it is suggesting that 'hey if you slam a female character I like, then I can slam a male character you may like.' So when I returned to the thread, I tried to steer us away from that and on to the merits of each character as belonging wholly to the authors and performers who made them come to life. Instead, rosebette, you seem to want to revisit this ****-for-tat argument, and I really feel it is extremely counter-productive to a logical and sensitive discussion.

 

I also anticipated that you (or someone like you) would come on and try to tear apart my reading of Olivia's work in GONE WITH THE WIND. For some classic film fans, these are sacred cows, and how dare I mis-interpret that. Actually, I do not feel I am mis-interpreting anything, but that I am re-interpretating those characterizations and performances in a way that is just as valid as any other previous readings. These are snapshots in time just as much as they are examples of fluid and thematic film careers.

 

And as for Olivia being stuck with less juicier roles later in her film career, I simply do not buy that. In LIBEL, she has some very quiet and powerful close-ups in those courtroom scenes that put her on an equal playing field with Bogarde whose character is on the witness stand. Just because she has less dialogue, that does not mean she has a less showier role or that she is second banana to a younger leading actor. In an even later film, which I did not even discuss yet, LADY IN A CAGE, she has a very juicy role-- and in that one, there are actual bars (the bars of a cage) that continue the theme that she is playing characters who are trapped not only physically but psychologically.

 

What we are really leading into here, which is something I want to push considerably-- is that when TCM schedules a Star of the Month, it should not be because these performers have a slew of titles in the Turner Library or titles that are easy to access from other studios. A Star of the Month tribute should be just as carefully presented as something like the Immigrants series or the Arab images on film series (whatever that was called, you know what I mean). It should be that when we conduct a survey of a star's career, we look at their own individual thesis as an artist. Olivia should definitely be a Star of the Month where we look at how she kept playing fragile women who were often eclipsed by circumstance, fear and in many cases mental deficiency or illness-- that is her speciality and it deserves a specific, refocused look.

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I'm not "slamming" Marty. I like Marty very much; I am just saying that many of the qualities attributed to him -- social awkwardness, being dominated by a parent, and an average intellect -- are similar to Catherine's, yet he is not judged to be "defective."

 

Topbilled, you certainly have the right to interpret Melanie in your way, but I prefer to interpret characters based on the evidence that is presented in a film. If you can present some evidence of a scene or dialogue in which Melanie is another portrait of one of the "privileged women who are not fully equipped to handle the complexities of an adult world," I'm willing to listen to that argument. However, I don't see evidence for that in GWTW. In fact, that doesn't seem to be a theme that is traced in Melanie's narrative (although it's certainly one in Ashley's, who can't seem to adapt to life after the Civil War).

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