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Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)

Henry James’s Washington Square, a staple of our Writing New York syllabus, is the subject of the Mercantile Library’s “Big Read” program this year. “The Big Read” lasts for the entire month of April and kicks off this afternoon at NYU’s Lillian Vernon Creative Wrtiers’ House with a panel discussion called “Washington Square: A Novel of New York.”

You can view the entire schedule for the month by clicking here.

Bryan and I wanted to call your attention to a couple of events that are taking place this weekend on the NYU campus. This first is a screening of two film adaptations of the novel at the Cantor Center on 8th Street and University Place. At 6:00 p.m. on Friday, you can see William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress, starrring starring Olivia de Havilland, Ralph Richardson, and Montgomery Clift.We frequently show clips from the film in class and wrote about it last year here on the blog. At intermission, Susan Griffin (University of Louisville), editor of the Henry James Review and of the forthcoming edition of Washington Square from Cambridge University Press (part of a long overdue edition of James’s complete works), will say a few words about film adaptations of James’s work. Griffin is the author of Henry James Goes to the Movies (University press of Kentucky, 2001). Following her remarks, there will be a showing of the 1997 adaptation Washington Square, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin, and Maggie Smith. The screening is free and open to the public. You can find out more information at: http://www.nyu.edu/ticketcentral/movies.

On Saturday night, our friends at the Metropolitan Playhouse will be staging a reading of The Heiress at 8:00 p.m. at the University Hall Commons (110 E 14th Street, between 4th and 3rd Avenues). Note the time of 8:00 p.m. The Mercantile Library’s printed newsletter incorrectly listed it as 6:00 p.m. Bryan and I will be there and will lead a Q & A session afterward.

The stage version of The Heiress premiered on September 29, 1947 at the Biltmore Theatre in New York, played for 420 performances, and featured Basil Rathbone as Dr. Sloper. The play was revived on Broadway in 1956 and 1978, and by Lincoln Center in 1995, winning four Tony Awards that year, including Best Revival of a Play and Best Actress for Cherry Jones.

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. Among its co-sponsors this year are NYU’s Creative Writing Program and the NYU Humanities Initiative.