Just in time for Oscar season, today’s WNY lecture on Henry James’s Washington Square included a few clips from William Wyler‘s 1949 film adaptation of Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s 1947 stage adaptation of James’s 1880 novel. (Ruth and Augustus Goetz adapted their play for Wyler’s film.) Olivia de Havilland won Best Actress for her portrayal of James’s heroine, Catherine Sloper; the film won three additional Oscars, including one for Aaron Copeland’s score.
For a few years, Cyrus and I attempted a film series to run alongside the course, something I wish had worked a little better than it actually did. When we ran that series we screened not only The Heiress, but also Wyler’s earlier film Dead End, which resonates with gentrification battles in our own day and deals with parts of town James pushes to the margins of his narrative. (35 Cooper Sq, anyone?)
In the spirit of the Academy Awards, here’s the trailer to The Heiress. It looks like the film is available in segments on YouTube. I showed the stellar finale — which doesn’t exactly replicate James’s conclusion — in lecture this morning.