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The Heiress SE?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Alejandro, Apr 2, 2006.

  1. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    I hope someone from Universal has the sense to videotape that stage discussion.
     
  2. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    I love this movie. Would love to add it to my collection!
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    "For you Olivia de Havilland fans..."

    p.s. my favorite film with her is "To Each His Own" (1946).

    Ugh. I'd give almost *anything* to retire my old VHS of that! One of the few VHS tapes I actually own...
     
  4. Shawn Cornwell

    Shawn Cornwell Stunt Coordinator

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    The L. A. event is sold out, but I'm taking a couple days off from work and flying approximately 700 miles down to L.A. anyway, on the chance I might get a ticket via the "Standby" line. I love this film (it's my #1 or #2 favorite drama of all time, in a close race with "A Streetcar Named Desire"), and I can't miss the possibility of seeing de Havilland talk about her work with Wyler and Clift.

    Thank you Alejandro, for posting the thread, and thank you Jonathan, for letting us know about the event.
     
  5. Mark-W

    Mark-W Producer

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    Count me as another waiting for Universal to get this out to us on DVD.
    An SE is what the film deserves, but I'll take a barebones versions with a proper transfer so I, too, can retire my DVD-r.
     
  6. Alejandro

    Alejandro Stunt Coordinator

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    Lucky you, Shawn!
    I would cross an ocean to attend! Wait I actually HAVE to cross an ocean to attend. Anyway, I hope you come back here afterwards to tell us all about it. Will you?
     
  7. Daniel BARBIEUX

    Daniel BARBIEUX Stunt Coordinator

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  8. Shawn Cornwell

    Shawn Cornwell Stunt Coordinator

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    Alejandro,

    If I make it into the theater, I'll definitely try to take notes (at least mental notes) regarding the specifics. Thanks again for posting this thread.
     
  9. Alejandro

    Alejandro Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, I hate to bother but did anyone get to attend the screening of the Heiress last sunday, june 18th?
    Shawn?
     
  10. Shawn Cornwell

    Shawn Cornwell Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello Alejandro and HTF cohorts,

    Yes, I did get to go to the show (my internet was down a few days, hence the late post). I stood in the Standby line for over two hours but it paid off, as I received a ticket at 7:59 p.m., one minute before showtime. Here’s my rundown of what I remember from the evening (warning: Heiress spoilers forthcoming- I’m assuming everyone has seen the film):

    Ms. de Havilland spoke for about a half-hour, then the film was shown. Although I ended up in a seat three rows from the back of the packed house, it hardly mattered, as the legendary star still possesses phenomenal enunciation and a rich, deep voice (I could hear every utterance). She also had grace, class, humor, elegance, and the audience in the palm of her hand.

    The star spent the majority of the conversation discussing specifics involving the filming of The Heiress, although early in the conversation she talked about James Cagney, and how working with him helped her hone her acting skills. She mentioned Cagney would often add a little extra to his scenes, in order to make them more memorable by placing his "mark" on the scenes; for instance, he would say “Goodbye,” walk out a door, then pop his head back in the room for a second to ‘punctuate’ the scene, even though this action was unscripted. Also, she once asked Cagney about acting, and he told Olivia he wasn’t sure exactly how he did it, but he made sure he always meant "it" (everything he did and said onscreen). Ms. de Havilland had kind words for Mitchell Leisen, her director of Hold Back the Dawn and To Each His Own, then she talked about the making of The Heiress.

    Olivia recollected that in late 1948, shortly after scoring a great critical and box-office success with The Snake Pit, she ran into director Lewis Milestone at a party, and he suggested she get on a train, go to New York, and see the play The Heiress, as the show could provide her with a worthy screen followup to Pit; she then good-humoredly stated, “so I got on a train, I went to New York, and I saw the play.” She stated she loved Wendy Hiller's performance, but it was stylized and appropriate for the theater, while Olivia felt she possessed the experience and skills to create the role of Catherine Sloper on film. Ms. de Havilland then claimed she lobbied to get William Wyler to direct the film as, even though she hadn’t worked with him previously, she felt Wyler was the director who could fully bring the story to life onscreen. She also discussed how, as per her contract, she was allowed to pick the costume designer for the movie, and chose Edith Head, with whom Olivia had a warm working relationship, and it was mentioned Ms. Head went on to win an Oscar for the film (oddly, or modestly, enough, I don’t believe Ms. de Havilland ever spoke of her own Academy Awards or nominations during the discussion).

    Concerning the actual filming, Ms. de Havilland told us how hard she worked with Wyler, specifically mentioning the famous scene wherein Catherine, suitcases in hand, climbs the long staircase the morning after Morris Townsend deserts her. Stating Wyler rehearsed her extensively, making her climb the stairs again and again, Olivia claimed he also weighed down the suitcases (she suspected he used bricks) to ensure Catherine would look appropriately worn out as she moved up the stairs, thereby offering the crowd an interesting “behind the scenes” look at Wyler’s technique.

    She stated they (she and Wyler) had a little trouble early on in the shooting with Montgomery Clift, as Ms. de Havilland felt the actor, while portraying Morris Townsend, was not focusing his attentions on her as Catherine during their scenes together, and instead was constantly looking for input from his acting coach, who was sitting on the sidelines. However, after Wyler asserted himself as the master of the set by working in close collaboration with his stars, Clift fell in line to give one of the best performances of his career as Catherine’s charismatic-yet-ultimately-heartbreaking suitor.

    In conclusion, the living legend stated she missed the Los Angeles premiere of The Heiress in 1949 because she had just given birth to her son; however, as she rocked her newborn child in his cradle, through a picture window she could see the searchlights for the premiere in the distance. The interviewer then offered Ms. de Havilland a portrait of the premiere, wherein those same searchlights were prominently featured, then the star, waving to the crowd, left the stage in the same manner in which she’d been greeted, with a standing ovation.

    Shortly thereafter the houselights dimmed, and the main titles appeared onscreen. It was great to see the movie with an audience of 700-800 fans, and the print looked very good overall. The movie definitely transfixed the crowd, and I never realized how much humor the film contains, especially in its first half. Gasps were heard as the drama intensified and lines like “you embroider neatly” started popping up, and when Catherine snipped her scissors for the last time in the final reel. I’ve always thought Clift and Wyler worked to add some shadings in bringing Morris Townsend to life, making one unsure of his true motives, and of his guilt or innocence in betraying Catherine; I guess I’m in the minority, as it was clear the audience certainly thought Morris turns out to be a real stinker. Ms. de Havilland, of course, is remarkable as Catherine, evolving from the sweet, awkward girl of the early scenes into a hard, bitter women (I think it’s her best dramatic work, period). Loud applause followed the film’s most famous line (“I can be very cruel- I have been taught by masters”) and cheers and bravos were heard throughout the theater shortly thereafter, as the final fadeout finds a rejected and bereft Townsend helplessly pounding on the front door, while a satisfied Catherine climbs the stairs once again, to face her future of loneliness.

    With a great appearance by Ms. De Havilland and a wonderful audience of appreciative fans to watch one of my favorite movies of all time with, the evening turned out to be the once-in-a-lifetime event I was hoping for. I know there were several professional photographers down front during the conversation with Ms. de Havilland, and I think the event might have been filmed, so hopefully something will show up on a DVD (the star also conversed at a tribute for her a few nights earlier, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater). Thank you again for your original posts, Alejandro and Jonathan.
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Shawn,
    Thanks for a great read on your experience about one of my favorite actresses. As a boy, I fell in love with her screen presence.





    Crawdaddy
     
  12. Alejandro

    Alejandro Stunt Coordinator

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    Wow!
    Yes, Shawn, thanks a lot for sharing this awesome experience with us. You can't imagine how much I envy you, my friend!
    Did you notice if the film had been restored or did it look it needed a touch up?
    BTW, did this event appear in the news?
     
  13. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Wow.

    Thanks Shawn for sharing all that wonderful detail! What an experience... and to hear her talk in person. I'm in awe!

    Your wonderful essay has given the rest of us a sense of having experienced the moment... that's such a great gift and is the perfect example of the kind high-class posts so cherrished at this site. THANKS!

    If I could have this film in high-def along with To Each His Own I'd be *such* a happy HT camper...

    [​IMG]
     
  14. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Can I add my thanks Shawn? Wonderful; must have been quite an experience.
     
  15. Shawn Cornwell

    Shawn Cornwell Stunt Coordinator

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    Alejandro,

    The print was clear and sharp, with only occasional specks appearing onscreen. I don't know if further restoration will take place for a DVD, but this one looked really good overall, certainly presentable enough for a DVD release.

    The main coverage I found of the event was through the link in Jonathan's post, which gave an overview of the tribute and listed a schedule for all the films that were shown during the week following the tribute.

    P.S.- I also found a nice LA Times interview with de Havilland:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics...lines-politics
     
  16. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Thank you so much, Shawn, for the detailed recollection of the evening. THE HEIRESS is one of the real greats, and it's one of the more neglected movies of the past 60 years, too, so nothing would give me greater pleasure to see it come into its own at some future (hopefully soon) date.
     

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