Washington Square

Washington Square (1880)

Novel: Washington Square (also Serial, Cornhill Magazine & Harper's New Monthly Magazine; also Stage Play "The Heiress")
Published/Performed: 1880 (novel); 1880 (magazines); Sep 29, 1947 - Sep 18, 1948 (performed at Biltmore Theatre, NY)

Author: Henry James
Born: Apr 15, 1843 New York City, NY
Passed: Feb 28, 1916 London, England

Film: The Heiress
Released: 1949

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About the Novel Washington Square:

Washington Square is a short novel by Henry James. Originally published in 1880 as a serial in Cornhill Magazine and Harper's New Monthly Magazine, it is a structurally simple tragicomedy that recounts the conflict between a dull but sweet daughter and her brilliant, domineering father. The plot of the novel is based upon a true story told to James by his close friend, British actress Fanny Kemble.[1] The book is often compared to Jane Austen's work for the clarity and grace of its prose and its intense focus on family relationships. James was hardly a great admirer of Jane Austen, so he might not have regarded the comparison as flattering. In fact, James was not a great fan of Washington Square itself. He tried to read it over for inclusion in the New York Edition of his fiction (1907?1909) but found that he couldn't, and the novel was not included. Other readers, though, have sufficiently enjoyed the book to make it one of the more popular works of the Jamesian canon.

Ruth and Augustus Goetz adapted the novel for a very successful play, The Heiress, originally performed on Broadway in 1947 with Wendy Hiller as Catherine and Basil Rathbone as Dr. Sloper, and revived a number of times since.

The play was adapted for film in 1949, and starred Olivia de Havilland as Catherine, Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper, and Montgomery Clift as Morris. William Wyler directed. Both play and movie hewed closely to the novel and cribbed many of the best lines directly from James' dialogue. However, the Goetz version does make a few changes to the story and to the character of Catherine, making her angry enough to refuse to see her father on his deathbed, and clever enough to devise a ruse to revenge herself on Morris.

Polish director Agnieszka Holland made another major movie version in 1997, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, and Ben Chaplin, with Maggie Smith as Mrs. Penniman. While this film also takes some liberties with the original text, it is in the main a more faithful adaptation.

The novel was adapted as an opera by Thomas Pasatieri in 1976.

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Featured Cast (Names and Roles) of the Film The Heiress: