The Heiress (1949) and Say Anything (1989) | Now and Then, Part 2

The Heiress (1949) is an Academy-Award- winning adaptation of a Broadway play and a novel by Henry James. The film features Olivia de Havilland as a wealthy woman who does not know whether a man (Montgomery Clift) loves her for herself or, as her father says, for her money, ruining her fortune and her future.

Say Anything (1989) is a teen drama starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. The girl is valedictorian of her class and academically ambitious. Her father is concerned that the boy she's now dating -a person who is not ambitious- could ruin her career and her life.

Note the similarities:

  1. Each film features a young lady of higher social status than the young man.
  2. Members of each couple are on the outskirts of each others' social spheres.
  3. The young lady does not ususally attend parties and is socially awkward. The young man makes friends easily.
  4. The young man has traveled abroad; the young lady has not.
  5. There is a big party scene near the beginning of each film. Given the young lady's shyness, the party becomes her miniature adventure. The young man's social facility helps to establish trust between the two. He makes her feel safe in an unfamiliar territory.
  6. The young man lives with an older sister who is a single mother. His parents are never shown and rarely discussed.
  7.  Each young lady is raised by a single father [1989= divorced, 1949 = widowed] who is protective.
  8. The single father has raised only one child- a daughter. It is partly because this is his first and only child,  he feels that he has no room to make mistakes in raising her well.  This further lends to his sense of protectiveness.
  9. Each movie has a dinner scene where the father asks about the young man's prospects.
  10. The father has made plans for his daughter and the young man does not fit the narrative. The young man is not ambitious enough for the father's approval.
  11. The young man offers no money, no plans, just his undying devotion to the young lady.
  12. There is a twist in the plot, where the young lady discovers something about her father that changes everything that she thought she knew about him. This drives her into the arms of the young man.
  13. They break up temporarily before the big reveal with dad, further making the reunion between them dramatic. She misses him a lot.
  14. In both films, the couple makes plans to run away together.

Have you seen either of these movies?

Here are a few more thoughts on The Heiress (1949):


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