Fue la pareja de Montgomery Clift en The Heiress (La Heredera, 1949). Concedió esta entrevista en 1978. Cabe recordar que la gran actriz aún vive.
Extracto donde habla de la película:
- You won your second Oscar for your performance as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress. How did you come at that role of this terribly shy young woman who changes so?
I saw her in the play, wonderfully played by Wendy Hiller, a brilliant performance, but very stylized. It was an adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, as you know. And I thought, "I see another way to play Catherine," because stylization will not work on film. It would be artificial. I just knew, at the end of the second act, I had to play Catherine. I had to do it, and I was, of course, by now, completely independent and could make my own decisions to take my own initiatives. So, I thought of the directors who would have a particular feel for this material and whom I admired. Two of them I had worked with, and the third I had not worked with. The first two were caught up in other commitments and were not free. The third one had just founded, together with two other directors -- Capra and George Stevens -- his own independent film company, Liberty Films at Paramount, and that man was Willie Wyler. So my agent persuaded him to say nothing to anyone, to get on the train, go to New York, see The Heiress, and he, of course, was looking for material. It was quite wonderful. Never will forget the night I knew he had arrived, the day he arrived in New York, and I knew he would go straight to the theater to see the play, and he had promised to call me afterwards. Well, I waited for that phone call, and I waited, and it came, and he said, "I've seen it. I like it. Let's do it."
And, we did.
And, we did.
- The chill between your character, Catherine Sloper, and her father is very powerful. It's a very strong feeling when one is watching the film. I gather that on the set, there was a bit of a chill as well with the actor who played your father.
Ralph Richardson was an extremely distinguished and gifted English artist. He was quite cool to me, and frightfully English, really. Really a wonderful artist, revered to this day in the profession, but he would do rather naughty things. He was a glove flapper. That is a British theater trick. There was one scene with the two of us, it was an intimate scene and it was very important that Catherine and all her feelings captured the audience's attention fully. Ralph Richardson? The father? Glove flapping. This distracted me in rehearsals terribly, just as an actress, but what I was worried about was Catherine. The attention of the audience had to be on her without a distraction like that. Willie was very impressed by Ralph. I went to him and I asked him, "What about that glove flapping?" He said, "Don't worry. I've framed it so the gloves are out." I still had to put up with the terrible distraction, but it didn't matter. I knew that Catherine was protected.
- Why didn't Wyler make him stop? Do you think he wanted you to feel insecure?
I often wonder, because Willie was really quite rude to me on the set, in that he would sit with Ralph. They would sit together, engage him in conversation, ignore me completely as we were waiting for a scene to be lit, and I would be sitting there like Cinderella in my little chair, nobody speaking to me. None of the two gentlemen speaking, no one paying any attention to me at all, and it is entirely possible that Willie did that deliberately to make me feel sort of inadequate and sort of uninteresting and well, certainly not the focus of attention, I'll tell you that.
- Very much the way the character of Catherine feels in her own home.
He may have done that quite deliberately. I hadn't thought about it until this question came up.
Naughty. It was his second picture. Red River had not yet been released, but people had seen it and knew he was marvelous in it. So he came to play Morris Townsend in The Heiress. He had a Polish lady friend who was apparently a highly respected coach, a theater coach, a very talented woman, and she would be in back of the stage. He would work out every one of his scenes with the Polish lady. I knew that when he was working with me, he wasn't working with me at all. He was working with the Polish woman in our scenes together. It was most peculiar, but I decided I've got to make use of this in some fashion, and I managed psychologically to do that, because in fact, the character of Morris Townsend really is giving a performance. So I was able to get around that psychologically, but when we would finish a scene, he would look up to see whether she nodded. If she didn't, he would say, "Can we do the scene again?" This wasn't fun for me.
It wasn't fun for anyone, and it certainly wasn't for William Wyler, a very distinguished man, as the director of the film. One day, we came on the set. It was a long and difficult scene, and he said, "I don't know what this scene is all about. I want you to show me. Just get up there. Start there with your scripts, and just show me what this scene is all about." Well, it was frightful. There we were stumbling along, and we exchange, say, ten lines, and he would say, "Stop. I want you to go back to the beginning. Keep this little exchanges you made, say, with the third exchange of lines. Leave everything else out. Do something different. I don't care what you do, as long as it's different, but keep just that." So we would do that, and then he would say, "Stop. Keep the first exchange. Then I want you to keep the sixth exchange. Drop everything else. Start again." We did that for four hours, and I think Montie Clift realized that perhaps he should kind of work things out with William Wyler and Miss De Havilland.
- And not the Polish woman? [Se está refiriendo a Mira Rostova]
But she was still about, I believe, nonetheless. That was a unique experience.
Merece la pena leer la entrevista completa donde habla de toda su carerra, sus 2 Oscar, su otra pareja de cine, Errol Flynn, su infancia en Japón y cómo no, de su hermana, Joan Fontaine.