I love the slow subtlety of Olivia de Havilland’s character arc in The Heiress, particularly in the way she changes her voice in the progression of the film. Her high, shy delivery slowly shifts into something lower, more purposeful, more confident. The mistreatment of her character is maddening in so many ways, even more so because of the fact that so many viewers see themselves in her, myself included. She’s awkward, imperfect, and her worth is wholly underestimated by everyone, but that makes her eventual transformation all the more gratifying. Olivia’s Academy Award was so well-deserved.
(This is a random observation, but another thing I like about this film is how it doesn’t glam up its stars with heavy, 40s makeup. No dark lipstick. No big eyelashes. And you can actually see Olivia’s dark circles come through. So many Old Hollywood period pieces just stick with modern makeup trends with no consideration of the time period or the characters.)