Last night, GVSHP presented a free public program with James & Michelle Nevius, authors of the new book, “Footprints in New York”. James & Michelle are historians and tour guides who offer historic walking tours of many different New York City neighborhoods, but last night’s program focused on people and places of Greenwich Village.
At one point in the program, Michelle mentioned the 1949 film The Heiress, directed by William Wyler and starring Olivia de Havilland. In the film Ms. de Haviland’s character, Catherine Sloper, is discouraged by her father from pursuing a romantic relationship with her suitor Morris Townsend , portrayed by actor (and one-time Greenwich Village resident) Montgomery Clift. The film’s screenplay was written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, adapted from their 1947 play The Heiress. The play was suggested by the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James.
The story is similar to the life of Gertrude Tredwell, whose family lived at 29 East 4th Street, in what is now the Merchant’s House Museum. James told us how Gertrude was the last resident of the house. She was born in the house in 1840, and died there in 1933 at age 93. She never married, although she did have one suitor, Luis P. Walton, but her father, Seabury Tredwell, would not allow his daughter to be involved with a Catholic.
Although exterior images of the Greek-revival row houses located on Washington Square North were used in the film, it was the staircase of the Merchant’s House that was re-created on the Hollywood soundstage for Ms. de Haviland to ascend, as seen in the above image.
Speaking of Montgomery Clift…one of his movies was A Place in the Sun which was based on the novel An American Tragedy by author Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945), who lived in Patchin Place, near the Jefferson Market Library, and many apartments around Greenwich Village.