~Discussion on Washington Square 10/15/12 Naomi~

On Monday in class we discussed our essays on Washington Square and watched clips from two different movie adaptations of the book by Henry James.  Personally I really enjoyed reading Washington Square.  I found Catherine’s story compelling and I enjoyed the contrast of her plainness to the strong personalities surrounding her.  I found it interesting in class to see the ways directors and different actors decided to bring the world of Washington Square alive.

I found the older film (1949) more accurate than the more recent adaptation (1997).  In the older one I felt that the screen write had kept most of what James wrote in the book the same, such as the red dress and Morris approaching Catherine at her cousin’s party.  I didn’t really like how the version with Jennifer Jason Leigh (1997) changed the dress from red to blue and yellow, and how Marian dragged Morris over to Catherine and introduced them.  On the other had I did enjoy how the 1997 version showed the father mourning Catherine’s mother and displayed him as tired and heartbroken.  In this way Dr. Sloper was a more sympathetic character whereas in the 1949 version Dr. Sloper reminded me of a villain from a Disney movie.  He seemed more frustrated and annoyed with Catherine, than tired and disappointed.  In the 1949 version I didn’t sympathize with Dr. Sloper’s character at all, but in the 1997 version the moments when he looks at the paintings of his late wife made it clear that he was sad, therefore mitigating his behavior toward Catherine.

I also found it interesting how Jennifer Jason Leigh (1997) and Olivia de Havilland (1949) had entirely different interpretations of Catherine.  In the 1949 version Olivia de Havilland played Catherine as mature for her age yet painfully shy (as described in the book).  She made a few jokes to her aunt Lavinia and hid behind her fan.  In the 1997 version Jennifer Jason Leigh played Catherine as if she were a little girl, running around the house falling at her father’s feet and laughing like a giddy child when her father comes home.