A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.
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Robert Z. Leonard
The story of unfortunate lovers Heathcliff and Cathy who, despite a deep affection for one another, are forced by circumstance and prejudice to live their apart. Heathcliff and Cathy first meet as children when her father brings the abandoned boy to live with them. When the old man dies several years later Cathy's brother, now the master of the estate, turns Heathcliff out forcing him to live with the servants and working as a stable boy. The barrier of class comes between them and she eventually marries a rich neighbor, Mr. Edgar Linton, at which point Heathcliff disappears. He returns several years later, now a rich man but little can be done. Written by
When Cathy begins to chase Heathcliff in the rain, Ellen brings her a shawl and begins to drape it over her shoulders. In the next close-up of Cathy's face, the shawl is over her head and she is holding the two sides together under her chin. See more »
Cathy, as a child:
Oh, it's a wonderful castle! Heathcliff, let's never leave it.
Heathcliff, as a child:
Never in our lives! Let all the world confess, that there is not in all the world a more beautiful damsel than the Princess Catherine of Yorkshire.
Cathy, as a child:
But I - I'm still your slave.
Heathcliff, as a child:
No, Cathy. I now make you my queen. Whatever happens out there, here you will always be my queen.
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Opening credits prologue: On the barren Yorkshire moors in England, a hundred years ago, stood a house as bleak and desolate as the wastes around it. Only a stranger lost in a storm would have dared to knock at the door of Wuthering Heights. See more »
"I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul."
Being a classic film buff, I had the chance of being introduced to this film by chance one late evening when it was being aired on TCM. I fell in love with the movie, and when I was told that it would be required reading over the summer, I was ridiculously happy. As many have noted, the 1939 adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" is, more or less, merely the first volume of Emily Bronte's beautifully and powerfully written classic -- focusing less on the detail of Heathcliff's wrath post Cathy's death, but moreso on the sheer complexity of Heathcliff and Cathy's relationship (the scenes at Penniston Crag of them among the moors and heather are not in the book because Bronte had to stick to Ellen's point of view -- it was nice that we could finally have an in-depth look at the tumultuous relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff). While characters are omitted (Frances, Hareton, Linton and the baby Catherine), it still retains much of the very nature of the novel. (If you will recall, many parts of "Gone With The Wind" were changed and characters removed in the process of transferring Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece into a screen epic. After all, this is Hollywood.)
The cinematography is divine (very much worth its Oscar), perfectly capturing the very essence of the bleak, chilling, haunting Yorkshire Moors that Bronte described in her book. Laurence Olivier is, in my opinion, a very fine Heathcliff. Indeed, in the book his nature is more animalistic and devilish, but Olivier superbly exhibits what Heathcliff is all about -- dark, brooding, and terribly bitter. Even at our first introduction to him, we know by the tone of his voice that something is very, very wrong with this man and that something is very, very off in that household. Olivier expresses Heathcliff's wildness and devilishness through his voice, stance and through his facial gestures, rather than so much in other physical ways. Merle Oberon is remarkable as Cathy -- a much more dark and exoctic beauty than Isabella whose good looks are very wholesome and pure (perhaps to match the darkness of the gypsy stable-boy Heathcliff), and capturing the duality of personality that is Catherine Earnshaw -- part of her wanting to love a wild, evil, wicked stable boy... the other part longing to be part of a higher society. Particularly coming to mind is her scene in the kitchen with Ellen and that marvelously disturbing death scene -- her eyes wild. (I do wish they would have left in the part of the book where she refuses to eat and begins hallucinating -- Oberon could have performed it so well.) Also to be noted are the stunning performances of David Niven and Gerladine Fitzgerald as the long-suffering Edgar and Isabella Linton (respectively), their lives made miserable by Cathy's selfishness, vanity and greed to be part of a higher way of living, and by Heathcliff's undying love for Catherine and his course of revenge and destruction. Flora Robson is also wonderful as Ellen Dean, narrator of the whole sordid story.
Someone mentioned that this film (by focusing on the love story and by the ending, I suppose) tried to say that Heathcliff and Catherine were perfect for each other and could have, eventually, found true love. I disagree, wholeheartedly. I believe what director William Wyler was trying to say here was that Heathcliff and Catherine were not good people. Cathy was right when she said that she and Heathcliff's souls were made of the same basic fiber -- they were both greedy and selfish (he wanted her passion for him to be as deep as his passion for her and she wanted and if he couldn't have it, no one else deserved to have it, and God forbid those around him feel any kind of love, compassion or humanity; and she didn't even really know what she wanted, except to be part of the upper crust and to rise above what she had lived through when Hindley became master of their house) and because of that, their love could have never meant anything BUT tragedy. They could never have found happiness together because they were not happy people. But they could find love in death -- because in death, they could be what they really were all along -- children; mere children forced to grow up all too quickly with the death of the man who cared deeply for them, thus forcing Hindley to become head of the household. There would be no Hindley in death. And as children they were good together -- as children, Cathy, wicked as she was at times as a youngster, could restore hopes of prosperity to Heathcliff's dark, bitter soul. They were, as children, more or less all one another had. And so they could go on, as children, without a care, happily picking heather and being King and Queen on the moors.
You've GOT to see this movie.
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