Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate tale of the intense and demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, allegedly a Gypsy foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr ... See full summary »
Paul Eryk Atlas,
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
Gregg Toland rejected the typical Hollywood soft-focus, one-plane depth and strove for razor-sharp black-and-white images. To achieve the maximum contrast between shadow and light on this film, he used high-powered Technicolor arc lamps and a film stock four times faster than customary without an appreciable increase in graininess. He achieved the mood Wyler wanted for the picture by using candle-like effects, keeping the characters partially in darkness before coming fully into the light at climactic moments, and shooting from a low angle to capture the ceilings of the sets, emphasizing the confining loneliness of Wuthering Heights. See more »
Pieces of classical music played during the dances at the Lintons' home would never have been played then, some were not even composed at that time. The type of piano shown was not used then. See more »
Go on, Heathcliff. Run away. Bring me back the world.
Pack this fellow off.
I'm going. I'm going from here and from this cursed country both.
Throw him out!
But I'll be back in this house one day, Judge Linton and I'll pay you out. I'll bring this house down in ruins about your heads. That's my curse on you!
[spits on the floor]
On all of you!
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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 »
Before I wrote this review I talked to someone else who also had done a review of this film here. Young Heathcliff is brought to the Yorkshire moors by Cecil Kellaway who was the father of Merle Oberon and Hugh Williams. He seemed to be dropped into the Earnshaw family without any rhyme or reason. Kellaway finds the scruffy kid on the streets of Liverpool and brings him back to the family estate in Yorkshire. I asked if in fact Emily Bronte wrote more of this than what we saw. The answer was no. That in itself was curious because the version we see here was quite condensed from the original story.
Still enough of Wuthering Heights survives on the screen to tell Emily Bronte's tale of lost love that cannot be because of class distinction. Merle Oberon is a beautiful and fetching Kathy who grows up with scruffy young Heathcliff and she becomes his soul-mate. Yet class being what it was and to some extent still is, she can't and/or won't marry him. He's just the stable-boy, and her brother is jealous of him and his presence.
One piece of snobbery becomes too much and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff leaves as he promised for good to make fame and fortune. That was a common theme in English literature, used by Dickens among others as well as Emily Bronte here. It was an indirect attack on the class system of Europe, let alone the United Kingdom. The opportunities are in the new world and the colonies.
Olivier comes back, but the love and tender feelings he did possess for Oberon are replaced by a brooding vengeance seeking man. He successfully humbles the people that snubbed him, but at a terrible cost to his psyche.
Laurence Oliver came back to America after a previous visit to Hollywood where he didn't set the world on fire. His trip was almost an afterthought, his wife Vivien Leigh was to be Scarlett O'Hara, so he signed to do Wuthering Heights at the same time under Sam Goldwyn with William Wyler directing.
Though he may have been inpatient with William Wyler's deliberate style of movie-making, he credited Wyler with being the first director who really taught him the difference between acting for the stage and for the screen. Olivier got the first of his Oscar nominations for Best Actor and he was up for that award with Clark Gable for Gone With the Wind, James Stewart for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mickey Rooney for Babes in Arms. They all went down to Robert Donat in Goodbye Mr. Chips.
Wuthering Heights took one Oscar home, best black and white cinematography for Gregg Toland. Geraldine Fitzgerald got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress as the woman on the neighboring estate who develops a Statue of Liberty size torch for Olivier who can't see her for beans, but marries her anyway in some twisted act of revenge against her brother, played by David Niven, who married Oberon. Oscar nominations went to the film for Best Picture and to William Wyler for Best Director and several other technical nominations went to the film as well.
David Niven liked working with Olivier, Oberon and the rest, but he hated his part of Edgar Linton. He felt it had no depth to him, but it was a typical David Niven part, full of surface charm and little else.
Over 60 years later Wuthering Heights is still a film for lovers of all ages. We all hope in the next world that Olivier and Oberon have a better life and start on an equal plane.
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