Not Wuthering Heights, Again
My first thought, upon reading the syllabus for this class, was "Not Wuthering Heights, again!" I really struggled through this 1847 novel in high school and was not looking forward to reading it again. I do admit, however, that reading it some twenty-five years later, I have a much better understanding of the story line. I still cannot say that I like the book any better than before, but it was much more readily understood. The increased understanding of the story line was due in part to my increased age and to having a better understanding of the author's life prior to writing this book. My knowledge of life during high school could not fathom anyone so young writing such a demented love story as Emily Brontë did. Of course, age tends to change our idealistic outlook on life.
Two readings of this book has produced set images in my mind of what the characters should look like and after seeing the 1939 movie, directed by William Wyler, I was terribly disappointed.
I began asking myself how I would have cast this movie and came up with a few ideas to make the story line more interesting to me. I love musicals and envisioned music and dancing boosting this movie to another level of interest. To help create a greater contrast between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, instead of David Niven, I envisioned Bing Crosby as Edgar Linton, occasionally breaking out in a few dance steps to create a pleasant atmosphere at Thrushcross Grange.
To create the counterpart image of doom and despair at Wuthering Heights, instead of Hugh Williams, I pictured Jack Lemmon as Hindley, with not a thought of dance or music in his demeanor.
Merle Oberon was a big disappointment as Catherine, as I have always pictured Catherine as a fiery, unpredictable redhead. I can only imagine what Barbara Streisand could do with the contrasting moods of Catherine. She could further enhance the contrast image, by occasionally singing at Thrushcross Grange and never at Wuthering Heights.
Isabella should definitely have been cast as a blonde, unlike the dark-haired Geraldine Fitzgerald, who has a tendency to make the occasional rash decision. Shelly Long could portray this image easier than any other actress I know.
Laurence Olivier was much too clean and orderly in this movie to be a proper Heathcliff. An actor that can be rough and dirty while still being smart and calculating, would be Mel Gibson. Close-up shots of his unusual eyes alone could create the wild image in the story line of the movie.
Ellen Dean needs to be a busybody type that has some motherly characteristics to take over the raising of so many neglected children. Shirley Wilkes Booth, I think could have played this role without taking away from the other characters' performances. As she could show pushiness sometimes without being overbearing, more effectively than did Flora Robson.
Mr. Lockwood needs to be someone who is not a big talker, but one who shows his emotions physically. Instead of Miles Mander, Elliott Gould could give some very thoughtful and revealing facial expressions without saying a word. He could make Mr. Lockwood's part the proper supporting role it should be without taking over the story line.
This may be an unusual combination of actors and characters, but I think they could create a Wuthering Heights that one would want to see again!