Directed by Wyler a Decade Apart

         I found that there were many comparisons that can be made between the 1939 film adaptation of the Emily Brontë 1847 Wuthering Heights and The Heiress, the 1949 film adaptation of the Henry James 1880 novel Washington Square.

         One major similarity is that the setting plays an important role in the story in both films. Therefore it was important that the scenery in the films be attractive and believable. Wuthering Heights was shot in Southern California, while the actual story took place in Yorkshire, northeastern England. I felt that this movie setting did not diminish the effect of the scenery, which still looked like England to me. Like the novel, the movie Wuthering Heights took place in Manhattan, New York. While a few scenes were shot on location, the majority of the film was shot in a studio, and all the sets were just built for the movie. Again, I did not feel that this negatively impacted the film.

         Another important similarity between these two films is the fact that both were directed by William Wyler. Due to this fact, there were several similarities in how the films were shot. They had similar camera angles, and the soundtracks also seemed to have similarities. Both films used music, scored by Alfred Newman in the earlier film and by Aaron Copland in the later one, to set the tone of a scene very well. The biggest difference that I can see that Wyler made when directing The Heiress is that the acting by Olivia de Havilland as Catherine Sloper, Ralph Richardson as Dr. Sloper, and Montgomery Clift as Morris Townsend is much less melodramatic and much more believable than the acting by Merle Oberon as Catherine Earnshaw and Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights.

         The biggest difference in these films, I would say, is how much people like, or do not like them. Most people in the class were not very fond of Wuthering Heights. Many of the people I talked to did not like the movie treatment of the story and felt it had left out much from the book. The Heiress, on the other hand, was liked by most people I spoke to. The story is much clearer, the acting was more real and the end of the story left most of them feeling satisfied.

         While these two films-Wuthering Heights and The Heiress--are very alike and different from each other, both are classic masterpieces that paved the way for future works.

Brandon Anderson

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