The difference between the Wuthering Heights novel, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë, and the Wuthering Heights screenplay, written in 1938 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, is outrageous. The novel is based on the revenge of Heathcliff while the filmed screenplay focuses on a love between Heathcliff, played by Laurence Olivier, and Cathy, portrayed by Merle Oberon. This shift of concept from revenge to love severely alters the characters and their motives for the movie.
Heathcliff's character changes so much from the novel to the movie that he does not even seem like the same character. One of his biggest differences between the character is his expression of love. In the novel he seems stone cold. The reader knew that he had affection for Cathy, but he was very controlled in his emotions. He was respectfully in love with her and it was romantic. In the screenplay, however, he is practically lovesick. Heathcliff pronounces his love over and over again for Cathy. It is so overdramatic how he would not just let her live her life. She had made her decision, and he could not move on from that. His dramatic and pathetic begging for love and affection took away any romantic element that the novel had originally displayed.
Moreover, this emphasis on pathetic love in the movie replaces the main element of revenge that was one of his main goals in the novel. I was disappointed that the revenge aspect of the novel was so downplayed in this movie. The ridiculous love story is just so typical. Heathcliff's revenge set the novel apart from other works and made him such an unbelievable beast. The movie switched the beast role to Cathy for continuous leading him into thinking that her love was available for him. She became the evil one for trying to throw the love away between herself and Heathcliff.
The transition of the central element from riveting revenge in the novel to sappy love in the movie destroyed the screenplay and the movie. I enjoyed the novel for its originality with Healthcliff's outrageous intentions, but the screenplay turned this character into a love-scorned jerk, who seemed more pathetic at the hands of Cathy than the true monster he portrayed in the novel.