The Deconstruction of Catherine

     Emily Brontė made her mark in the tragic love loss venue with her chilling 1847 tale Wuthering Heights. Through her characters we are reminded of the harshness that forbidden love causes to all of those that it affects. Her standard of this was not lost in William Wyler's 1939 film.

     Wyler turned his attention to the darkness of Heathcliff and Catherine. Laurence Olivier gave, as usual, a masterful performance. Unfortunately I cannot say that about his costar, Merle Oberon. Through Ms. Oberon's efforts, I was not convinced that she brought the proper depth and realness to her Catherine to match that of Olivier's Heathcliff. One can only disregard the above statement as personal opinion.

     It cannot cannot be denied that actors and actresses of the golden age of cinema drowned their performances with melodramatics. It seemed that most of their actions and emotions were either forced or overplayed. This, of course, was to gloss over he depressing realities of the times, but in most cases it did not help the overall scope of epic characters.

I found that Ms. Oberon followed suit to the above charges. I found that watching her stale performance was a hindrance to the film. I caught myself several times being jerked from the story line, criticizing her for her shortcomings.

     The last that I could handle from her was at the climax of the film, during her death sequence, in which Catherine and Heathcliff are staring out over the moors, promising undying love for one another. Ms. Oberon's breathless tone and obvious facial expressions for helpless are cornier than some of today's daytime drama performances.

     To eliminate this problem, as discussed in class, it would have been exciting to see true-life lovers Olivier and Vivien Leigh playing opposites. Their chemistry would have been undeniable to the challenge of the roles.

Dale Vanover

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