What Is Up With Catherine? The Early Years

         I have watched William Wyler's 1939 Wuthering Heights and Luis Buñuel's 1954 Los Abismos de Pasion, which are the English language and Spanish language versions of Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights. After seeing both movies, I can say that there are quite a number of discrepancies between the two. However, of all the dissimilarities, the one that I keep noticing is the character of Catherine. Catherine and Catalina have different personalities and characteristics. One is very quite and proper, but the other is in your face, devious, and tells the truth even if it hurts. Over all, I feel that William Wyler's version of Wuthering Heights is the better reflection of Brontë's book because it presents a Catherine that is closer to Brontë's in actions and provides more details of Catherine's youth and life than does the Buñuel version. I will be discussing some of the differences from Wyler's version to Buñuel's version, such as her childhood, her attitude, her uncertainty.

         First of all, Catherine as depicted by Sarita Wooten, in Wyler's Wuthering Heights is shown growing up in Wuthering Heights (the place), when Heathcliff (Rex Downing) comes to live with them, as she does in the book, which is not the case in Buñuel's Los Abismos de Pasion. In Buñuel's movie, Catalina, as acted by Iraseme Dilian, first appears as an adult, married to Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo). Catherine, on the other hand, goes from a teenager to a lady, as portrayed by Merle Oberon. She is adored by Laurence Olivier's Heathcliff but gets married to David Niven's Edgar.

         Secondly, in both movies Catherine's/Catalina's attitudes are quite dissimilar. In the book, Catherine's motives for encouraging and marrying Edgar are to escape her horrible home life and to help the oppressed Heathcliff, whom she continues to love openly. In Wyler's movie, Catherine flip flops back and forth too much, and pushes Heathcliff away after his return; she hides her love because she wants to be respectable. However, Catalina in Bunuel's movie consistently flaunts her love for Alejandro (Jorge Mistral). She also makes clear to Eduardo that she hates him and that she loves Alejandro.

         As you can see, Wyler showed how his Catherine grew up to become more like Brontë's heroine, whereas Buñuel presented an already-formed adult Catalina, quite different from Brontë's Catherine, Wyler's and Buñuel's characters are differently depicted in almost every way.

Wendy Copeland

Table of Contents