Wuthering Character Flaws

     In the first movie version of Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, we are presented with a multitude of vast characters that are supposed to range in depth, emotion, uniqueness, and should evoke a response from the audience. Well, the characters were vast, but mainly in their dullness and all had the common bond that they were extremely unlikable. Mainly, the problem lies in Heathcliff and Catherine, the two main characters. I will not completely thrash this film, for it did have admirable traits. Just because I did not like it, that does not make it a bad movie. I can only state my opinion. In William Wyler's 1939 cinematic representation of the novel, we are shown a visual illustration of the defects that are present in this horrible adaptation.

     Heathcliff was no doubt raised by gypsies in a faraway land. They eventually must have grown tired of him and soon came up with the ingenious idea of abandoning him on the streets of Liverpool, England. I believe in this because Heathcliff was such an incredible jerk (not to mention an annoying little brat) that not even gypsies could put up with his inability to be tolerated. So with Heathcliff (played by Rex Downing) as a gypsy now in England, we run into another interesting turn of events. He is picked up by the father (Cecil Kellaway) of a family right from the side of the road. He takes him home and names him. I have done this very same thing with a rabbit I found outside. It died soon after eating chemically treated grass that I fed it accidentally, but we are not fortunate enough to have that happen to Heathcliff.

     Also, Heathcliff is named for a child that had died in infancy. He becomes part of the family, but he really is treated as more of a dirty stable boy since the only creatures he can relate to are the horses. He does get hit in the head with a rock at one point by the jealous older Hindley (Douglas Scott). Getting hit with a rock is not really the thing that is awkward, but rather the fact that he just stands there expecting gravity to magically shift and take the rock away from the area that his cranium happens to be inhabiting at that point. Again, this is another example of his stupidity. This scene differs from the similar scene in the book, which makes Heathcliff meaner and less stupid.

     Somehow, Heathcliff finds some kind of Jerry Springer type love with Catherine (Sarita Wooten), who is a member of the family that adopted him. Since he is taken in as a part of the family, and she is part of the family, would this not be considered incest? Oh well, it might be acceptable in England. They seem to fall in love, regardless of the fact that Catherine, now grown up and played by Merle Oberon, is an insecure, spoiled, shallow little (for lack of a better word) bitch. She loves Heathcliff (now depicted by Laurence Olivier) one minute and then two seconds later she pushes him away for being a dirty stable boy. This goes on past the point of insanity.

     He goes away to try to refine himself I suppose, thinking in his gypsy-warped mind that he can win her over if he comes back with some money. Money cannot buy love, but it can buy sex, so this leads me to believe that Catherine is a prostitute. What Heathcliff sees worthy in her of putting himself through all this hell for is beyond me. He should forget about her and return to what he really loves... horses. They would make a much better partner.

     Putting aside my sarcastic tendencies for a moment will allow me to make the following statement about the film: William Wyler did do a pretty good job of adapting this novel to the silver screen. I admire his integrity in not wanting to change the ending despite having the studio breathe down his neck. The story was well-rounded and the directing was good. Thank you for tuning in to Jake's movie corner.

Jakob Bilinski

Table of Contents