After enjoying the 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, I found that it is hard not to have high expectations for the 1939 film, directed by William Wyler. I understand that for many reasons a film cannot be just like the novel. I am not one of those people that demand the film be a visual replica of its written form, or else it is considered a failure. However, I felt that the Hollywood film makers, especially the scriptwriters, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, did not flesh out the beautiful material that they had to work with. The characters were dry and one-dimensional, which could not be in starker contrast to the book, especially the visuals that I had made in my head when reading the book.
I was not upset that the film makers cut the second-generation story line out of the film, although the whole story is much more meaningful. In fact, due to time constraints, I feel it was a very good idea. One would think that this was done so that more time could be given to the Catherine (Merle Oberon), Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), and Linton (David Niven) love triangle. More time was given, but definitely not used for character development. I felt that the scriptwriters and director must had assumed that everyone had read the book, which is a disadvantage to anyone who has not. If I had not read the book, I feel that I would have hated the movie. It would have come across as a tired love story, with lackluster characters, that I had heard before, i.e. girl loves socially unaccepted boy, does not follow her heart, and regrets it later.
My having read the book made the movie work all right, since I could fill in the blanks that the scriptwriters and director had left. I enjoyed watching the movie out of curiosity to learn how the movie would look compared as to the visuals that I had made in my head when reading the book. I am sure we all had pictured Wuthering Heights
differently. Overall, I did not expect a visual masterpiece, and yet I was still let down.