Hollywood and Its Happy Endings

     Have you ever noticed how much more frequently Hollywood has a happy ending or one that is much easier to digest than the movies and screen plays they are based on? Two movies we have watched this semester demonstrate this theory to perfection.

     First of all, the 1964 film My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, has a much more pleasing ending for the audience than George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play entitled Pygmalion. During the film, there was an obvious attraction between Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison from the "get go," even though neither one of them would admit it off hand. As the movie and play progress, the attraction between the two characters became even more apparent. Eventually, Eliza lets her feelings show towards the end of the story after she had successfully become a lady.

     In Pygmalion, both characters were too stubborn to admit they were right for each other so Eliza ended up with someone else. The producer of the movie My Fair Lady felt the audience would probably like to see Higgins and Eliza get back together since both were the focal point of the movie. This is exactly what they did, so the ending was altered with Eliza going back to Higgins. Since the musical had a comedy touch to it, I believe the producers made the correct decision in changing the ending. The audience would have been left with an empty feeling had the conclusion gone in the opposite direction. It would have been a letdown from the comical approach taken towards the film.

     Another film whose ending was dramatically different from its literary counterpart was Wuthering Heights. Both the novel, written by Emily Brontë in 1847, and the movie, directed by William Wyler in 1939, had a dark, gloomy overtone to the story. The relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine was depicted as stormy, to put it into delicate terms.

     Both stories ended in somewhat different, but happy, circumstances; however, one is much more believable than the others. The novel introduces a second generation of Earnshaw Linton which eventually set right some of the wrongs their forefathers had created. The ending has a nice touch to cap off a tragic resolution for Catherine and Heathcliff.

     Hollywood’s version of the ending left the viewer with much to be desired and many people in the business thought it was a bad idea for the movie to alter its ending in the manner it did. The second generation was never introduced in the film. Instead, it showed Heathcliff; walking off with Catherine’s ghost (both played by doubles for the original Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon) down the shore. It might have had a gothic-type romance to it, but it is a shame the second part of the story was not told. I do understand why the storywriters chose this path. They wanted to focus on the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine, and adding the second generation would have subtracted from them.

     The viewer or reader can argue and argue about which endings are better, but it basically comes down to personal preference.

Jason Yates

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