Cinematic Alterations Improve the Original Book

     There are many differences between the 1939 movie Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, and the 1847 novel, written by Emily Brontė, from which it was adapted. Both follow the same theme: a girl (Catherine Linton) loves a boy (Heathcliff) but marries someone else (Edgar Linton). Heathcliff then gets even with Cathy's brother, Hindley, who has mistreated him as a child by acquiring the family home. Heathcliff also get even with Cathy by marrying Edgar's sister, Isabella. Then Cathy dies, and Heathcliff is miserable. But there are many places where the movie strays from the book. These alterations from the book made the movie a distinct improvement over its original source.

     The first major difference is that, in the movie, Mr. Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway) brings his children, Cathy (Sarita Wooten) and Hindley (Douglas Scott), toys when he returns from Liverpool. In the movie since the children received gifts and were still hateful towards them, it shows how selfish and mean they really are. In the book, however, he forgets to bring them toys and arrives with Heathcliff instead. It is understandable why the children would be upset in that situation, but they are being nothing but rude and ungrateful in the other scenario.

     In the book, there is a scene where Hindley, Cathy and Heathcliff (Rex Downing) are in the stable yard and Hindley and Heathcliff are arguing over a horse. The film makes Hindley out to be the "bad guy" by portraying that he was the one who wanted the good horse because his was lame. In the book, Heathcliff is the one who tries to take the horse, bullying Hindley and throwing rocks at him.

     In the movie, we are also able to hear and see what Cathy and Heathcliff say and do while out on Penniston Crag. It allows the audience to see the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff develop and see why they feel so deeply about each other. In the book, we only know that they went to the Crag, and let our imagination wonder what happened, not knowing the extent of the relationship or interaction between the two.

     The most significant difference is the way the stories end. In the book, Cathy dies but has a daughter, while Isabella and Heathcliff have a son. The story then continues on for another generation before we are brought to the point where Heathcliff also dies. However, in the film, there are no children; and, after Cathy's death, we are immediately taken to the point where Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) goes off in search of Cathy (Merle Oberon) in the blizzard. In my opinion, the movie dos not lose anything by omitting the second half of the book. The main idea is conveyed without adding extra people.

     I felt that the book was inferior to the movie. The book seemed to drag on and lost my interest after Cathy died, until Heathcliff dies. The movie is much more interesting than the book, with the exception of the ending. The shot of Heathcliff and Cathy walking in the clouds was not necessary. I think that the idea that they could now be together was better left unsaid, as was the case in the book, as opposed to a cheesy screen scene of the two ghosts (ghost-acted by extras and ghost-directed by a hack director, not Wyler who refused to shoot the scene) walking on the Crag.

Julie Hallemeier

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