The Tale of Two Intros

         It has always been said that the movie is never as good as the book. In the case of William Wyler's 1939 cinematic version of Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, this is the situation. Sometimes films and movies are good representations of books and novels.  Granted it must be rather difficult to put in a film what an author put in words not knowing the emotion that was behind those words. Unfortunately, with the film Wuthering Heights, there seemed to be many important details of the novel altered or even left out.

         It is completely understandable that not every word in the novel could be put or expressed in the film in some way. In this instance there were very important details left out that can have a great impact on how someone perceives the film or the meaning the novel originally would have given a person.

         One important difference was the beginning of the novel and the film. There is only one visit to Wuthering Heights by Lockwood (Miles Mander in the film), but in the novel there are two separate visits to Wuthering Heights by Lockwood.It seems the introduction sets the mood for most of the film, and it is unusual that to understand the importance of the introduction of the novel that both of the introductions would be the same. In the novel Lockwood is intrigued by the first to Wuthering Heights, where he meets the surly Heathcliff; his young daughter-in-law, Catherine; her cousin, the clownish Hareton; and the two servants, Joseph Zillah. This why he returns the second time, and then he cannot leave because of a snow storm. In the film Lockwood made only one visit to Wuthering Heights, where he was also stranded by a bad snowstorm. Here Lockwood meets a slightly less surly Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier); his wife, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), who had been long since dead in the book, instead of the daughter-in -law, who does not even exist in the movie; and Ellen Dean (Flora Robson).

         Unfortunately, this is not the only difference in the introductions. Another important finding in differences is the how the story of Heathcliff and Catherine is told to Lockwood. In the novel after the second visit to Wuthering Heights by Lockwood, he returns home to Thrushcross Grange, where Nelly Dean tells him over a period of several weeks about the about the events of Wuthering Heights. In the film Nelly Dean (Flora Robson), who is the housekeeper for Wuthering Heights, tells Lockwood the shorter movie story of Wuthering Heights in one night after Heathcliff chases Catherine's ghost outside in the bad weather only to die in the storm, whereas he dies much later in his bed in the book.

         These are two major differences in the introductions to Wuthering Heights. In the novel it seems more justifiable that Lockwood should be told the story of Wuthering Heights than in the film because of how the situation was perceived. After looking at these details no wonder people say, "The movie is never as good as the book". If you read a book and then watch the movie based on the book try and understand that it might be what you expect.

Crystal Pittman

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