Raspberry Versus Laurel Wreath

        After viewing the films in class, I would give a raspberry award for worst cinematic adaptation to William Wyler's 1939 adaptation of Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë. If I were to give a laurel wreath to the best cinematic adaptation, I think the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan and written for the stage by Tennessee Williams in 1947, would be the most deserving. There are several reasons why I feel this way about these two films.

        The first reason this version of Wuthering Heights deserves the raspberry is that the director and scriptwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur left out a big portion of the storyline. The film ends shortly after the death of Catherine (Merle Oberon), eliminating the story of the characters' offspring. The children from the main characters are the strings that tie the entire story together as they each grow older. Anyone who read the book would probably be very disappointed to see the film end this way. I can speak for myself when I say this because I wanted to see how Wyler would have Cathy and Linton portrayed as characters onscreen. Ending the movie too early is one reason I would award the raspberry to this film.

        One reason I would give Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire a laurel wreath is because the film makes me feel as if I were reading the play. I feel that this film does the book justice since it is very similar to the original work. Unlike the ending of Wuthering Heights, A Streetcar Named Desire ends somewhat the same as the play: Blanche DuBois (Viven Leigh) is led off to an institution by a doctor and a nurse, although Stella (Kim Hunter) runs upstairs with the baby--a scene which does not follow the play. But who knows how long she can resist Stanley's mating call? This is one reason I believe this film deserves the laurel wreath for best cinematic adaptation.

        Another reason I believe Wuthering Heights should be given the raspberry award is because of how Heathcliff is portrayed. In the film, Heathchliff (Laurence Olivier) appears to be the rough character described in the book, but without the unlikable, mean demeanor he is supposed to possess. In the film version of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff almost seems too soft as opposed to the vengeful and very strong-willed character that he is in the story. Heathcliff is one of two main characters, and I think that this contrast in his personality in the novel and his personality in the film is important. Wyler should have remained consistent with Brontë's original character. This is another reason I feel that this version of Wuthering Heights should be given a raspberry for its adaptation.

        Another reason Streetcar deserves a laurel wreath is that the onscreen characters are the same as one imagines while reading the play. In the film, all of the characters display their emotions just as Williams had written. A director such as Kazan that takes the time to make sure the characters are portrayed as intended by the author should be given a laurel wreath for his or her cinematic adaptation. Many film makers choose to change almost everything about the original work to the point where nothing from the book or the film could compare. When this occurs, I think it causes the essence of the book to be lost. This is why I feel, as noted above, that Wyler's Wuthering Heights deserves a raspberry and that Kazan's Streetcar should be awarded the laurel wreath.

Beth Ann Dunavan

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