If It Is Not Broke, Do Not Fix It

†††††††† If a director and a team of writers wish to transfer a story from literature to film, they should stick to what the original author wrote as much as possible. The author conceived the story and developed the characters, and no one understands the essence of the tale better. However, Hollywood rarely grasps this concept, often bastardizing literature, as it did with William Wylerís 1939 Wuthering Heights. The movie completely altered the story, failing to stick to the taleís original themes, unlike the story preservation Elia Kazan achieved with his version of Tennessee Williamsí A Streetcar Named Desire.

†††††††† Emily BrontŽís original 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, told the long, heart-wrenching saga of love, lust and cruelty. It delved into its characters, revealing the reasons behind their cruelty and illustrating the consequences of their actions. Because the story covered two generations and let the reader see the influence of the first generationís actions and its results for their children, the tale transcends the normal complexity for love stories. However, the film destroyed that. It cut out the children, focusing solely on the interaction of Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier) and Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon). It took a plot involving bitterness, revenge, and eventually, redemption and made it about love lost. Essentially, Wyler and the script writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, dumbed down the film for audiences.

†††††††† Conversely, Kazan kept to the script as much as he could with A Streetcar Named Desire. Even though he white-washed traces of homosexuality and a few other controversial issues included in the original play, he succeeded in pushing the envelope quite a bit for 1950s America by fighting his censors and staying true to the story. Therefore, he preserved the struggles and the rough mix of emotions that Williams explored. His film opened up characters lives and showed the audience a realistic situation that involved more than just melodramatic love. It showed jealousy, rage, mental instability and hate. It showed something about life whereas Wuthering Heights portrayed a soap opera.

†††††††† There is a reason many believe that the stories told by books often surpass those told on film. Many times, novels examine life deeply and with meaning, but Hollywood twists those tales to make them palatable for the masses and ruins them in the process. Wuthering Heights depicted the love story that housewives in the 1950s wished they had; but, because A Streetcar Named Desire preserved the original intent of the play, it showed America a bit of the reality it lived in.

Casey Northcutt

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