Pregnancy in Hollywood:
Society Affects a Novel's Screen Adaptation

     Once again I focus on comparing and contrasting Emily Brontė's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights and William Wyler's 1939 depiction of Wuthering Heights on the big screen. This time I must focus on the fact that movies were not allowed to show pregnant people on screen during this time period. Yes, movie characters were allowed to have children, but they were not allowed to look pregnant during the movie. This fact challenged Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur when they wrote the screenplay for Wuthering Heights. Both Catherine and Isabella have children in the novel. It is finally the children and Catherine and Edgar and Heathcliff and Isabella which finally right the wronged love of Heathcliff and Catherine.

     The authors of the screen play faced many challenges when adapting this novel to the big screen. The novel had a very complicated plot which could not be condensed into a mere one hours and forty minutes on its own. Therefore they absorbed the entire plot and decided the best way was to keep Catherine dying but simplify overall plot. In both the novel and movie the living Heathcliff did not get the girl. But both the works showed the love shared between the two reunited. In the novel, the children, Hareton, Heathcliff and Catherine Linton, end up falling in love, and I project them getting married and living happily ever after. But the scriptwriters had to condense the novel. By omitting the children from the story line at all, the playwrights accomplish two things. First of all, Catherine (Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) reunite in the ending, as their spirits (played by "ghost actors") walk off into the sunset together. But they uncomplicated Wyler's job by not having to show either Catherine or Isabella pregnant on the screen.

     I think society used movies to escape from the real world and all of the trivial problems of real life. One such problem they wanted to escape was the inconveniences of pregnancy against human bodies. By omitting such obscene silhouettes from the big screen, it allowed society to forget about their everyday problems, if only for a little while.

Denise Higgins

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