A Conversation between William Wyler and Luis Buńuel in a Purgatory Bar

William Wyler: Hey, aren't you Luis Buńuel?

Luis Buńuel: I certainly am. Can I sit here?

WW: Sure you can.

LB: And you, you're the American director, William Wyler, correct?

WW: Most assuredly, my Spanish friend.

LB: I admired a few of your pictures.

WW: And I yours.

LB: Confidentially though, I would have to say I outshined you as far as your 1939 Wuthering Heights goes.

WW: Oh, do you?

LB: Yes, I do. What are you drinking?

WW: Never mind that. You've got me interested. Now how exactly do you think you outshined me? Most critics I read find my version to be by far the most superior telling of Emily Brontė's classic 1847 story.

LB: Yes. Perhaps these are the same American critics who find something redeeming in the humor of Adam Sandler.

WW: Now wait just a minute. You're way off base, Lou Dew. I mean Gone with the Wind came out that year, 1939; and Citizen Kane came out in 1941, two years later. My film was right up there with them. I had the same cinematographer, Gregg Toland, as did Orson Welles, and I didn't sacrifice the story as so many of today's film makers do with their watering down the leads and such. I told Wuthering Heights the way Ms. Brontė would have wanted it told.

LB: Come, come now, Bill. You sound like a trailer. Surely you cannot disagree that Larry Olivier's portrayal of Heathcliff was watered down. He was far too likeable. You switched dialogue. Merle Oberon, as Cathy, was nowhere near the tom girl that she was made out to be in the book. You kept Isabella, as played by Geraldine Fitzgerald, alive. There were no children. You cut the story to shreds.

WW: Oh, don't give me this high and mighty nonsense, Luis. Like you never tampered with the story. First off, you have different names.

LB: The names translate that way into Spanish, you thickheaded oaf.

WW: Let's not get personal there, Lou Dew. Now, you completely ignore the childhood aspect, and you did God knows what to the ending. I don't think you're really at liberty to criticize me for not being true to the story.

LB: Maybe not every detail. But I'm sorry, Bill. In terms of attitude and communicating the message behind the story, I debased you in such a way as to make it almost laughable. My ending was shocking, sure, but can you doubt that this was a possible way for the story to end? Your mythical reuniting was far too sentimental.

WW: Hey. That was out of my hands.

LB: Can you deny that the character was obsessed with Cathy and Ms. Brontė would have been fine with the way my film ended?

WW: It was blasphemy!

LB: Blasphemy? Blasphemy was the drowning out of the story with that sappy music, and blasphemy is you passing yourself off as a major Hollywood director when you were really an unoriginal pile of crap.

WW: What did I say about getting personal there, Lew Dew? Your film was balderdash, a meaningless tale with a shock ending attached to the end to make it memorable. Take away the ending, and you' re left with a very weak character study.

LB: My Eduardo, as played by Ernest Alonzo, was real Brontė. You were not supposed to like the character.

WW: I've had enough of this. I have to go. I hope they find a hidden sin on your record and demote you to hellfire.

LB: Adios, Billy Boy. I think I hear the sound of your films burning in that same hellfire.

Jonathan Sircy

Table of Contents