A Well-Deserved Raspberry to William Wyler’s Wuthering Heights

         A film adaptation of a novel depends on the opinion of the director. Sometimes the opinion of the film makers and the society of the time dominate the ideas and personality found in the original work.

         This is true for William Wyler's 1939 film adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, published in 1847. If I were issuing a raspberry award to the worst film adaptation of the semester, it would definitely go to this movie. I was very disappointed in the film. It did not show the real spirit of any of the characters, and so many characters and themes are simply left out.

         William Wyler does not show the real bad side to the characters. Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Catherine (Merle Oberon) do not grow as characters to the extent they are developed in the novel. If this were not enough for the film to drain the true soul of Brontë's novel, Wyler and script writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur changed the ending. Catherine dies--though not while giving birth--but a lot of turmoil is ended with her. The novel continues all this turmoil with children and other situations that are not discussed at all in the film. The film ends with Heathcliff following the spirit of Catherine outside into a blizzard and freezing to death, then with their ghosts--ghost-acted by doubles--walking toward a cliff. It is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, Wyler refused to film this scene, so a replacement did it under Samuel Goldwyn's orders.

         This adaptation loses the depth of the characters and the storyline because of so many things that are changed or left out.

Lindsey Bennett

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