After watching the 1939 film Wuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, I found that one thing had become very clear to me; a person (or at least I personally) can never be happy with both the movie and the 1847 book, by Emily Brontë. I found that, because the film was so condensed, there was no possibility of its staying true to the novel.
The contrasts of the behavior of characters between the book and the film are my primary complaint. According to Brontë, Heathcliff is truly a nasty, diabolical, heartless, and tyrannical villain. He deliberately gets Hindley Earnshaw to drink and gamble at the same time, preying on his poor card playing skills, and in turn causing him to lose his land and home, which Heathcliff conveniently picks up the bill for. However, the movie suggests that upon his return, Heathcliff just happens to discover that Hindley (Hugh Williams) has some outstanding debts and quietly pays them off. The film paints a lovely picture of Mr. Heathcliff when compared to Emily Brontë's novel; we get a distinct impression that he is simply a victim of love and circumstance rather than the black-hearted demon he truly is.
Let us not forget Catherine Earnshaw Linton, either. Once again we find that William Wyler's film has painted the wolf to look like the sheep. When Heathcliff returns, she turns him out of her house on the grounds that she is another man's wife and wants no trouble with him. This could not be further from the truth in the book. Not only does she invite him over continually, but she throws a huge temper tantrum when her husband objects to her behavior, making him feel like the "bad guy" and the source of all her problems.
Unfortunately, I found it impossible to enjoy the movie after having read the book first. There was such deviation from the text to the big screen that it became irritating to me. Not only this but because the film was so condensed we could not really get to know or like any of the characters. I found that they failed to stir emotions within me as those in the novel did. In my opinion, if one is going to watch the movie, it should definitely be done before one reads the book: that is of course if one does not want radio to kill the video star.