Wuthering Heights: An Entertaining Well-Balanced Movie

         Wuthering Heights, a book by Emily Brontë (1847), was adapted into a film directed by William Wyler and produced by Samuel Goldwyn in 1939. The screenplay was written by Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht, and John Huston (uncredited). Instead of trying to fit the entire book into a two-hour segment of time, the screen writers decided to focus on only about sixteen of the thirty-four chapters, thus causing the movie to be not as accurate a depiction of the book as it could have been. However, at the very least, it is an entertaining movie with a well-balanced pace.

         One of the reasons why this film adaptation managed to keep the audience interested was its cast. Laurence Oliver, an actor in both film and stage, was cast as Heathcliff. Oliver was not very used to film acting at the time he did Wuthering Heights. He wanted to put some stage acting in where film acting should have been. Merle Oberon was the actress who portrayed Catherine Earnshaw Linton. She was a very famous film actress who was also guilty of overacting, but maybe not quite so much as Oliver was. William Wyler helped to cut down on most of the overacting, but not all of it. Overacting is usually looked upon as being detrimental to a film. But, the overacting is what causes the film Wuthering Heights to have some of its charm. All of the characters overact a bit, but Oliver and Oberon were the two who overacted the most.

         Another reason why this film adaptation was good was due to the director. Unlike other directors, such as Stanley Kubrick or Tim Burton, William Wyler once said that he had no signature that he left on the films that he made. This film's lack of a forced signature allowed the movie to be what it was intended to be: an adaptation of Brontë's novel, not a re-imagining of her novel. Both Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton are very guilty of "re-imagining" instead of "adapting." This can be seen as either a good thing (such as The Shining--1980) or a bad thing (such as the more recent Planet of the Apes--2001). Sometimes it is good to have a signature on a film; butm with one such as Wuthering Heights, a beloved classic, sometimes it is better to focus more on the source material's vision instead of the director's.

         Overall, William Wyler's adaptation of Wuthering Heights is a very good one. It is not totally dependent on the source material, yet it embraces the source material and uses it to produce a very fine film. The ending, with acting doubles, which Wyler refused to shoot, was a bit on the horrible side; but, other than this, I believe this film managed to succeed in its main mission: entertaining its audience. It may not be the classic that many claim it to be, but it is fairly good nonetheless.

Joseph Dublin

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