Wyler’s Was Worth Watching

         The book is always better than the movie, or so I have always heard. In the case of Wuthering Heights, I agree one hundred percent. However; when comparing two movies that are portraying the same novel, I have found it is easy to choose one over the other. After watching William Wyler’s 1939 rendition of Emily Brontë’s novel and Luis Buńuel’s version, titled Los Abismos de Pasion, I quickly noticed differences not only between the novel and the movies, but more so between the two movies. The storyline was different, the setting, the costumes, but the most obvious difference was the characters’ actions, dialogues and tone. I concentrated on Wyler’s version of Wuthering Heights to better critique his work.

         It is apparent, in both Wyler’s and Buńuel’s movie that they were trying to follow Emily Brontë’s novel, but Wyler’s, more than Buńuel’s, correctly displays this. There were certain situations in Wyler’s version that the tone was not effective, for example, when Cathy, played by Merle Oberon, was passing away. It was almost comical to the audience, whereas it was supposed to be serious. However, the overall script was more closely written to follow Bronte’s novel. The dialogue, for the most part, was good, but not always believable. The actors sometimes seemed to hold back anger, excitement, and pain-which made the movie less realistic.

         The actors were all well cast, to me, except Edgar Linton’s character, portrayed by David Niven, and Heathcliff, acted by Laurence Oliver. Both of these men’s acting was not quite up to par. Their emotions were not realistic, and they did not dominate their roles. Both could have taken their roles way up and beyond the job they did. Merle Oberon played the role of Cathy and did a good job, except for her death scene. The one character I greatly enjoyed was Isabella, depicted by Geraldine Fitzgerald. She kept a very small role, not trying to overshadow the main characters. She was more like the character from the book than any other actor. She seemed she enjoyed the role and did a great job with it.

         The costumes in Wyler’s version were much stronger than in Buńuel’s. For me, they were attractive according to the scene. For example, when Heathcliff and Cathy go to the Linton’s house to watch the ball, the costumes are elegant; when Cathy and Heathcliff are at Wuthering Heights, their costumes are darker and drab. The setting also plays in here; the Linton’s home it is big, elegant, clean, etc, all the things one would expect from a rich family. Wuthering Heights is small, dirty, and dark; basically, what one thinks a less fortunate would have. Both homes seemed realistic for the move. Outdoor, the moors played a huge role in the Cathy, Heathcliff love story. Without this secret place for the two to run away together to, we would not get the total effect

         The cinematography in Wyler’s move was also good quality. Gregg Toland, the cinematography shot the whole room in the scenes, from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling. He shot medium shots for the most part, with close-up shots when needed for the dramatic scenes. There were not any scenes that I felt went on too long, although Cathy’s dying scene could have been shorter since is was so dreadfully acted. Alfred Newman, the music scorer, made the music selection fit the movie to a tee; it was perfect for each scene. It was not overpowering, enhancing the script and staying mainly in the background.

         Overall, I enjoyed this movie very much. It was totally different than the Spanish version that Buńuel directed. I used his movie to examine Wyler’s and ended up finding Wyler’s movie more impressive. I recommend William Wyler’s Wuthering Heighst to all.

Brooke Dunbar

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