150 of 159 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS Tape
I had the good fortune of seeing this film on a big screen at a New York cinema in the early seventies. Viewing a master print in a darkened theatre was one of the all-time highlights of my movie-going experiences. Yes, this is a truncated version of the novel, which I would urge anyone who hasn't already done so to read. It is on my personal top ten list for greatest novels ever. In my opinion this film is far superior to GWTW, which took home the oscar for best-picture in '39. Basically this is due to the source material. Wuthering Heights is great literature. GWTW was a best-seller, but not what one could call great literature. Catherine and Heathcliffe belong in the same literary company as Abelarde and Heloise, Dante's Paolo and Francessa, and Romeo and Juliet. I cant think of anyone who could have been better cast as Heathcliffe than Olivier. Merle Oberon also made for a highly believable Catherine. Flora Robeson also delivers a flawless performance. This is William Wyler's masterpiece. I didn't know until reading some of these reviews that this was filmed in California. I was certain it had to have been filmed on the English moors. If you want to see genius at work, by all means buy the video or the DVD. And if you ever get the chance to see it on a big screen, seize the opportunity. I'm not ordinarily the sentimental type. I can only recall two occasions when I openly wept at the conclusion of a movie. The first was when I saw "Old Yeller" at about eight-years-of-age, the second when I saw Wuthering Heights. I have seen it about five times since and I'll be damned if it doesn't always have the same impact.
66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Wuthering Heights had the misfortune to be released the same year as Gone With The Wind, so was probably not given the attention at the time it deserved. The movie is only adapted from part of the book, focusing on the story of Heathcliff and Cathy. Of course creating a flawless movie from such great literature is almost impossible; there will always be critics who insist the book should be followed to the letter. But the movie is quite overwhelming; the acting is first-rate. Olivier makes a perfect Heathcliff, perhaps a little prettier than Emily Bronte imagined him, but it isn't Olivier's fault he was born beautiful. It's hard to believe this movie wasn't actually filmed in England, the scenery is quite authentic. Anyone who has ever loved someone they felt was a little out of their league can relate to this tale of love, jealousy and revenge.
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
You can never compare the movie to the book since a movie can't possibly incorporate ALL of the text from the author! William Wyler put together an excellent cast, fantastic, dark, moody scenes and beautiful music to turn out this brilliant film. The handsome and brooding Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), the ravishing and haughty Cathy (Merle Oberon) along with the stoic, dull Edgar (David Niven)and the rebellious and pathetic Isabel (Geraldine Fitzgerald) turn this into one of the most romantic, haunting love stories ever.
This movie will forever be considered, for me, the epitome of the romantic film. When Heathcliff carries Cathy to the window to look upon the moors one last time as she's dying, my heart swells and tears fill my eyes. It's simply stunning!
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
Oh, yes. This was the start of it all. I was ten or eleven and at home with the flu. I was a die-hard Vivien Leigh fan and had just watched That Hamilton Women with Leigh and Olivier and as it was Olivier's birthday, AMC showed this next. I fell in love with Olivier, I fell in love with Emily Bronte and I fell irrevocably in love with Yorkshire moors and brooding anti-heroes. (You, should see some of my ex-boyfriends . . ) As I got older, and began to explore the Bronte world more deeply, I came to realize what a gross interepretation of Emily's shattering novel this was. However, out of the five versions of this novel I have seen - only Olivier and Oberon have convinced me that they would traverse the nether regions to be together. Only Olivier has said "Take any form, drive me mad . . " and meant it. Now, of course, I know that the two actors despised each other - but in certain ways - so did Cathy and Heathcliff - at any rate - the intensity was there. The fine line between love and hate, and all of those cliches are definately applicable. And I have stood on the Bronte moors in Yorkshire and I am much happier with the cinematic qualities of the TNT and Masterpiece Theater versions. California deserts with imported heather isn't going to measure up to the savage Yorkshire moorlands, of course. And I agree that the oft applied term of "sacchrine" is highly appropriate. Olivier was a stage actor who had a horrid relationship with the leading lady and the director. His overexaggeration of the dark Heathcliff was often almost laughable - but it never was! That's the secret to this classic - the whole movie was at the same pitch of intensity - every one was caught up in the torrents of passions these two had. "Nelly, I AM Heathcliff!" (As the lightning crashes . . .) That is Gothic. People forget that Gothic literature Is melodramtic - it is sweeping and brooding and gut wrenching and soul ravaging. It is a style of writing. It doesn't appeal to everyone. It certainly doesn't appeal to today's average viewer in this day of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. But, this is a true Gothic tale and a true Gothic interpretation of that tale. Of course, I wish they had not chopped off the second half of the novel. Of course, I wish that the end had stayed with the orignally shot scene of the correct version of Heathcliff lying dead on the moor - frozen in the storm. Of course, I wish the accents hadn't been so polished and affluent but this version is when a girl runs out into the stormy night and the man makes deathbed vows of desperate passion. It isn't about love - it is about the forces of the universe - defying form to follow nature. That is what Emily Bronte wrote about and that is what this film, more than the others capture. One tortured soul in two bodies. Heathcliff, fill my arms with heather!
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2006
Who cares about the book? This is a film masterpiece we are discussing, and this is surely one of the greatest. Across over half a century it still resonates in the hearts of men and women as it will continue IF it can be kept available. And THAT is MY peeve: you can't obtain a copy of the original at any reasonable price on DVD. Shame. The same is beginning to apply to other great films from the 30's. Hollywood would rather remake a film a dozen times than keep the original available. Of course if the original is not available, the new versions don't have to compete with it - which they seldom can. Again I say shame on the industry.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2007
Few films explore the depths of dysfunction quite like the 1939 version of "Wuthering Heights." It is perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever captured on film, great because it is more than just a love story; it is a portrait of the long term results of alcoholism and child abuse. Based, of course, upon the novel of the same name, the film stops after the first few chapters. The book, however, goes on to show with immense psychological detail how the abused Heathcliff himself becomes an abuser and replicates, to the best of his ability, the circumstances in which he was mistreated. The film captures in a short but intense manner the brilliance of the original story-telling.
In spite of the all the melodrama, the 1939 "Wuthering Heights" is a subtle film compared to the remakes. There are no sex or rape scenes, little bloodshed, just phenomenal acting and a stirring score. When Hindley places his muddy boot on Heathcliff's hands, one feels the humiliation, the degradation. And no R-rated love scene can compare to the passion with which Catherine rips off her fine frock so she can don her usual shabby attire and dash off to join Heathcliff on the moors.
The obsessive love between Catherine and Heathcliff is the result of the bonding which occurred when they were children in a brutal situation, with no one but each other to turn to for help. Although Catherine loves Heathcliff, her desperation to escape from her alcoholic brother dominates all other emotions. She marries wealthy Edgar for material security and seems to be happy, until Heathcliff comes back. The division in her soul destroys her; in the book she dies giving birth, so tormented that not even the love for her child gives her any peace or hope.
Throughout both the book and the movie are the recurring mentions of the devil, of hell, of witchcraft and curses, so that one has the distinct impression that the religion of the characters in more Manichean than Christian. The evil spirals into consuming jealousy and hatred. No sins of the flesh are committed, that anyone is aware of, although suppressed passion simmers in every chapter. The tempestuous climate of the moors reflects the inner tumults. The core of the evil is not in the wildness of the elements but in the addictive behaviors of the Earnshaw family. Heathcliff is as addicted to his anger and hatred for all who have injured him as much as Hindley is addicted to his drink, and his inability to forgive, more than his thwarted love for Catherine, is what destroys most of the main characters. The film provides a searing study of the evil that is unleashed when people cling to the past. It also shows, in the final ethereal shot, how love can transcend time and space.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
"Maybe if I told you their story, you'd change your mind about the dead coming back. Maybe you'd know as I do, there is a force that brings them back, if their hearts were wild enough in life."
One of the most romantic portraits of tortured but eternal love does not hang in any of the more famous museums around the world. There are no bright colors to distract from its ethereal beauty. Only black and white adorn this painting, yet the shading and images are haunting, filled with love and longing. The canvas is celluloid, the subjects Heathcliff and Cathy, and it is a collaborative effort from director William Wyler, photographer Greg Toland, and musical director Alfred Newman. It is a masterpiece, deeply embedded in the hearts of all who have cast their eyes and hearts upon it. Made in 1939, it is one of the finest films ever made, many still believing it to be the best picture made in the greatest year of motion pictures.
Emily Bronte's beloved classic was brought to life in truncated fashion, yet made so beautifully by Wyler and company, that whatever scriptwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur left out, the flavor of Bronte's tale of love and class was not only left in tact, but given a face by the lovely Merle Oberon as Cathy, and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff. This is love on the moors, a love so encompassing that young and wild hearts appreciate it much too late, years of romantic torture suffered due to vanity and class distictions preceding the final happiness which was always there, had Cathy but seen the light earlier.
It begins when a stranger in a storm seeks shelter at the dark and foreboding Wuthering Heights. It is there he will encounter the tortured Heathcliff and, during the night, Cathy, hearing her call through the wind, and feeling a chilly touch that shakes Heathcliff to his very being. Only then will a story 40 years prior be told him by firelight, until he understands completely how a love that will not die truly exists on the moors of Wuthering Heights. The viewer is transported to a time when Wuthering Heights was alive and beautiful, and full of promise. A man brings home a street urchin and raises him with his two children, Cathy (Sarita Wooten) and Hindley (Douglas Scott), calling him Heathcliff (Rex Downing). Hindley will resent him his whole life, and rub his nose in his poverty. Cathy, however, will fall in love with him along the moors, as they find a romantic place to play and dream. They are kindred souls. It is there, on that rock, that their hearts will be so intertwined that nothing can separate them. But Cathy's youthful vanity is not above these material things.
When their kindly father dies, young and bitter Hindly makes Heathcliff a stable boy, and events are set in motion which will haunt the moors for generations. They grow up, Hindley's (Hugh Williams) resentment of Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) still hanging over he and Cathy, his lowly position like an unreal nightmare compared to their sanctuary on the moor, where their youthful love began. She wants him to run away, but for the wrong reasons, and will not go with him and live in poverty, rich in love only. Her vanity longs for the fine parties and dresses, while her heart is disgusted with her for it. Merle Oberon is wonderful here, giving Cathy an ethereal loveliness, and enough depth that you understand her youthful vanity while at the same time wondering how she could be so foolish and shallow. The same could be said of Oliver, in one of his finest performances. His Heathcliff is tortured by Cathy's refusal to see their love for what it really is, and it shows.
When she gets caught up with Edgar (David Niven), who can give her everything she longs for, but doesn't need, her bitter words to their servant Ellen (Flora Robson) at how degrading it would be to marry Heathcliff, a dirty stable boy, are overheard by him. By the time Cathy realizes she was born to be with Heathcliff, and loves him, he has gone, to claim his fanciful birthright they once dreamed of on the moors. Robson gives a moving performance as she sees how foolish both are being, but cannot make then mature fast enough to avert the romantic suffering they are causing one another. Heathcliff will return with the wealth Cathy desired, but only to seek his revenge, as she has married Edgar. It is here that Olivier shines, the viewer almost with him in spirit, wanting him to rub their noses in it, as he becomes the master of Wuthering Heights. But then his pain becomes too much, and he loses his admiring audience for a time when he marries and destroys Edgar's lovely and adoring sister, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), out of spite. Once she realizes she could never be in Heathcliff's heart, her fate is set.
Oberon and Olivier are exquisite in the last portion of this film, a romantic longing for that rock on the moors hanging over every beautiful word uttered, and every haunted action taken. You can almost hear Cathy calling from the moors and smell the scent of heather on the wind, hoping the two lovers can somehow find a way to be together once again, their wild hearts beating as one. It is one of the most romantic films ever made. Greg Toland's beautiful photography is matched by Alfred Newman's lovely score and William Wyler's sensitive direction. They would be for naught, however, were it not for Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier, who are and will remain the only Heathcliff and Cathy for most of us, no mater how many times this is remade. It is a tale of romantic love too deep for young hearts to appreciate while it is happening. Great art is not always displayed on a canvas. Sometimes celluloid is used, and this is one of those times. A masterpiece.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This is the quintessential version of the first part of Bronte's novel - how can they allow this to go out of print with no recourse but inferior imports?
Olivier is superb in this version, as is Oberon (although not as well-known today as her contemporaries, a stunningly gorgeous & talented actress.) The entire cast acquits themselves with grace & aplomb.
Why has no one seen fit to produce this DVD in the US except for as a limited run? Completely unfair that classic movies should go out of print like this. I hope the studios wise up & produce a Laurence Olivier collection of classic works & include some of his lesser-known projects such as The Divorce of Lady X & That Hamilton Woman, as well.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2013
Warners has acquired the Samuel Goldwyn library, making "Wuthering Heights" available on DVD for the first time in some years. Warners has done some commendable restoration work on many classics, but they've put this one out "as is," which is to say "very shoddy." Apparently original elements are in very sad shape or missing altogether. It's obvious that this edition was made from materials generations removed from camera negatives to early generations prints. There's a LOT of grain, contrast is very poor and the film and a short bonus interview with Geraldine Fitzgerald take up less than 4 GBs! This film is one of the great pictures of Hollywood's heyday and deserves better treatments. Sadly none of the version available at present is much better.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2007
This is a classic masterpiece of (b/w) film-making that sadly isn't done anymore. Yes, it doesn't correspond word for word with the book, get over it, re-read the book. Still, the mood of the book is ever present and Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and David Niven are all wonderful in their roles. Regretably, Wyler and studio didn't tackle the entire book. This was released the year of Gone With the Wind and won only one academy award (for best B/W cinematography). It was nominated for 8 including Best Picture, and for flics released in 1939, that says a lot.