Wuthering Heights


1h 43m 1939
Wuthering Heights

Brief Synopsis

A married noblewoman fights her lifelong attraction to a charismatic gypsy.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 7, 1939
Premiere Information
Hollywood premiere: 24 Mar 1939
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (London, 1847).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

In the mid-19th century, on the barren moors in Yorkshire, England, stands Wuthering Heights, an old house in which the dour Heathcliff and his servants live. One night, during a snowstorm, Heathcliff is visited by a young man named Lockwood, who is to be Heathcliff's new neighbor. Lockwood asks for a cup of tea and a guide to take him to his place at The Grange, but Heathcliff refuses to give him an escort and reluctantly allows him to stay the night. Late that night, Lockwood's fitful sleep is disrupted by a noisy window shutter, and as he closes it, he hears a voice scream the name "Cathy" and feels an icy hand touch his. When Lockwood relates the disturbance to his host, Heathcliff rushes outside, into the blizzard, calling Catherine's name. Perplexed by the bizarre occurrence and Heathcliff's strange behavior, Lockwood asks Ellen Dean, the housekeeper, to tell him about Catherine. Ellen relates the story, which began forty years previously, when Wuthering Heights was owned by Cathy's family, the Earnshaws: One day, upon his return from a trip to Liverpool, Cathy's father introduces his children to an orphaned gypsy child whom he has brought to live with them. While Cathy becomes friendly with the boy, whom her father names Heathcliff, her brother Hindley is contemptuous of his presence and throws a stone at him. After vowing to take revenge on Hindley in the future, Heathcliff joins Cathy on a trip to Peniston Crag, a remote location where they pretend to be the king and queen of their make-believe castle. Following the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley assumes control of Wuthering Heights and forces Heathcliff to become his stableboy. Years pass, and Heathcliff continues to labor under the cruel treatment of Hindley, who is now drinking heavily and gambling. Heathcliff finds comfort and protection in his friendship with the sympathetic Ellen and in his love for Cathy, who meets him secretly at Peniston Crag. While returning home from one of their afternoons at the crag, Heathcliff and Cathy stop to peek into an elegant ball taking place at the nearby Linton mansion. They are soon caught, however, by the Lintons' guard dogs, which attack and injure Cathy. Cathy receives kind attention from the Lintons, but when they mistreat Heathcliff, she advises him to leave and come back for her when he has attained wealth. Time passes, and Cathy, who has been recuperating at the Linton estate, is now the sweetheart of the young Edgar Linton, heir to the family fortune. When Cathy and Edgar visit Wuthering Heights, they are surprised by the presence of Heathcliff, who tells Cathy that his love for her is too strong to permit him to go away. Because Edgar looks down on Heathcliff, Cathy yells at Edgar to leave the house. One night, Cathy tells Ellen that Edgar has proposed to her, and when Heathcliff overhears her say that because Heathcliff has sunk so low, marrying him would demean her, he runs off and does not hear her tell Ellen that she truly loves him and feels that she is Heathcliff. Realizing that Heathcliff heard only the insult, Cathy runs after him. After searching for Heathcliff throughout the night, Cathy collapses on the moors and is found the next day by Edgar, who takes her to his estate, where she recovers from pneumonia. After regaining her health, Cathy marries Edgar and befriends his lonely sister Isabella. Several years pass, and Heathcliff, who disappeared on the night she became ill, returns to England after making a fortune abroad and secretly buys Wuthering Heights by paying Hindley's gambling and drinking debts. Appearing before Cathy as the rich and distinguished gentleman that she wanted him to be, Heathcliff seeks Cathy's love, but she spurns him. Heathcliff takes revenge on Cathy by marrying Isabella and treating her badly. Months later, Cathy becomes gravely ill and, on her deathbed, summons Isabella to her side. Isabella refuses to go, but when Heathcliff learns of her illness he rushes to her side, which makes Isabella realize that her husband is still in love with Cathy. At Linton, while Edgar is out gathering heather for her, Cathy confesses her love for Heathcliff and after they kiss, he carries her to the window for one last look at the moors. While Cathy dies in his arms, Heathcliff prays that her spirit will visit him and not let him live in peace until they are reunited. As Ellen concludes her story of Cathy and Heathcliff's ill-fated love, Dr. Kenneth enters the house and tells her that he saw Heathcliff on the moors with a woman, but when he approached them, found only Heathcliff's dead body. In the distance, Heathcliff's and Cathy's spirits ascend the Peniston Crag.

Photo Collections

Wuthering Heights - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Samuel Goldwyn's production of Wuthering Heights (1939), starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Wuthering Heights (1939) - I'm Neither Thief Nor Stranger Returned from America, making an obscured reference to their childhood romance, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) tells Cathy (Merle Oberon), her husband Edgar (David Niven) and his sister Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) he's home to stay, in Wuthering Heights, 1939, the Samuel Goldwyn production directed by William Wyler, from the Emily Bronte novel.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - That's My Curse On You Socially mismatched lovers Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (Merle Oberon) first eavesdrop, then by accident intervene on the Linton's formal party, inducing grave insult, David Niven as worried Edgar, in a key scene from William Wyler's Wuthering Heights, 1939.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - On The Barren Yorkshire Moors Beginning the stormy prologue from Samuel Goldwyn's celebrated 1939 production of Wuthering Heights, Miles Mander as the visitor Lockwood, Laurence Olivier the taciturn Heathcliff, other characters rather obscured, from the Emily Bronte novel, directed by William Wyler.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - I Am Heathcliff! Unaware that socially inferior Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) is within earshot, Cathy (Merle Oberon) tells servant Ellen (Flora Robson) first of her engagement, then her doubts, in Wuthering Heights, 1939, directed by William Wyler from the Emily Bronte novel.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - The Princess Catherine Recovering from being clobbered by her brother, the orphaned quasi-servant boy Heathcliff (Rex Downing) exchanges promises on the moors with young Cathy (Sarita Wooten) in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights, 1939.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - Life Has Ended For Me Exercising further cruelty on infatuated Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), whom he courts out of spite, Heathcliff (Laurence) refuses to dance, then escapes with true love Cathy (Merle Oberon) for constrained passion on the terrace in William Wyler's Wuthering Heights, 1939.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - That Weakness You Call Virtue Cathy (Merle Oberon) visits Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) who defends his intention to marry her sister-in-law, from Samuel Goldwyn's production, from Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights, 1939, directed by William Wyler.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 7, 1939
Premiere Information
Hollywood premiere: 24 Mar 1939
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Chatsworth, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (London, 1847).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Award Wins

Best Cinematography

1939
Gregg Toland

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1939
Laurence Olivier

Best Art Direction

1939

Best Director

1939
William Wyler

Best Picture

1939

Best Score

1939

Best Supporting Actress

1939
Geraldine Fitzgerald

Best Writing, Screenplay

1940

Articles

Behind the Camera - Wuthering Heights - Behind the Scenes on WUTHERING HEIGHTS


Wuthering Heights went before the cameras in early December 1938 in the hills of the San Fernando Valley about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. The production was not an easy one, and all the way through shooting what he would later say was his favorite among all the films he made, Goldwyn constantly referred to it as "a doubtful picture."

Goldwyn sent a film crew to northern England for images of the Yorkshire moors to help the designers recreate the story's setting.

About 500 acres of the hills were stripped of their natural vegetation, and 15,000 pieces of tumbleweed were brought in and topped with purple-painted sawdust to resemble heather.

About 1,000 genuine heather plants were brought in for close-ups. In the southern California sunshine, the plants grew much taller than they ever would on the moors.

The time-setting of the novel, the early 19th century, was updated to about 1841 because Goldwyn and his designers thought the later period's off-the shoulder gowns would showcase Oberon and the other female stars to greater effect.

Animal lovers were incensed when they read in a press release that to keep the barnyard noises from overwhelming the soundtrack, the animal trainer had snipped the vocal cords of the ducks and geese on the set.

Olivier dove into the role armed with the techniques he had perfected playing Hamlet on stage in 1937. Given a collection of essays on psychoanalysis by the play's director, Tyrone Guthrie, Olivier developed a staccato rhythm in his lines based on his Freudian conception of the melancholy Dane. Using that as a basis for Heathcliff, he eschewed the stock-in-trade doomed lover and sought to make something more smoldering and dangerous of the part.

Olivier also came to the set armed with what he later admitted was an abominable pomposity and conceit. Already lionized for his performances on the British stage, the young actor thought he knew everything about acting. Working with Wyler soon beat that arrogance out of him.

Olivier's first on-set confrontation occurred in a dispute with co-star Merle Oberon. Although they had worked together happily on The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Olivier now resented that Oberon had the role he felt should have gone to Vivien Leigh. In one particularly passionate scene, Oberon became upset that Olivier kept letting spit fly from his mouth and land on her. "Why you amateur little bitch," Olivier responded. "What's a little spit for Chrissake between actors? You bloody little idiot, how dare you speak to me?" Oberon stormed off the set in tears, and Wyler forced Olivier to apologize.

Olivier later admitted his first takes were full of overacting and "extravagant gestures." Wyler stopped him: "Do you think you're at the Opera House in Manchester?" Olivier answered with all his disdain for films: "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting." He was humbled when the entire cast and crew, including Wyler, burst out laughing.

Suffering from a debilitating foot ailment, Olivier was often in pain and hobbled around on crutches between takes. Thinking he would get Goldwyn on his side against Wyler, he played up the crippled act until one day Goldwyn called him over and put his arm around him. Much to his surprise, Goldwyn yelled out in front of everyone, "Will you look at his ugly face? He's dirty! His performance is rotten! It's stagy! It's just nothing! Not real for a minute. I won't have it, and if he doesn't improve, I'm gonna close up the picture." The incident had actually been cooked up by producer and director so Wyler could defend Olivier and gain his trust.

Wyler finally pulled Olivier aside one day and explained his great reverence for the possibilities of film art. It changed Olivier's outlook considerably. "If any film actor is having trouble with his career, can't master the medium and, anyway, wonders whether it's worth it, let him pray to meet a man like Wyler," Olivier later said.

"It is really interesting to look back and realize we were witnessing a great actor adapt his art from stage to screen, even though we all suffered a bit from the growing pains," Oberon said later

Olivier wasn't the only source of problems, however. All the actors, particularly Olivier and David Niven, were incensed by Wyler's propensity for numerous takes. Niven quickly found that despite Wyler's earlier assurances to the contrary, the director had not changed at all. He demanded at least 40 takes for Niven's first scene in the film!

Niven recalled that after doing a scene repeatedly, Olivier shouted at Wyler, "I've done it differently 30 times! What the hell do you want me to do?" After thinking silently for several minutes, Wyler finally said, "Just¿e better."

In one scene, Wyler insisted Niven break down. When Niven told him his contract said he would never have to cry on camera, Wyler didn't believe him. Niven got the contract ¿the "no crying" clause was in there.

More than once, Oberon was reduced to tears by Wyler's methods. When Cathy had to run out onto the moors in a fierce storm to stop Heathcliff from leaving, Wyler ordered the actress over and over into propeller-driven winds and rain. After many takes, she began to choke and vomit. She ran a fever and had to be confined to a hospital bed, costing the production thousands of dollars. She refused to do the scene again until Goldwyn rigged heaters to warm the driving rain.

Wyler and Goldwyn were also constantly at each other's throats; in fact, Wyler had nightmares about his producer while Goldwyn insisted the director was "trying to kill me." Goldwyn accused Wyler of overshooting and overdirecting. He was especially incensed at the number of camera angles the director used to film even the simplest scenes. Wyler kept trying to assure him that it would all be pieced together eventually. That task was handled by film editor Daniel Mandell, who did such a superb job of capturing the emotional intensity of the film by selectively splicing the best takes together. Wyler insisted, "I'm sure [Mandell] saved my job."

Wyler and Goldwyn also clashed over Oberon's deathbed scene. Because of the somber sadness of it, Goldwyn wanted her to be beautifully gowned and shown in glamorous close-ups. Wyler thought that was ridiculous and kept her in less glamorous long shots as much as possible. When he saw the finished product, Goldwyn told Oberon it was the finest work she had ever done in pictures.

One battle Wyler lost concerned the ending. Goldwyn wanted something more hopeful, romantic, even oddly upbeat. Wyler refused. So after principal photography was completed, Goldwyn hired another director to shoot the final scene that was used in the film's release ¿two actors (not Olivier and Oberon) shot from behind to depict the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy walking off, arm-in-arm to heaven.

The one happy relationship on the set was between Wyler and cinematographer Gregg Toland. The two had worked together successfully on three prior pictures (and would collaborate on three more after this). They had great respect for each other and were perfectly in synch with their ideas of lyrical, fluid camera movements, long takes, and deep-focus photography that would reveal backgrounds as clearly as characters and images close to the camera.

Toland rejected the typical Hollywood soft-focus, one-plane depth and strove for razor-sharp black-and-white images. To achieve the maximum contrast between shadow and light on this film, he used high-powered Technicolor arc lamps and a film stock four times faster than customary without an appreciable increase in graininess. He achieved the mood Wyler wanted for the picture by using candle-like effects, keeping the characters partially in darkness before coming fully into the light at climactic moments, and shooting from a low angle to capture the ceilings of the sets, emphasizing the confining loneliness of Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights came in 13 days over schedule and more than $100,000 over budget.

by Rob Nixon
Behind The Camera - Wuthering Heights - Behind The Scenes On Wuthering Heights

Behind the Camera - Wuthering Heights - Behind the Scenes on WUTHERING HEIGHTS

Wuthering Heights went before the cameras in early December 1938 in the hills of the San Fernando Valley about 50 miles north of Los Angeles. The production was not an easy one, and all the way through shooting what he would later say was his favorite among all the films he made, Goldwyn constantly referred to it as "a doubtful picture." Goldwyn sent a film crew to northern England for images of the Yorkshire moors to help the designers recreate the story's setting. About 500 acres of the hills were stripped of their natural vegetation, and 15,000 pieces of tumbleweed were brought in and topped with purple-painted sawdust to resemble heather. About 1,000 genuine heather plants were brought in for close-ups. In the southern California sunshine, the plants grew much taller than they ever would on the moors. The time-setting of the novel, the early 19th century, was updated to about 1841 because Goldwyn and his designers thought the later period's off-the shoulder gowns would showcase Oberon and the other female stars to greater effect. Animal lovers were incensed when they read in a press release that to keep the barnyard noises from overwhelming the soundtrack, the animal trainer had snipped the vocal cords of the ducks and geese on the set. Olivier dove into the role armed with the techniques he had perfected playing Hamlet on stage in 1937. Given a collection of essays on psychoanalysis by the play's director, Tyrone Guthrie, Olivier developed a staccato rhythm in his lines based on his Freudian conception of the melancholy Dane. Using that as a basis for Heathcliff, he eschewed the stock-in-trade doomed lover and sought to make something more smoldering and dangerous of the part. Olivier also came to the set armed with what he later admitted was an abominable pomposity and conceit. Already lionized for his performances on the British stage, the young actor thought he knew everything about acting. Working with Wyler soon beat that arrogance out of him. Olivier's first on-set confrontation occurred in a dispute with co-star Merle Oberon. Although they had worked together happily on The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Olivier now resented that Oberon had the role he felt should have gone to Vivien Leigh. In one particularly passionate scene, Oberon became upset that Olivier kept letting spit fly from his mouth and land on her. "Why you amateur little bitch," Olivier responded. "What's a little spit for Chrissake between actors? You bloody little idiot, how dare you speak to me?" Oberon stormed off the set in tears, and Wyler forced Olivier to apologize. Olivier later admitted his first takes were full of overacting and "extravagant gestures." Wyler stopped him: "Do you think you're at the Opera House in Manchester?" Olivier answered with all his disdain for films: "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting." He was humbled when the entire cast and crew, including Wyler, burst out laughing. Suffering from a debilitating foot ailment, Olivier was often in pain and hobbled around on crutches between takes. Thinking he would get Goldwyn on his side against Wyler, he played up the crippled act until one day Goldwyn called him over and put his arm around him. Much to his surprise, Goldwyn yelled out in front of everyone, "Will you look at his ugly face? He's dirty! His performance is rotten! It's stagy! It's just nothing! Not real for a minute. I won't have it, and if he doesn't improve, I'm gonna close up the picture." The incident had actually been cooked up by producer and director so Wyler could defend Olivier and gain his trust. Wyler finally pulled Olivier aside one day and explained his great reverence for the possibilities of film art. It changed Olivier's outlook considerably. "If any film actor is having trouble with his career, can't master the medium and, anyway, wonders whether it's worth it, let him pray to meet a man like Wyler," Olivier later said. "It is really interesting to look back and realize we were witnessing a great actor adapt his art from stage to screen, even though we all suffered a bit from the growing pains," Oberon said later Olivier wasn't the only source of problems, however. All the actors, particularly Olivier and David Niven, were incensed by Wyler's propensity for numerous takes. Niven quickly found that despite Wyler's earlier assurances to the contrary, the director had not changed at all. He demanded at least 40 takes for Niven's first scene in the film! Niven recalled that after doing a scene repeatedly, Olivier shouted at Wyler, "I've done it differently 30 times! What the hell do you want me to do?" After thinking silently for several minutes, Wyler finally said, "Just¿e better." In one scene, Wyler insisted Niven break down. When Niven told him his contract said he would never have to cry on camera, Wyler didn't believe him. Niven got the contract ¿the "no crying" clause was in there. More than once, Oberon was reduced to tears by Wyler's methods. When Cathy had to run out onto the moors in a fierce storm to stop Heathcliff from leaving, Wyler ordered the actress over and over into propeller-driven winds and rain. After many takes, she began to choke and vomit. She ran a fever and had to be confined to a hospital bed, costing the production thousands of dollars. She refused to do the scene again until Goldwyn rigged heaters to warm the driving rain. Wyler and Goldwyn were also constantly at each other's throats; in fact, Wyler had nightmares about his producer while Goldwyn insisted the director was "trying to kill me." Goldwyn accused Wyler of overshooting and overdirecting. He was especially incensed at the number of camera angles the director used to film even the simplest scenes. Wyler kept trying to assure him that it would all be pieced together eventually. That task was handled by film editor Daniel Mandell, who did such a superb job of capturing the emotional intensity of the film by selectively splicing the best takes together. Wyler insisted, "I'm sure [Mandell] saved my job." Wyler and Goldwyn also clashed over Oberon's deathbed scene. Because of the somber sadness of it, Goldwyn wanted her to be beautifully gowned and shown in glamorous close-ups. Wyler thought that was ridiculous and kept her in less glamorous long shots as much as possible. When he saw the finished product, Goldwyn told Oberon it was the finest work she had ever done in pictures. One battle Wyler lost concerned the ending. Goldwyn wanted something more hopeful, romantic, even oddly upbeat. Wyler refused. So after principal photography was completed, Goldwyn hired another director to shoot the final scene that was used in the film's release ¿two actors (not Olivier and Oberon) shot from behind to depict the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy walking off, arm-in-arm to heaven. The one happy relationship on the set was between Wyler and cinematographer Gregg Toland. The two had worked together successfully on three prior pictures (and would collaborate on three more after this). They had great respect for each other and were perfectly in synch with their ideas of lyrical, fluid camera movements, long takes, and deep-focus photography that would reveal backgrounds as clearly as characters and images close to the camera. Toland rejected the typical Hollywood soft-focus, one-plane depth and strove for razor-sharp black-and-white images. To achieve the maximum contrast between shadow and light on this film, he used high-powered Technicolor arc lamps and a film stock four times faster than customary without an appreciable increase in graininess. He achieved the mood Wyler wanted for the picture by using candle-like effects, keeping the characters partially in darkness before coming fully into the light at climactic moments, and shooting from a low angle to capture the ceilings of the sets, emphasizing the confining loneliness of Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights came in 13 days over schedule and more than $100,000 over budget. by Rob Nixon

Wuthering Heights (1939)


Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's classic novel of doomed love between the brooding gypsy Heathcliff and the passionate, headstrong Cathy has been filmed many times. There was a Spanish-language version by Luis Bunuel, an Egyptian production in Arabic, and numerous television adaptations. But the definitive version is the one directed by William Wyler, and produced by Samuel Goldwyn.

Wuthering Heights (1939) followed a circuitous path to the screen. Some sources say that Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur adapted the novel on speculation, and took it to producer Walter Wanger. Others say that it was commissioned by Wanger, who planned it for Sylvia Sidney and Charles Boyer. That project fell through, and Wanger then offered to sell the script to Sam Goldwyn. William Wyler, Goldwyn's star director, loved the adaptation and urged his boss to buy it. Wyler had Bette Davis, with whom he'd worked on Jezebel (1938), in mind for Cathy. Goldwyn had another suggestion: Merle Oberon, whom he had under contract.

Goldwyn's first choice for Heathcliff was Ronald Colman, whom most people felt was wrong for the part and was unavailable anyway. Oberon suggested Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who tested badly. English actor Robert Newton also tested, but Goldwyn thought he was "ugly." Someone brought Laurence Olivier to Goldwyn's attention, and he dispatched Wyler to England to look at the actor. Olivier hesitated; he'd failed miserably in Hollywood a few years earlier, and had been fired as Garbo's leading man in Queen Christina (1933). Olivier was now a star of the British stage, and convinced that was where he belonged. He was also involved in an intense affair with Vivien Leigh, and didn't want to be separated from her. Wyler offered Leigh the secondary role of Isabella in Wuthering Heights, but she wanted to play Cathy, or nothing. Finally, it was Leigh who convinced Olivier that he couldn't pass up the opportunity, and he agreed to play Heathcliff. Months later, during a trip to the U.S. to see Olivier, Leigh was introduced to producer David O. Selznick and signed to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939).

Filming on Wuthering Heights began in December, 1938. The hills of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles stood in for the Yorkshire moors. 500 acres were covered with tumbleweed topped with purple sawdust to simulate heather. A thousand real heather plants were imported from England for close-ups. During shooting on the fake moors, Merle Oberon slipped and sprained her ankle, and shooting was suspended for a week. During that time, the heather grew so tall in the California sunshine that it no longer looked like the real thing.

Goldwyn contract player David Niven was assigned to play Edgar Linton. His previous experience with Wyler - who was known for tormenting actors and insisting on dozens of takes - had been miserable. Furthermore, Edgar was a thankless role. Niven decided to go on suspension rather than do it, but Wyler took him to dinner and assured him he'd mellowed. Niven reluctantly agreed...and lived to regret it. Wyler made his life hell during production but the actor delivered a moving performance as the hapless Edgar.

Olivier also suffered under Wyler's direction. After being forced to do a scene over and over, Olivier exploded. "I've done it thirty different times, thirty different ways," he shouted. "How do you want me to do it?" "Better," Wyler replied. Furious, Olivier sneered, "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting." The guffaws of the crew were humiliation enough, and eventually Olivier realized he had something to learn about film acting, and that Wyler was the one to teach him. He would later express his gratitude to the director, and even asked Wyler to direct him in Henry V (1944). Wyler was unavailable, but they would work together again on Carrie (1952).

Olivier found another target for his frustration and contempt in Merle Oberon, whom he resented for playing the role he thought Vivien Leigh should have won. At one point, Oberon accused Olivier of spitting on her during a love scene, and he called her an "amateur," and a "bloody idiot." Amazingly, none of this hostility is apparent onscreen.

Wyler was having his own shouting matches with Sam Goldwyn. The producer wanted Wuthering Heights (which, in his typically malaprop way, he called "Withering Heights") to be a showcase for Merle Oberon, and insisted on full makeup and glamorous close-ups, even in her death scene. Wyler convinced Goldwyn that "when beautiful movie stars allow themselves to look terrible, people think they're really acting." On one point, however, Goldwyn was adamant. He insisted on some semblance of a "happy" ending by having the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy walking off into the clouds. Wyler refused to shoot that ending, and Goldwyn brought in another director and doubles for Olivier and Oberon to do it. But Goldwyn did back down on his request to retitle the film, after Wyler convinced him that they would be ridiculed for changing the title of a well-known classic.

The New York Film Critics selected Wuthering Heights as the year's best film, and it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. But Gone With the Wind swept the awards. Wuthering Heights won only one Oscar®, for Gregg Toland's moody, atmospheric cinematography. In spite of generally favorable reviews, however, Wuthering Heights was not a popular movie, perhaps because it was so downbeat, or because it had been considered a "difficult" novel even for readers with an acquired literary taste. But Wyler's movie was certainly an artistic success, and over the years, it's become recognized as one of the screen's great love stories. And for producer Sam Goldwyn, Wuthering Heights was his favorite film and proudest achievement.

Director: William Wyler
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, from the novel by Emily Bronte
Editor: Daniel Mandell
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Costume Design: Omar Kiam
Art Direction: James Basevi
Music: Alfred Newman
Cast: Merle Oberon (Cathy Linton), Laurence Olivier (Heathcliff), David Niven (Edgar Linton), Donald Crisp (Dr. Kenneth), Flora Robson (Ellen Dean), Hugh Williams (Hindley Earnshaw), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Isabella Linton).
BW-104m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's classic novel of doomed love between the brooding gypsy Heathcliff and the passionate, headstrong Cathy has been filmed many times. There was a Spanish-language version by Luis Bunuel, an Egyptian production in Arabic, and numerous television adaptations. But the definitive version is the one directed by William Wyler, and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Wuthering Heights (1939) followed a circuitous path to the screen. Some sources say that Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur adapted the novel on speculation, and took it to producer Walter Wanger. Others say that it was commissioned by Wanger, who planned it for Sylvia Sidney and Charles Boyer. That project fell through, and Wanger then offered to sell the script to Sam Goldwyn. William Wyler, Goldwyn's star director, loved the adaptation and urged his boss to buy it. Wyler had Bette Davis, with whom he'd worked on Jezebel (1938), in mind for Cathy. Goldwyn had another suggestion: Merle Oberon, whom he had under contract. Goldwyn's first choice for Heathcliff was Ronald Colman, whom most people felt was wrong for the part and was unavailable anyway. Oberon suggested Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who tested badly. English actor Robert Newton also tested, but Goldwyn thought he was "ugly." Someone brought Laurence Olivier to Goldwyn's attention, and he dispatched Wyler to England to look at the actor. Olivier hesitated; he'd failed miserably in Hollywood a few years earlier, and had been fired as Garbo's leading man in Queen Christina (1933). Olivier was now a star of the British stage, and convinced that was where he belonged. He was also involved in an intense affair with Vivien Leigh, and didn't want to be separated from her. Wyler offered Leigh the secondary role of Isabella in Wuthering Heights, but she wanted to play Cathy, or nothing. Finally, it was Leigh who convinced Olivier that he couldn't pass up the opportunity, and he agreed to play Heathcliff. Months later, during a trip to the U.S. to see Olivier, Leigh was introduced to producer David O. Selznick and signed to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939). Filming on Wuthering Heights began in December, 1938. The hills of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles stood in for the Yorkshire moors. 500 acres were covered with tumbleweed topped with purple sawdust to simulate heather. A thousand real heather plants were imported from England for close-ups. During shooting on the fake moors, Merle Oberon slipped and sprained her ankle, and shooting was suspended for a week. During that time, the heather grew so tall in the California sunshine that it no longer looked like the real thing. Goldwyn contract player David Niven was assigned to play Edgar Linton. His previous experience with Wyler - who was known for tormenting actors and insisting on dozens of takes - had been miserable. Furthermore, Edgar was a thankless role. Niven decided to go on suspension rather than do it, but Wyler took him to dinner and assured him he'd mellowed. Niven reluctantly agreed...and lived to regret it. Wyler made his life hell during production but the actor delivered a moving performance as the hapless Edgar. Olivier also suffered under Wyler's direction. After being forced to do a scene over and over, Olivier exploded. "I've done it thirty different times, thirty different ways," he shouted. "How do you want me to do it?" "Better," Wyler replied. Furious, Olivier sneered, "I suppose this anemic little medium can't take great acting." The guffaws of the crew were humiliation enough, and eventually Olivier realized he had something to learn about film acting, and that Wyler was the one to teach him. He would later express his gratitude to the director, and even asked Wyler to direct him in Henry V (1944). Wyler was unavailable, but they would work together again on Carrie (1952). Olivier found another target for his frustration and contempt in Merle Oberon, whom he resented for playing the role he thought Vivien Leigh should have won. At one point, Oberon accused Olivier of spitting on her during a love scene, and he called her an "amateur," and a "bloody idiot." Amazingly, none of this hostility is apparent onscreen. Wyler was having his own shouting matches with Sam Goldwyn. The producer wanted Wuthering Heights (which, in his typically malaprop way, he called "Withering Heights") to be a showcase for Merle Oberon, and insisted on full makeup and glamorous close-ups, even in her death scene. Wyler convinced Goldwyn that "when beautiful movie stars allow themselves to look terrible, people think they're really acting." On one point, however, Goldwyn was adamant. He insisted on some semblance of a "happy" ending by having the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy walking off into the clouds. Wyler refused to shoot that ending, and Goldwyn brought in another director and doubles for Olivier and Oberon to do it. But Goldwyn did back down on his request to retitle the film, after Wyler convinced him that they would be ridiculed for changing the title of a well-known classic. The New York Film Critics selected Wuthering Heights as the year's best film, and it was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. But Gone With the Wind swept the awards. Wuthering Heights won only one Oscar®, for Gregg Toland's moody, atmospheric cinematography. In spite of generally favorable reviews, however, Wuthering Heights was not a popular movie, perhaps because it was so downbeat, or because it had been considered a "difficult" novel even for readers with an acquired literary taste. But Wyler's movie was certainly an artistic success, and over the years, it's become recognized as one of the screen's great love stories. And for producer Sam Goldwyn, Wuthering Heights was his favorite film and proudest achievement. Director: William Wyler Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Screenplay: Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, from the novel by Emily Bronte Editor: Daniel Mandell Cinematography: Gregg Toland Costume Design: Omar Kiam Art Direction: James Basevi Music: Alfred Newman Cast: Merle Oberon (Cathy Linton), Laurence Olivier (Heathcliff), David Niven (Edgar Linton), Donald Crisp (Dr. Kenneth), Flora Robson (Ellen Dean), Hugh Williams (Hindley Earnshaw), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Isabella Linton). BW-104m. Closed captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005)


Geraldine Fitzgerald, the Irish born actress who, long in America, distinguished herself as a young ingenue in film classics like Wuthering Heights and later as a first-rate character player in hits such as Arthur, died on July 16 in her Manhattan home, succumbing to a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 91.

Born in Dublin on November 24, 1913, Fitzgerald was educated for a time in a convent school in London. Back in her native Dublin, she happily accompanied her aunt, the Irish actress Shelah Richards, to a theater one afternoon when the director mistook her for an actress, and instructed her "to go backstage and change." An inauspicious start, but it gave her the acting bug. She made her stage debut in 1932 in Dublin's Gate Theater and later appeared in a few forgettable British films: Open All Night (1934), The Ace of Spades, Three Witnesses (both 1935). She made the trip across the Atlantic in 1938 to act with Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater, but agents from Warner Bros. quickly signed her and she was soon off to Hollywood.

She made her film debut in 1939 supporting Bette Davis in Dark Victory, but it was her performance in a second film later in the year that proved to be the most memorable of her career - the role of Isabella Linton in Wuthering Heights. She earned an Oscar® nomination for her turn and stardom should have been around the corner, but Fitzgerald's feuding with studio head Jack Warner (he refused to let her return to the New York stage and she would refuse parts that she thought were inferior) led to some lengthy suspensions of unemployment. Irregardless, Fitzgerald still had some shining moments at Warner Bros. the heady melodrama The Gay Sisters (1942); the superb espionage thriller Watch on the Rhine (1943); Robert Siodmak's terrific, noirish thriller The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945); and a tough crime drama where she played opposite John Garfield Nobody Lives Forever (1946).

Fitzgerald returned to New York by the '50s, and found much work in many of the live television dramas that were so popular in the day: Goodyear Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Studio One, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars; and even some taped television shows: Naked City, Alfred Hitchcock Presents in between her stage demands.

She did return to the screen by the mid-'60s and proved herself a fine character actress in films like The Pawnbroker (1965); Rachel, Rachel (1968); Harry and Tonto (1974); a wonderfully memorable comic turn as Dudley Moore's feisty grandmother in Arthur (1981); and yet another noteworthy performance as Rose Kennedy in the acclaimed mini-series Kennedy (1983). She also appeared in a few television programs: St. Elswhere, Cagney & Lacey, and The Golden Girls before ill-health forced her to retire by the early '90s. Among the relatives that survive her are her son, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Brideshead Revisited; a daughter, Susan Scheftel; and her great-niece, the English actress Tara Fitzgerald.

by Michael "Mitch" Toole

Geraldine Fitzgerald (1913-2005)

Geraldine Fitzgerald, the Irish born actress who, long in America, distinguished herself as a young ingenue in film classics like Wuthering Heights and later as a first-rate character player in hits such as Arthur, died on July 16 in her Manhattan home, succumbing to a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 91. Born in Dublin on November 24, 1913, Fitzgerald was educated for a time in a convent school in London. Back in her native Dublin, she happily accompanied her aunt, the Irish actress Shelah Richards, to a theater one afternoon when the director mistook her for an actress, and instructed her "to go backstage and change." An inauspicious start, but it gave her the acting bug. She made her stage debut in 1932 in Dublin's Gate Theater and later appeared in a few forgettable British films: Open All Night (1934), The Ace of Spades, Three Witnesses (both 1935). She made the trip across the Atlantic in 1938 to act with Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater, but agents from Warner Bros. quickly signed her and she was soon off to Hollywood. She made her film debut in 1939 supporting Bette Davis in Dark Victory, but it was her performance in a second film later in the year that proved to be the most memorable of her career - the role of Isabella Linton in Wuthering Heights. She earned an Oscar® nomination for her turn and stardom should have been around the corner, but Fitzgerald's feuding with studio head Jack Warner (he refused to let her return to the New York stage and she would refuse parts that she thought were inferior) led to some lengthy suspensions of unemployment. Irregardless, Fitzgerald still had some shining moments at Warner Bros. the heady melodrama The Gay Sisters (1942); the superb espionage thriller Watch on the Rhine (1943); Robert Siodmak's terrific, noirish thriller The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945); and a tough crime drama where she played opposite John Garfield Nobody Lives Forever (1946). Fitzgerald returned to New York by the '50s, and found much work in many of the live television dramas that were so popular in the day: Goodyear Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Studio One, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars; and even some taped television shows: Naked City, Alfred Hitchcock Presents in between her stage demands. She did return to the screen by the mid-'60s and proved herself a fine character actress in films like The Pawnbroker (1965); Rachel, Rachel (1968); Harry and Tonto (1974); a wonderfully memorable comic turn as Dudley Moore's feisty grandmother in Arthur (1981); and yet another noteworthy performance as Rose Kennedy in the acclaimed mini-series Kennedy (1983). She also appeared in a few television programs: St. Elswhere, Cagney & Lacey, and The Golden Girls before ill-health forced her to retire by the early '90s. Among the relatives that survive her are her son, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (Brideshead Revisited; a daughter, Susan Scheftel; and her great-niece, the English actress Tara Fitzgerald. by Michael "Mitch" Toole

Quotes

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest so long as I live on! I killed you. Haunt me, then! Haunt your murderer! I know that ghosts have wandered on the Earth. Be with me always. Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me in this dark alone where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul.
- Heathcliff
If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn't love you as much as I do in a single day.
- Heathcliff
You could come back to me rich and take me away. Why aren't you my prince like we said long ago? Why can't you rescue me Heathcliff?
- Cathy
Cathy, come with me now.
- Heathcliff
Where?
- Cathy
Anywhere.
- Heathcliff
And live in haystacks and steal our food from the marketplaces? No Heathcliff, that's not what I want.
- Cathy
You just want to send me off. That won't do. I've stayed here and been beaten like a dog, abused and cursed and driven mad, but I stayed just to be near you, even as a dog. And I'll stay 'til the end. I'll live and I'll die under this rock.
- Heathcliff
Tell the dirty stable boy to let go of you. He soiled your pretty dress. But who soiled your heart? Not Heathcliff. Who turns you into a vain, cheap, worldly fool? Linton does. You'll never love him, but you'll let yourself be loved because it pleases your stupid, greedy vanity.
- Heathcliff
He seems to take pleasure in being mean and brutal. And yet, he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. And Linton's is as different as frost from fire... Ellen, I AM Heathcliff.
- Cathy
Everything he's suffered, I've suffered. The little happiness he's ever known, I've had too. Oh, Ellen, if everything in the world died and Heathcliff remained, life would still be full for me.
- Cathy

Trivia

In the final sequence, the spirits of Heathcliff and Cathy are seen walking their favorite pathway. But this was added in after filming was complete, and because Laurence Olivier and ' Merle Oberon' had already moved on to other projects, doubles had to be used.

The Mitchell Camera Corporation selected Gregg Toland and this picture to be the first to use their new Mitchell BNC camera. This camera model would become the studio standard.

MGM felt that script was too dark for a romance movie so they asked several writers to do a rewrite on the script and they even asked a young 'John Houston' who said that the script need no rewrite, it's perfect as it is.

Vivien Leigh wanted to play the lead role, alongside her husband at the time 'Laurence Oliver' , but the studio decided the role should go to Merle Oberon. They later offered Leigh the part of Isabelle Litton, but she declined and 'Geraldine Fitzgerald' was cast.

The movie actually opens on Chapter 17 of the book.

Notes

According to an August 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Walter Wanger, who owned the film rights to Wuthering Heights previous to Samuel Goldwyn, planned to film the story with Anatole Litvak directing and Charles Boyer and Sylvia Sidney starring. An October 1937 Hollywood Reporter article noted that after two years on his production schedule, Wanger decided to abandon Wuthering Heights and put the rights, along with Charles MacArthur's and Ben Hecht's script and some backgrounds already planned or constructed by art director Alexander Toluboff, up for sale. The article also noted that before Wanger decided to sell Wuthering Heights, he had signed Harold Young to direct the picture. M-G-M put in its bid for the rights, but it was Goldwyn who eventually acquired the property. According to a biography of director William Wyler, Goldwyn initially refused to buy the story, stating that he thought it was "too gloomy" and that he did not like stories "with people dying in the end." Wyler's biography also notes that while Goldwyn was considering the property, Bette Davis tried to convince producer Jack Warner to buy the script for her. According to Hollywood Reporter, soon after buying the rights to the script, Goldwyn began negotiations for English actor James Mason to star. A June 1938 Philadelphia Inquirer news item noted that Tyrone Power was sought for the lead. An October 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Goldwyn had signed Joseph Calleia for "an important role," but he did not appear in the released film.
       Contemporary news items note that Brontë societies worldwide wrote Goldwyn and urged him to remain as faithful in detail as possible to the original novel, and protested the use of any one of a number of replacement titles for the story that were rumored to have been considered. Titles reportedly considered by the Goldwyn sales office were Gypsy Love, Fun on the Farm and He Died for Her. Although the script remained faithful in many respects to the novel, it covered only the events pertaining to the first generation of characters in the novel. The time period of the story, according to modern sources, was changed from the late eighteenth century to 1841 because Wyler did not like the dresses of the earlier period. Goldwyn's biography notes that he and Wyler quarreled often during production, a situation that reportedly grew most serious when Goldwyn insisted that Wyler reshoot the ending. Not satisfied with an ending in which both the hero and the heroine die, Goldwyn asked Wyler to add a final scene showing Heathcliff and Cathy reunited in Heaven. When Wyler balked at the producer's demand and refused to comply with it, Goldwyn suspended Wyler and threatened to hire a new director to film the scene. Goldwyn eventually got his way and the superimposed image of Heathcliff and Cathy ascending towards Heaven together was used as the final shot.
       A January 1939 New York Times article indicates that some filming took place in the Canejo Hills, about fifty miles from Hollywood, where a set resembling the Yorkshire moors surrounding Wuthering Heights was constructed. A modern source notes that some shooting took place at Chatsworth, CA. Although a Hollywood Reporter pre-release news item refers to noted still photographer Robert Coburn as a cameraman, along with Gregg Toland, the exact nature of Coburn's work on the film has not been determined. Coburn accompanied Toland to Lone Pine, CA, where cloud and rain effects were to be filmed. Hollywood Reporter pre-release news items also note that high winds on the location shoot caused Merle Oberon to injure her ankle, and that her injury precluded her appearance in long shots.
       Modern sources indicate that actor Robert Newton was originally tested for the part of Heathcliff, and that Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were considered for the part. Wuthering Heights was the first film on English actress Flora Robson's contract with Goldwyn. According to modern sources, Laurence Olivier, who was seeking a divorce from his wife Jill Esmond at the time, insisted that his girl friend, Vivien Leigh, be cast in the part of Cathy. Goldwyn, however, remained firm in his decision to cast Oberon, whom he had under contract. Leigh was eventually cast in Gone With the Wind. Wuthering Heights marked Oberon's last film for Goldwyn and was the second of two Olivier-Oberon pictures, the first of which was the 1938 film The Divorce of Lady X.
       The film received an Academy Award for Best Cinematography and was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actor (Olivier), Best Supporting Actress (Geraldine Fitzgerald), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Interior Decoration (James Basevi) and Original Score. Wuthering Heights was named Best Picture of the Year by the New York Film Critics and also placed fourth on Film Daily's Ten Best Pictures of 1939 critics' poll. A 1979 Los Angeles Times article quotes Olivier as saying that Wuthering Heights "was a lousy picture," and notes that the actor said that he would not watch it on television. The film was re-issued in 1989 to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary and in honor of Olivier's death.
       Other film adaptations of Brontë's novel include the 1920 British Ideal Films production, directed by A. V. Bramble and starring Milton Rosmer and Anne Trevor; the 1953 Mexican film Abismos de Pasión, directed by Luis Buñuel and starring Jorge Mistral and Irasema Diliàn; the 1970 American International Pictures production, directed by Robert Fuest and starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall; the 1985 French production Hurlevent, directed by Jacques Rivette and starring Lucas Belvaux and Fabienne Babe; the 1988 Japanese film Arashi ga oka, directed by Yoshishige Yoshida and starring Yusaku Matsuda and Yûko Tanaka; and the 1992 Paramount Pictures production, directed by Peter Kosminsky, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, and featuring singer Sinéad O'Connor as Emily Brontë. The Paramount film, unlike previous adaptations, covered the entire Brontë novel.
       An operatic adaption of Wuthering Heights, written and composed by Carlisle Ford, was performed by the New York City Opera Company and starred John Reardon and Phyllis Curtin. The opera had its world premiere in Santa Fe, NM, on July 16, 1958. Many stage versions of Wuthering Heights have been produced, including England's Royalty Theatre production, which opened in London on June 3, 1934 and was directed by Olive Walter and R. Eric Lee and starred R. Eric Lee and Betty Hardy; and New York's Longacre Theatre production, which opened on April 27, 1939 and was directed by Stewart Chaney and starred John Emery and Edith Barrett. Television adaptations of Brontë's novel include the Kraft Theatre production, starring John Baragray and Louisa Horton, which aired on the NBC network on November 24, 1948; the Studio One production, directed by Paul Nickell and starring Charlton Heston and Mary Sinclair, which aired on the CBS television network on October 30, 1950; and the DuPont Show of the Month production, directed by Daniel Petrie and starring Richard Burton and Rosemary Harris, which was televised on the CBS network on May 9, 1958. A musical adaptation set in contemporary Los Angeles, directed by Suri Krishnamma and starring Erika Christensen, Mike Vogel and Katherine Heigl, aired on cable's MTV on September 14, 2003. Three Lux Radio Theatre adaptations of Wuthering Heights were produced. The first, featuring Barbara Stanwyck, Brian Aherne and Ida Lupino, was broadcast on September 18, 1939; the second, also starring Lupino, was broadcast on November 4, 1940; and the third, featuring Merle Oberon and Cameron Mitchell, aired in 1955.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 12, 1989

Released in United States April 14, 1989

Released in United States April 1939

Released in United States April 7, 1989

Released in United States February 17, 1989

Released in United States October 7, 1989

Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1939

Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival October 7, 1989.

Began shooting December 5, 1938.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1939

Released in United States February 17, 1989 (Seattle)

Released in United States April 1939

Released in United States April 7, 1989 (at one theater; New York City)

Released in United States April 12, 1989 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States April 14, 1989 (at one theater; New York City)

Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988

Released in United States October 7, 1989 (Shown at Mill Valley Film Festival October 7, 1989.)