Wuthering Heights: This internationally-acclaimed masterpiece film is based on Emily Bronte’s classic novel — a story of love, passion, hatred and revenge. Starring Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy, whose tortured love affair ends when Cathy marries the wealthy Edgar (David Niven). Heathcliff’s savage retaliation upon Cathy, the woman he loves, explodes in a stunning climax.
You can watch the movie clip at bottom of this page.
About Wuthering Heights – The 1939 classic romantic drama movie
Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s only novel. It was first published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and a posthumous second edition was edited by her sister Charlotte. The name of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors on which the story centres (as an adjective, wuthering is a Yorkshire word referring to turbulent weather).
The narrative tells the tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted, love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys both themselves and many around them.
Now considered a classic of English literature, Wuthering Heights’ innovative structure, which has been likened to a series of Matryoshka dolls, met with mixed reviews by critics when it first appeared.
Excerpts from Contemporary Reviews Wuthering Heights:
Publication & Contemporary Critical Reception Though Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was originally considered the best of the Bronte sisters’ works, many subsequent critics of Wuthering Heights argued that its originality and achievement made it superior.
Later Critical Response to Wutheirng Heights Wuthering Heights has also given rise to many adaptations and inspired works, including films, radio, television dramatisations, a musical by Bernard J. Taylor and songs (notably the hit Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush), ballet and opera.
Wuthering Heights Movie Plot Summary
The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and involves two narrators – Mr. Lockwood and Ellen “Nelly” Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange, a grand house on the Yorkshire moors he is renting from the surly Heathcliff, who lives at nearby Wuthering Heights.
Lockwood spends the night at Wuthering Heights and has a terrifying dream: the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw, pleading to be admitted to the house from outside. Intrigued, Lockwood asks the housekeeper Nelly Dean to tell the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights while he is staying at the Grange recovering from a cold.
Nelly takes over the narration and begins her story forty years earlier, when Heathcliff, a foundling living on the streets of Liverpool, is brought to Wuthering Heights by the then-owner, Mr. Earnshaw, and raised as his own. Ellen comments casually that Heathcliff might have been descended from Indian or Chinese origins. He is often described as “dark” or “gypsy”.
Catherine becomes Heathcliff’s friend
Earnshaw’s daughter Catherine becomes Heathcliff’s inseparable friend. Her brother Hindley, however, resents Heathcliff, seeing him as an interloper and rival. Mr. Earnshaw dies three years later, and Hindley (who has married a woman named Frances) takes over the estate. He brutalises Heathcliff, forcing him to work as a hired hand.
Catherine becomes friends with a neighbor family, the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange, who mellow her initially wild personality. She is especially attached to the refined and mild young Edgar Linton, whom Heathcliff instantaneously dislikes.
A year later, Hindley’s wife dies, apparently of consumption, shortly after giving birth to a son, Hareton; Hindley takes to drink. Some two years after that, Catherine agrees to marry Edgar. Nelly knows that this will crush Heathcliff, and Heathcliff overhears Catherine’s explanation that it would be “degrading” to marry him. Heathcliff storms out and leaves Wuthering Heights, not hearing Catherine’s continuing declarations that Heathcliff is as much a part of her as the rocks are to the earth beneath. Catherine marries Edgar, and is initially very happy.
Some time later, Heathcliff returns, intent on destroying those who prevent him from being with Catherine. He has, mysteriously, become very wealthy. Through loans he has made to the drunken and dissipated Hindley that Hindley cannot repay, he takes ownership of Wuthering Heights upon Hindley’s death. Intent on ruining Edgar, Heathcliff elopes with Edgar’s sister Isabella, which places him in a position to inherit Thrushcross Grange upon Edgar’s death.
Catherine becomes very ill
Catherine becomes very ill after Heathcliff’s return and dies a few hours after giving birth to a daughter also named Catherine, or Cathy. Heathcliff becomes only more bitter and vengeful. Isabella flees her abusive marriage a month later, and subsequently gives birth to a boy, Linton. At around the same time, Hindley dies. Heathcliff takes ownership of Wuthering Heights, and vows to raise Hindley’s son Hareton with as much neglect as he had suffered at Hindley’s hands years earlier.
Twelve years later, the dying Isabella asks Edgar to raise her and Heathcliff’s son, Linton. However, Heathcliff finds out about this and takes the sickly, spoiled child to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff has nothing but contempt for his son, but delights in the idea of him ruling the property of his enemies. To that end, a few years later, Heathcliff attempts to persuade young Cathy to marry Linton.
Cathy refuses, so Heathcliff kidnaps her and forces the two to marry. Soon after, Edgar Linton dies, followed shortly by Linton Heathcliff. This leaves Cathy a widow and a virtual prisoner at Wuthering Heights, as Heathcliff has gained complete control of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. It is at this point in the narrative that Lockwood arrives, taking possession of Thrushcross Grange, and hearing Nelly Dean’s story. Shocked, Lockwood leaves for London.
During his absence from the area, however, events reach a climax that Nelly describes when he returns a year later. Cathy gradually softens toward her rough, uneducated cousin Hareton, just as her mother was tender towards Heathcliff.
When Heathcliff realizes that Cathy and Hareton are in love, he abandons his life-long vendetta. He dies broken and tormented, but glad to be rejoining Catherine, whose ghost had haunted him since she died. Cathy and Hareton marry. Heathcliff is buried next to Catherine (the elder), and the story concludes with Lockwood visiting the grave, unsure of what to feel.
Wuthering Heights Author: Emily Jane Bronte
Emily Jane Bronte (July 30, 1818 – December 19, 1848) was a British novelist and poet, now best remembered for her only novel Wuthering Heights, a classic of English literature. Emily was the second eldest of the three surviving Bronte sisters, being younger than Charlotte and older than Anne. She published under the masculine pen name Ellis Bell. Emily was born in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire to Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Bronte and the fifth of six children.
In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily’s father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary oddities flourished. In childhood, after the death of their mother, the three sisters and their brother Patrick Branwell Bronte created imaginary lands (Angria, Gondal, Gaaldine, Oceania), which were featured in stories they wrote. Little of Emily’s work from this period survived, except for poems spoken by characters (The Brontes’ Web of Childhood, Fannie Ratchford, 1941).
Wuthering Heights Main Characters
Heathcliff is the central male character of the novel. An orphaned foundling raised by the Earnshaw family, he forms an early bond with his foster sister Catherine Earnshaw, and they both fall passionately in love with each other as they grow. Meanwhile he nurses a bitter rivalry with his cruel foster brother Hindley, who resents the attention their father shows Heathcliff.
Catherine (Cathy) Earnshaw is Heathcliff’s adopted sister. A free-spirited and somewhat spoiled young woman, she returns Heathcliff’s love utterly, but considers him too far beneath her for marriage into poverty from both not having any money; instead choosing another childhood friend, Edgar Linton, through which marriage she hopes to advance Heathcliff.
Edgar Linton is a childhood friend of Catherine Earnshaw’s, who later marries her. A mild and gentle man, if slightly cold, cowardly and distant, he loves Catherine deeply but is unable to reconcile his love for her with her feelings for her childhood friend. This leads to a bitter antagonism with Heathcliff, and it is partly this which leads to Catherine’s mental breakdown and death.
Isabella Linton is the younger sister of Edgar who becomes infatuated with Heathcliff. She fundamentally mistakes his true nature and elopes with him despite his apparent dislike of her.
Hindley Earnshaw is Catherine’s brother and Heathcliff’s other rival. Having loathed Heathcliff since childhood, Hindley delights in turning him into a downtrodden servant upon inheriting Wuthering Heights.
Other supporting characters
Ellen (Nelly) Dean is, at various points, the housekeeper of both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, and is one of the two narrators of the novel. She recognizes early on that Heathcliff is Catherine’s true love and tries to dissuade her from the disastrous marriage to Edgar.
Linton Heathcliff is the son of Isabella and Heathcliff. He bears no resemblance to Heathcliff and takes after his mother. He is a sickly child who grows up ignorant of his father until his mother’s death, when he is thirteen years old.
Catherine Linton is the daughter of Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton. She inherits both her mother’s free-spiritedness and dark eyes and her father’s gentle nature, facial features and fair hair. Heathcliff takes advantage of her fundamentally pure nature and manipulates her into marrying his own son, Linton.
Hareton Earnshaw is the son of Hindley Earnshaw, who is adopted by Heathcliff upon Hindley’s death. Even before this, he has waged a campaign of torment against the young man while living together at Wuthering Heights.
Joseph is a servant of the Earnshaws and later Heathcliff. A bullying, lazy and snide man, he hates Heathcliff but is somehow bound to be his servant.
Lockwood is the narrator of the novel. A recently-arrived tenant at Thrushcross Grange at the beginning of the novel, he is intrigued by the curious goings-on at Wuthering Heights, and persuades Nelly Dean to tell him the story of what happened during a bout of sickness.
Frances Earnshaw is the wife that Hindley married while away at college. The fact that he did not tell his father suggests that Frances is not of high social standing.
Mr. Kenneth, the local doctor and drinking partner of Hindley. Kenneth often sees to the ill or dead characters: Cathy in her madnesses, Frances during childbirth and TB, Heathcliff and his early illness, Edgar’s final hours, and Hindley’s death.
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier: Movie’s leading actor
Hodgdon, Barbara. Shakespeare Quarterly, “From the Editor”, Fall, 2002 Olivier played a wide variety of roles on stage and screen from Greek tragedy, Shakespeare and Restoration comedy to modern American and British drama.
He was the first artistic director of the National Theatre of Great Britain and its main stage is named in his honour. He is generally regarded to be the greatest actor of the 20th Century, in the same category as David Garrick, Richard Burbage, Edmund Kean and Henry Irving in their own centuries.Walker, Andrew.
BBC News, 22 May 2007 Olivier’s Academy acknowledgments are considerable-fourteen Oscar nominations, with two wins for Best Actor and Best Picture for the 1948 film Hamlet, and two honorary awards including a statuette and certificate. He was also awarded five Emmy awards from the nine nominations he received. Additionally, he was a three-time Golden Globe and BAFTA winner.
Merle Oberon: The movies Leading Lady
Oberon was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), British India. Her mother, Charlotte, was an Anglo-Indian nurse; her father, Arthur, was a British railway engineer.
Merle was her mother’s second child. Charlotte had abandoned her first daughter, Constance, and refused to take care of another child born out of wedlock. She insisted that Arthur marry her, although there is no evidence that he actually did.
In 1914, when she was three, Oberon’s father died of pneumonia on the Western Front in the early months of World War I. Mother and daughter led an impoverished existence in shabby Bombay apartments for a few years. Then, in 1917, they moved to better circumstances in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Oberon received a foundation scholarship to attend La Martiniere College for Girls, a well known Calcutta private school. There, she was constantly taunted for her unconventional parentage and eventually quit school and had her lessons at home.
Oberon first performed with the Calcutta Amateur Dramatic Society. She was also completely enamored of the movies and enjoyed going out to nightclubs. As she entered her teen years, she dated increasingly older, urbane men.
In 1929, she met a former actor who claimed he could introduce her to Rex Ingram of Victorine Studios. Oberon jumped at the offer and decided to follow the man to the studios in France. However, when he saw Oberon’s dark mother one night at her apartment and realized Oberon was mixed-race, he secretly decided to end the relationship.
After packing all their belongings and moving to France, Oberon and her mother found that their supposed benefactor had dodged them. However, he had left a good word for Oberon with Rex Ingram at the studios in Nice. Ingram liked Oberon’s exotic appearance. She was quickly hired to be an extra in a party scene.
James David Graham Niven: The movies supporting Actor
James David Graham Niven (March 1, 1910 – July 29, 1983) was an English Academy Award-winning actor best known as the punctual-obsessed adventurer Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days (1956).
David Niven was born in London, England. He was the son of William Edward Graham Niven and the French/British Henrietta Julia Degacher who, born in Wales, was the daughter of army officer William Degacher (who changed his original name of Hitchcock to his mother’s maiden name of Degacher in 1874) and Julia Caroline, the daughter of Lieutenant General James Webber Smith. He was named David for his birth on St. David’s Day. Although he often claimed to have been born in Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland in 1909, it was only after his birth certificate was checked following his death that this was found to be incorrect.
His father was killed during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and his mother remarried Sir Thomas Comyn-Platt. In his biography, NIV: The Authorized Biography of David Niven, Graham Lord suggests that Comyn-Platt had actually been conducting an affair with Niven’s mother for some time prior to her husband’s death, and that Sir Thomas may well have been Niven’s biological father, a supposition not without some support from her children.
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