Wuthering Heights (1939)

The morbid and melancholy work based on the enforced reading of high school students everywhere, "Wuthering Heights" is an emotional sort of a movie and a little melodrama serves as the icing on a fallen cake.
Beginning in the twilight hours of an estate known as Wuthering Heights (on the moors), a man stumbles through a blizzard and finds himself resting on the doorstep. He enters the house and is greeted by the most solemn of faces imaginable. All the people present look sullen and grumpy; and he sarcastically calls them gracious hosts. The owner of Wuthering Heights is a man known as Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) who is just as curt as the rest of the people present. After much persuading, he decides to gives the gentlemen a room. It's a cold room with a broken window; but it is better than laying out in the snow drifts.
In the middle of the night, the traveler is awakened by the sound of the shutters banging against the window and when he goes to close them, he hears a woman crying out the name "Heathcliff" in the storm. He calls for the master of the house, who seizes his guest by the collar and throws him out the room and then bursts out of the house calling to "Cathy".
Shaken, the man sits down and hears the story told by the loyal maid...
There was a time when Wuthering Heights wasn't a miserable estate, filled with longing and desolation. In fact, when our story begins, it was quite a cheerful place. While out on a trip, the father figure returns home with gifts in hand and a gypsy boy that he picked off the street. He felt sorry for the young boy named Heathcliff, and decides to give him a privileged life. Though it comes with a few hitches, Heathcliff is accepted into the household with no animosity...well, except for Hindley, the son. Cathy (Merle Oberon) takes a liking to the boy; and the two have make believe fantasies of being royalty. Then the dad dies and Wuthering Heights falls into Hindley's hands, who forces Heathcliff out to the stables where he has to stay as a servant.
Every opportunity they get Cathy and Heathcliff escape out to the moors and continue to live in their fantasy land. They seem to be falling in love, though it creeps up on them slowly. The realization sinks in that they can't live without the other one.
While Hindley is away, the two sneak up to one of the rich estates and listen by the window to the dancing and parties. The dogs get to them and Cathy is wounded, Heathcliff is spurned. He curses the household and then proclaims that he is going to run away from Wuthering Heights and come back with dignity.
Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...
Heathcliff decides that he can't live away from Cathy and returns home to find her a snob in training. Edgar (a very young David Niven) has been courting her while she recovered from the dog attack at their house and her mentality changes.
So now we have a love triangle, which I think you'll all remember is one of my favorite things in the world...ugh.
Yet in the hands of William Wyler, he transforms the novel to a rich and entertaining film. There is just enough melodrama to be stereotypical of the age; but there is also a much darker side to the picture. It's evident in the way the characters handle themselves, how they wish death on others or shrink away from a comforting hand.
"Wuthering Heights" is also a ravishing romance and one that never loses your attention. It's a bit dry; but to those who appreciate these kind of dramas, "Wuthering Heights" will be a delight.

Score: ★★★½

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