“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.”
The American posters for Wuthering Heights are super boring, while the foreign ones are all much more interesting, although I do like the one above a lot! I really love whoever decided to make Heathcliff green as he looks like a monster (or should I say Munster?).
When I was plotting out what film to start Horrofest X with, I was, as usual, struggling. I always want to be sure the first post is a good one, a film that I adore or is special to me. This year the first film was supposed to be from the 1930s and as I started looking at 1930s films, I realized I had already reviewed a lot of my favorite 1930s horror films. On a whim I decided to search backwards, starting with the last year of the decade, 1939, and when I saw Wuthering Heights, I knew it was the perfect film to begin with.
Wuthering Heights (1939) is an adaption of the 19th century gothic novel of the same name, by Emily Brontë. It is a novel I was obsessed with as a tween and teen. I used to read this book over and over again, and I loved Heathcliff more than I should have. But you know teenage girls, they tend to be attracted to the bad boy who “only needs someone to truly show them love and care and then they will change their ways!” Not true at all, but I believed it, and believed it of Heathcliff (at least until I married one and realized that it was a mistake). I essentially was Isabella.
I still enjoy the book, although my ardor for Heathcliff is not as it was a tween/teen, as it is extremely well written and sucks you in from the moment Cathy taps on the windowpane. And this adaption is one that I haven’t seen in a while but have loved because of one truly handsome and amazing man, Laurence Olivier.
Laurence Olivier has always been one of my favorite actors and classic Hollywood heartthrobs and he truly does this part justice. Jane Austen fans should recognize him as the OG Darcy (and even though that film heavily strays from the book I love his version of Darcy as well). He never would have gotten that part if it wasn’t for this film, this one made him a star! Laurence Olivier was just fantastic in this as he can do the moody mcbroody parts so well.
And speaking of Jane Austen, this film is a double feature as not only is it one I would recommend for Jane Austen fans, an Non-Austen Film for Austen fans:
It is also has a spot on Catherine Morland’s Viewing List as this gothic film is one that Catherine would have loved!
Wuthering Heights is a book where the characters all have issues with each other and spend a majority of time fighting or upset with each other. The process of making this film was another one of those cases of “life imitating art” as the cast spent a lot of time behind the scene not getting along at all. This film was directed by William Wyler and he and Laurence Olivier argued a lot. Olivier really resented his directing style of doing multiple takes with slight differences, (prior to this Olivier had done little film acting and more stage work). Later on, he credited Wyler for a lot of growth, but at the time he was heavily annoyed.
Merle Oberon and Olivier also had a rocky relationship. The two had gotten along in a previous film shoot, but spent this one yelling and arguing with each other whenever filming stopped and could not stand each other.
David Niven and Wyler historically did not get along and Niven was dreading this film. At one point Wyler was upset that Niven wouldn’t cry, and wanted to do repeated takes until he did; but Niven told him he had a no crying clause in his contract. Wyler made him get a copy of the contract to prove that this was true. Niven and Oberon also hated working with each other as the two had a romance go sour.
Merle Oberon did not care for working with Wyler as well as his methods of perfection and pushing his actors and actresses rivals Stanley Kuberick. One rain scene he made Oberon do over and over again until she became so sick she vomited and had a fever. When she came back from the hospital he immediately began pushing her as he had before, but she refused to film the scene unless heaters were brought in to protect her health.
You’ll also notice that the clothing is not accurate to the time period as the director changed the clothing to be the 1840s instead of early 1800s as he liked those fashions better.
Samuel Goldwyn Mayer wanted to change the story too as he thought it was too dark for a romance, luckily this suggestion was not accommodated. I used to think Wuthering Heights was a romance, but now as an adult having experienced someone like Heathcliff but worse, the real romance of Wuthering Heights, is the spooky elements and the mysterious moors.
I haven’t seen this movie in years, but I remember really enjoying it. I know it isn’t your typical “horror film”, but I’m counting it as it has Gothic elements, ghosts, and plenty of psychopaths/sociopaths. I know a lot of people talk about Heathcliff’s behavior and dislike him, but to be honest he really doesn’t deserve as much hate as he gets as every character in this film is a truly terrible person.
The film starts off with the credits but use such romantic music, light and airy-but this manor holds mystery, decay, and trouble.
“Only a stranger lost in a storm would dare knock on the door of Wuthering Heights”.
The story begins with poor Mr. Lockwood. He’s a tenant that started renting on Heathcliff’s land to get away from people. Now he’s lost in a blizzard about to go on a ghostly adventure.
In the house is Heathcliff, scowling, angry, harsh and as cold as the blizzard Mr. Lockwood came in from. This is also a woman, Mrs. Heathcliff, in the home, hard and worn-as weathered as the home they live in. I love this imagery.
Mr. Lockwood is trying to make the best of the rudeness received at the house but you can tell he’s like these people are strange. That night he struggles with sleep, especially when one of the shutters come open. He hears a woman crying and she grabs his hand and holds it tight.
Frightened he calls for Heathcliff who storms over. Mr. Lockwood tells Heathcliff, who screams and pushes him out-pulling open the shutter and calling to “her” again. He’s so sad and brokenhearted, making you feel for Heathcliff.
Mr. Lockwood is shocked and the housekeeper Nelly tells him that Heathcliff is searching for the girl, Cathy, who died many years ago. Mr. Lockwood doesn’t believe in ghosts, but thinks he is just seeing things. Nelly then decides to tell him the story of what happened all those years ago.
We then go back to 40 years earlier, when Wuthering Heights was a bright and happy place. Wuthering Heights was never a truly happy place in the book. It was less miserable, true, but the late Mr. Earnshaw was not a kind man at all and produced a horrible son who then abuses his sister and Heathcliff. This house has housed misery for so long time; it is seeped into the bones of the manor.
Mr. Earnshaw returns from his trip to Liverpool and instead of just bringing gifts back he also brings a boy-dark skinned, dirty, a “gypsy” child. Mr. Earnshaw kindly admonishes his children for their rude behavior to Heathcliff and all I can think is this Earnshaw is nothing like the Earnshaw in the book. He puts Heathcliff in Hindley’s room, and Hindley is none too pleased about that.
Mr. Earnshaw has been coughing an awful lot ever since he returned home. You all know what that means-he’s on death’s door. He’s not long for this world.
Heathcliff and Cathy get along swimmingly, racing horses and getting into all kinds of mischief. In one game, Heathcliff wins the race against Cathy and wins her as his slave. His joy quickly ends as Hindley, resentful of the love Heathcliff receives from his father and hating the ire he gets, bullies him. He takes his horse from him, reminding him again he will never be anything as he is a nobody, an orphan; he doesn’t even have a last name. And in a time when where you came and your opportunities from were all tangled up in name and family; Heathcliff has nothing. And he is in a system where he will never be able to achieve or grasp anything-unless he does it in slightly illegal ways. In a lot of ways Heathcliff makes me think of Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Both are single minded and have an obsession with their first love. Both will do anything possible to get a position of power, wealth, status-even if they need to do it in illegal ways. Both have no qualms using others to get what they want-Heathcliff is just more rude and cruel about his methods lashing out in pain instead of living in denial.
Heathcliff and Hindley fight with Cathy defending Heathcliff and turning against her brother. Hindley beats Heathcliff up, although it is really badly choreographed. Heathcliff is angry and it is pretty odd but I have another comparison. The child actor who played Heathcliff is amazingly spot on, he does a fantastic jobbut the way he and Hindley interacted right now-it makes me think if a mafia movie like The Godfather. The way Heathcliff is so calm and cool-he’s another Michel Corleone.
Heathcliff is calmly furious, which is extremely frightening, and is prepared to wait and find a way to do anything possible to make Hindley pay. If I was Hindley, I would be very, very afraid.
Cathy wants to have fun, but Heathcliff only wants revenge! Cathy does finally convince him and they ride off together. The two play together with Heathcliff pretending to be Cathy’s prince, and it is a super cute scene that really gives you a view into their relationship and friendship.
Of course this isn’t a gothic story without some tragedy. Mr. Earnshaw dies and all happiness is gone from the home. Heathcliff wants to see Mr. Earnshaw, but Hindley is the master now and will not let Heathcliff. He also kicks Heathcliff out to the stables. Poor Heathcliff is sad and alone and crying. It breaks my heart-poor Heathcliff.
With Hindey as the master, the whole house is plunged into darkness and despair. Hindley and Cathy do well and are dressed well, with Heathcliff becoming Cinderfella, a slave-dressed in rags. Heathcliff listens and obeys, but you can see the rebellion in his eyes-he’s biding his time for one day…
Laurence Oliver is such a handsome man. You can pout him in dirt and rags, but he still is a shining star.
As soon as Hindley leaves each day Heathcliff and Cathy are off to runningin the moors in their special place. Aw, they seem so sweet and happy together. Too bad it won’t last.
Cathy decides to try and “encourage” Heathcliff by insulting his appearance and manhood. She questions why he doesn’t just leave and go somewhere else. And I’m like, girl really? Why do you think he stays here?
Heathcliff is super romantic “I could never part from you”; while Cathy is all “get rich and come take me away.” The two are in two totally different mindsets with Heathcliff all focused on the emotional, and while Cathy is emotional she is also much more practical. The only way she will ever be able to leave Wuthering Heights, her brother, this despair; is through marriage. And the only way she get Hindley’s blessing or survive with nothing from him is if they have money.
Heathcliff begs her to run off with him now, but she declines. You know some people would say she doesn’t really love him or is just using him, but I like that she recognizes a life without privilege as a woman is hard and that is not the life for her. She wants to be with her love, but even more so she also wants to be taken care of. You know there is a big difference between being punished by your brother and sleeping in he stables for a night or two (which she has done) and having to live in stables because you have no money and no connections. Her practicality reminds me a lot of Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, and her choice of money over love of Mr. Willoughby. Although she is much better than Mr. Willoughby as she made it clear to her partner what she needed and wasn’t running around taking advantage of others. Heathcliff is very Marianne in the way he doesn’t really think about what will happen next, how will they survive?
Heathcliff vows to stay and be treated cruelly if it means they can be together. He gives an oath, but Cathy ignores it as she hears music and goes to their neighbors the Lintons. The two hop a fence to get a closer look, but awaken the guard dogs. They try to hop back over the fence but one of the dogs runs at Cathy’s leg and injures her, Heathcliff being a fights the dogs off with his bare hands. WOW!
The party come out and of course they take Cathy in and treat Heathcliff like dirt, trying to keep him from coming in-but he breaks through to se her. Everyone treats him horrible, and Cathy even tells him to go. Heathcliff is furious about his treatment and vows to leave, but will come back and bring ruin everyone’s head. I know we aren’t supposed to root for him as his quest to of vengeance on all these who have wronged him turns him into a crooked cruel man, but after the way they treated him I follow what he’s tracking.
Anyways, Heathcliff gives his strong amazing poetic vow to bring ruin to them all-and let me tell you Heathcliff has style. He knows how to command a room and do it right. He storms out in a powerful exit.
Cathy recuperates at the Linton home and when she returns she has had a lot of her wild ways “calmed”. Cathy returns surprised to hear that Heathcliff isn’t gone. He tried but he couldn’t be away from her. Cathy cruelly insults him and shares that the Linton house was so much better. Heathcliff sees the divide between them and does not like this, storming out.
Edgar is such a pompous jerk and insults Heathcliff. Cathy does not like it; she is the only one who can demean him. Being back in the house the real her comes out and her wild ways have all come out. She yells and screams at Edgar Linton and kicks him out of the house.
Cathy then runs off to her room crying. She removes the Linton from her (taking off Isabelle Linton’s borrowed dress) and puts her old clothes on, old self, and runs to meet Heathcliff in their special spot. The wealthy items tossed for plain, showing Heathcliff she chooses him-but does she?
The two cling tighter on the hill, but all I can think is not for long, They pick heather, but while the scene is beautiful and romantic, like the flowers you know that this will not last forever.
Poor Edgar is not run off by Cathy’s bad behavior, he tries to win her by sending gifts and begs her to see him. Cathy agrees to have him over and she really enjoys the way she has manipulated him and all I can think is poor Edgar, poor little soul. Heathcliff has heard Edgar is coming over and he’s furious, even more so by the airs she puts on and stating that he has no control over her-he’s just a stable boy.
Cathy continues to break his heart calling him a beggar, dirty, etc He slaps her and leaves running right into Edgar. Oh no, things are going to get bad-but instead of fighting Heathcliff runs out into the rain to the stable. Morose and alone.
Heathcliff hides out in the stable until Edgar leaves. He returns to the house hands bloody from him trying to cute the “dirt and soil and lower class from them”. Nelly hides Heathcliff when Cathy comes down, as Heathcliff doesn’t want her to know how her words cut at his heart. But Cathy shares that Edgar asked her to marry him and that she loves him because he is handsome, rich, and pleasant. Nelly asks about Heathcliff, and Cathy shares she wished Heathcliff never came back. She wants to be free from the cold depressing life at Wuthering Heights and Edgar is the way for her to do it . They actually do Cathy a lot of injustice in this film, making her seem like a gold digger, when Hindley was horrible to live with. Cathy is a awful person, but she is in a horrible life and is trying to get out the only way she knows how.
Heathcliff runs away and Cathy follows trying to find him. Hindley comes home drunk and doesn’t care wanting to drink to celebrate the departure of Heathcliff. Edgar finds Cathy and brings her to his home.
Cathy recuperates at the Linton’s and Edgar does all her can for her. Poor guy, he’s so sweet and such a fool. He thinks that Cathy could actually love him and not just what he could provide for her-what a delusional man and a poor sad man. Cathy vows to be his wife and treat him well and that she will ever kiss another man (lies, all lies!)
The two are married and Catherine has everything she ever wanted: free from Wuthering Heights, among people who do not like confrontation and are always pleasant, the leading lady of the area, money, power, status, …yet she isn’t happy. Something unsettles her. Something cold is coming…
Cathy loved being lady of the manor and living with the Linton’s. Edgar is trying to marry Isabella off, but she finds all the men weak and boring. A kind peaceful night is interrupted when an old lover returns. Heathcliff has returned from America with money. He wants to see Cathy and she refuses knowing that with their love she won’t be able to resist him. Love? Or obsession? Edgar, however, makes her see him. He’s so secure in his love and affections, what a fool.
Heathcliff walks in even more handsome than before, clothes, hair, and style. He gazes upon Cathy with love and desire in his eyes. They ask how he has become so wealthy and he tells them he claimed his “princely fortune,” reminding her of all they used to say in their games. He also drops a bigger emotional bomb; he is the owner of Wuthering Heights. Hindley is a drunken fool that gambled everything away.
Step one of his revenge plot had started. Step two and three is to destroy Edgar and Cathy Linton. Now I feel for Edgar but he is also such a pompous jerk that he makes me want to slap him. He goes on about poor Hindley losing his home, him having his property stolen. It wasn’t stolen from him, he held it in so little esteem that he gambled it away. That’s life, plus Hindley is one if the most horrible people in this book (he’s not as present in the film) so I don’t gel bad. If it was me I would have kicked him out. Heathcliff actually acts with way more class that Edgar has and leaves.
Oh no, Isabella has fallen for Heathcliff and defends him against her brother and sister-in-law. Edgar tries to stop it, but is too late. She can’t resist that bad boy “that just needs love to fix him”. Don’t do it Isabella, don’t do it!
Wuthering Heights is now Heathcliff’s home and he lets Hindley stay, but he has to be in the stables, just like when Heathcliff was a boy. My how have the turntables turned?
Oliver looks so hot in this film, he’s too distracting in his long coat. His intense gaze is so hypnotic I can’t look away. I don’t even know what he is saying; I’m lost in his dreaminess.
The business is interrupted when a lady comes to see him. He thinks it will be Cathy but is disappointed to see Isabella. Isabella came to the house as she was riding in the moors and her “horse went lame” and she “just happened” to be nearby. Poor foolish Isabella. She has this imagined view of who she thinks Heathcliff is, silly girl.
Isabella tries to endear herself to Heathcliff letting him know that she defended him, she cares for him, she can help heal his broken heart. She just lays it all out, shoots her shot. Poor romantic fool. Heathcliff recognizes what is really happening, he did from the beginning, and calls her out. Unfortunately he knows being with Isabella will help his revenge and woos her to get back at Edgar for his treatment and at Cathy for marrying another. Heathcliff don’t you know a path of revenge will only be a sad and troubled road.
The next scene the Linton’s are having a party and Heathcliff waltzes in, being the fine looking man he is. Isabella cheers and is so pleased to see him. Poor foolish girl.
At the party all Heathcliff can do is stare at Cathy and it takes every ounce of willpower for her not to stare back, often breaking as she cannot resist him.
Isabella waltzes with someone and Cathy and Heathcliff sneak away to talk. He tries to get her to admit she cares for him, but she refuses. She insists she loves Edgar and only him, but Cathy is not a good liar-anyone can see that isn’t true. The two have a line here when he tells her he came because she willed him to come from across the sea. Again I never noticed it before but again is very similar to The Great Gatsby. Gatsby thinks the same thing looking at her green light imagining it is a secret sign for the two of them.
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. Not he. Not the world. Not even you, Cathy, can come between us.
Cathy: Heathcliff, you must go away. You must leave this house and never come back to it. I never want to see your face again or listen to your voice again as long as I live.
Heathcliff: You lie! Why do you think I’m here tonight? Because you willed it. You willed me here across the sea.
That night Cathy comes to talk to Isabella and Isabella won’t listen. Cathy tries to warn her that Heathcliff doesn’t care and is just using her, but Cathy comes in yelling and screaming and just sounding like a jealous shrew, and she is jealous. Its so obvious to everyone watching, even to Edgar.
Cathy returns home and speaks to Edgar, but they are too late. Isabella has left and eloped with Heathcliff. Edgar is resigned and Cathy is crazed begging him to stop the wedding-killing Heathclff if necessary and for the first tim Edgar sees that he never really knew Cathy and is seeing her for the first time.
Unfortunately, poor Isabella gets no fairy tale ending- just darkness, despair, and decrepitness. Her innocence, lightness, gayess, etc all gone. The doctor tries to get Isabella to go home, letting her know that Cathy is sick and dying. Isabella is glad at that news, shocking the doctor as she thinks with Cathy gone they might have a chance of happiness.
Poor Isabella, she deserved better. She tries so hard to get his love, but gets nothing. He treats her bad because she isn’t Cathy, ignoring her and not treating her like the pretty little doll everyone did. Instead of pushing her away it makes her more clingy and desperate, what Heathcliff can’t stand.
Nelly comes to get Isabella as Cathy is dying and Isabella does not care. But Heathcliff run to his lady love. Cathy is dying and the one place she truly wants to be, with Heathciff.
Heathcliff storms into the house and runs to his lady love who is wasting away. Cathy dies but befoe she goes they kiss (she broke her vow). Heathcliff spurts out in anger releasing all that has fueled him through the years. Angry she choose money over love, she choose Edgar the unpassionate, etc. He throws curses.
We then bounce back to the present as Nelly finishes her story. Mr. Lockwood still doesn’t believe them. The doctor comes to see Hindley and shares he saw Heathcliff out there in the snow with a woman, but when he caught up to them he only found Heathcliff’s body. Yes, Heathcliff and Cathy are finally reunited in death.
So this film was very well written and had an amazing cast. They did cut out a lot of the book and removed the massive amount of cruelty these people inflict on each other to instead focus more on the romance. If you love gothic films and Wuthering Heights, you should definitely give this a watch. If you love gothic films and Wuthering Heights, you should definitely give this a watch.
So that is it for the first post of Horrorfest X. It was quite a challenge as all technology was failing me-it I will persevere. Stay tuned for more!
The usual Facebook cover I make. 🙂
For more on Wuthering Heights, go to Shame Book Tag
For more Laurence Olivier, go to Last Night I Dreamt I Went to Manderley Again: Rebecca (1940)
For more gothic films, go to Are You Prepared to Encounter All of Its Horrors?…Let’s Just Say That All Houses Have Their Secrets, and Northanger is No Exception.: Northanger Abbey (2007)
For more on Catherine Morland’s Viewing List, go to He’s Married to a Corpse. He Has a Corpse Bride!: Corpse Bride (2005)
For more Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans, Walking on Sunshine (2014)