At the Movies

One of the diaries included in the Morgan exhibition that I covered yesterday is that of Charlotte Bronte. And although Charlotte was the inveterate chronicler in her family, her sister Emily is my scribe of choice. Wuthering Heights is her single literary classic and the film (which is based on only a portion of the novel) definitely ranks in my top 10 all time favorites.

I am of course speaking of the original film with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. This is one of the most exquisite, haunting movies I have ever seen. My husband makes fun of me because all I have to do is hear the music and I start to well up.  It is a powerful and compelling tale of tragic romance and if you ever had any question of the true meaning of the term soul mates, you must watch this incredibly moving film. Exquisitely directed by William Wyler, it so poignantly captures the fate of these doomed lovers and the powerful bond even they cannot destroy.

Made in 1939, it was nominated for eight Oscars, but only won one – Gone With the Wind sweeping almost every category. Cinematographer Gregg Toland was the recipient of their single award, winning a much-deserved Oscar for his moody and evocative depiction of mid-19th century English moors, which was actually shot in Hollywood.

This Gothic romance tells the story of the abandoned boy Heathcliff, adopted into the family of manor-born Cathy Earnshaw by her father, who then dies several years later. The new master, Cathy’s vindictive alcoholic brother, Hindley, turns Heathcliff out to become a stableboy. Although Cathy remains loyal, as they grow up, Heathcliff’s brooding temperament and Cathy’s haughty desire for the finer things in life begin to put a rift between them. I don’t want to reveal much more of the plot, but suffice it to say this is a story not just of passionate romance but also of revenge, class and prejudice as well as Bronte’s intense vision of the human psyche.

Olivier is perfect as the rough hewn headstrong Heathcliff juxtaposed with Oberon’s beautiful ethereal Cathy. They are light and dark, day and night – opposites that attract and repel yet cannot exist without the other. Strong supporting performances delivered by David Niven, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Flora Robeson as well as Donald Crisp and Leo G. Carroll round out this excellent cast. And Alfred Newman’s magnificent score gets to me every time. This is simply one of the most romantic movies every made and I defy you to watch it without reaching for the kleenex at the end of this masterpiece.

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe—I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

65 thoughts on “At the Movies

  1. I REALLY must watch this! How could I not have?

    Your blog is such a wonderful mix of intriguing inspiration and such informative details—I truly enjoy it! Cannot wait to catch up on the other posts that I have missed… wishing you a wonderful Friday,


  2. This film is right up there on my list also. Who could forget Olivier’s face when he is standing behind the kitchen door and over hears her conversation?
    Give me an English drama anytime!

    It is so nice to share these things with a film buff who also has design sensibilities. A perfect combination.

  3. Yes, the Olivier & Oberon version! One really wonders why others would even consider a re-make.

  4. Absolutely, hands down one of my favorites and since the husband is off to sunny California next week, I have four nights to myself… Already have To Catch A Millionaire so I may just add this to my list, too! Happy weekend, Q!

  5. This is the type of movie that you can not just “flip” by… end up standing, then sitting, then crying through the whole thing…your afternoon lost in a beautiful film…..thanks for reminding me…k

    • Teresa – it’s on netflix. Having a lovely dinner with sister-in-law for her birthday – should be fun!

  6. This is a good one. And I love the book. I think Jane Eyre is my favorite Bronte sister read, though. It’s one of those books that I can pick up again and again and always find something new. I was an English major in college and spent some time studying Women’s Fiction and Exeter College, Oxford. My first paper was about Jane Eyre. Lovely memories of sitting in the Fellows Garden devouring the book….
    Happy Friday, and I hope you have a lovely weekend!

    • Hi Jeanne – Jane Eyre is wonderful also of course. I love Oxford – have been there but not to study. You must have adored your time there!

  7. This is one of my all time favourite books and the 1939 movie as you say is by far the best. MM, think I will watch on the weekend again!

  8. Golly gee whiz! I just read through this and your last diary post. I think you deserve an Oscar for best blog production! Well put together and so lovely are the thoughts of old and oldies but goodies. XOXO

  9. Oh it’s wet and miserable, I would love to curl up and watch this tomorrow afternoon. I meant to say – what a fascinating job, I would love to see some if your work sometime

    • Tabitha – This would be the perfect rainy day movie. Yes, I absolutely adored my job – killed me to leave.

    • Ann – oh me too – as I said, all I have to do is hear the music – I almost started sobbing preparing the clip!

  10. Love this book and movie. Definitely one that will stay with you forever. I agree with Kelly, I am just as impressed with you and your inate ability to express yourself. What a gift!

  11. I had to chuckle. The first time I watched “Wuthering Heights” was with my kids when they were @ 8-10. I think they believed I was making them watch a horror movie. I fell in love with it but they were “sticken” shall we say! I would REALLY like to watch the version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. I adore both of those actors.

    • Sarah – oh yes, way too young. Although I love both Fiennes and Binoche, I can’t imagine anyone topping these spectacular performances.

  12. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Neither Olivier nor Oberon were ever more beautiful, and that’s saying a lot. And I love the inkiness of the black and white film, too, it adds to the mystery and “noir”-ness of it. Reggie

    • Oh Maureen – Thank you for telling me – I didn’t realize as I have not been visiting people today as of yet!

  13. I’m totally embarassed to admit that I haven’t seen this- I’ve read and loved the book but alas, not seen the film. I think you’ve completely sold me on it so am sending DH over to rent as we speak. Thank you for the gorgeous review. I’m excited to watch such a beautiful sounding film.

  14. Thank you so much for your comment this morning! I’ve read your blog several times, forgive me for not commenting sooner, I’m just getting the hang of this. 1939 was undoubtedly the best and most important year in all of filmmaking history. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorites also. I love the variety of subjects that you are covering on your blog. I have you bookmarked and will be back. Thanks again……..Kathi

    • Kathi – happy to have found you. Yes, I don’t think there has ever been a year like 1939 – so many great movies!! Look forward to seeing you again!

  15. The cinematography looks gorgeous just by looking at the stills. I loved this book and should re-read it!

    p.s. If you are ever in SE Asia or when we get a place in NYC, you are welcome to come and have a drink/snacks!

  16. They way you described WH is like poetry. Truly one of the greatest. I now must watch it again and soon. Reading this line..”do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you”… is enough to get teary eyed.

    Great post! Hoping your weekend was a good one? ~ Deb

    • Deb – thank you!! Right – isn’t that line just heartwrenching?! Busy weekend – will be playing catch up all week – can tell already!

  17. Love, love, love this post! I will watch this film again thanks to your reminding us all about it. The Bronte sisters were really amazing, their writing and their lives. I have always been fascinated by their story, living with their alcoholic brother and gloomy father in Haworth Parsonage, facing a cemetery, so gothic!. I think we all fall into one of two camps, those who like Charlotte’s writings or those who like Emily’s. I have usually gone to Charlotte’s side, as I adore Jane Eyre and Villette. But I also love Wuthering Heights and am saddened that Emily’s life was cut so short. Though I don’t think she could have ever surpassed the brilliance of Wuthering Heights.

    • ST – Thank you!! Yes, they had a rather grim existence. I think most people side with Charlotte, especially since she has more to offer. Emily, as you point out, had such a short sad life and I agree that it is doubtful she could have ever improved upon her singular masterpiece.

  18. Yet again you’ve made me want to watch a film again. I’ve mentioned before my memory is like that of a goldfish over movies. I can now watch something I’ve already seen and enjoy it just like the first time. Have a wonderful week xx

  19. Sob. I can’t hardly stand this movie or book, it just too sad!!!! It’s pure torture, in the very best way! I just reread Lolita which is another sob love story. The book itself is my favorite ever, so exquisitely written. Sobbed the whole way through that one too.

    My sister s name is Catherine. My other sisters name is Melanie. Yes. Named after those two roles. I was named after Joni Loves Chachi.

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