Academy Awards 1939 -
Best Cinematography: Gregg Toland
USA Today - 01/26/1994
"...Gregg Toland's camera perfectly captured the moody Yorkshire moors..."
Entertainment Weekly - 02/06/2004
"[With] nuanced, restrained passion..."
When Lockwood (Miles Mander) arrives at WUTHERING HEIGHTS, it is dark and snowing. Lockwood needs shelter--but he is not welcome. His host, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), is ungracious, if not positively hostile. Lockwood wakes in the night and, as he tries to close a window, feels hands clasping at his. He screams for help. Heathcliff arrives, then plunges into the night. Lockwood wonders what this means, and Ellen (Flora Robson) begins to tell him the story of Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw (Merle Oberon), how they came together on the Yorkshire moors and how their passion was thwarted.
Preceded by the 1920 version and followed by at least seven more productions, William Wyler's WUTHERING HEIGHTS is the best known version of Emily Bronte's classic novel. Wyler and scriptwriters Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht omit the second half of Bronte's novel so they can focus on Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw's story.
It begins when Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway) returns home with what he calls a gift from God--Heathcliff, an orphan. Hindley, Earnshaw's son, disapproves and makes Heathcliff's life miserable. Cathy, his daughter, finds a soulmate in Heathcliff.
They grow up. Hindley (Hugh Williams) becomes ever more cruel. Cathy (Merle Oberon) is capricious. She encourages Heathcliff, telling him he's a prince in disguise. He replies that she'll always be his queen. But she thinks he is socially inferior, and she is interested in the luxury offered by Edgar Linton (David Niven). When Heathcliff hears Cathy tell Ellen it would degrade her to marry him, he runs away, not knowing that Cathy goes on to say "I am Heathcliff," or that she runs after him, desperately.
Three years go by, during which Cathy marries Edgar. Then Heathcliff returns, rich and ready to wreak revenge on Hindley, on Linton, and on Cathy...
WUTHERING HEIGHTS opened onApril 13, 1939 at two theaters--the Rivoli in New York and the Pantages in Los Angeles.
Samuel Goldwyn was so proud of the critical reception of WUTHERING HEIGHTS that he declared it to be his own greatest achievement: "I made it," he said. "Wyler only directed it."
Actors considered for the role of Heathcliff were James Mason, Tyrone Power, Robert Newton, Ronald Colman, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
Laurence Olivier tells how, when the filming of WUTHERING HEIGHTS began, he thought he knew everything there was to know about acting--but he didn't, and it took Wyler to bully that out of him. Olivier came to respect Wyler enough to ask him to direct him in his prestigious production of HENRY V. Although Wyler refused, telling Olivier that he should direct it himself, they did work together again on CARRIE.
Sir Laurence Olivier tried to persuade the producer to cast his then-girlfriend, actress Vivien Leigh, in the role of Cathy.
Co-stars Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon did not get along well during filming.
Actress Bette Davis asked Jack Warner to buy the property for her.
Other titles considered for the film were: "Gypsy Love," "Fun on the Farm," and "He Died for Her."
"I am Heathcliff."--Cathy Earnshaw (Merle Oberon) to Ellen Dean (Flora Robson).
"I don't think I belong in heaven, Ellen. I dreamt once I was there. I dreamt I went to heaven and that heaven didn't seem to be my home and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth and the angels were so angry they flung me out in the middle of the heath on top of Wuthering Heights and I woke up sobbing with joy."--Cathy
"What do they know of heaven or hell, Cathy, who know nothing of life' Oh, they're praying for you, Cathy. I'll pray one prayer with them. I'll repeat till my tongue stiffens: Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest while 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
"Oh, my heart's darling! Hear me this time, at last! Cathy, I love you. Come in to me: come to me, Cathy, my own."--Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier)