1 Woman, 100 Movies - #94: Wuthering Heights
Updated: Jul 27
I’m continuing my cinematic mission to watch the 100 greatest movies of all time. You can read more about my idea here. #94 – Wuthering Heights Year released: 1939 Genre: Drama, Romance IMDb rating: 7.6 Summary: A servant in the house of Wuthering Heights tells a traveler the unfortunate tale of lovers Cathy and Heathcliff. Previously seen?: No
I have not heard of this movie, and the summary is.... brief. I see Laurence Olivier's name on the cast list, and I know that he was a famous actor, so there's that. However, overall, I am going into this movie completely fresh. This is the first drama/romance on the list and I'm looking forward to getting the feels. The year released has been noted and I'm hoping that the racism is kept to a minimum or (knock on wood) completely absent.
Summary & Final Thoughts
I did not get the feels. I struggled with this film. I went into it expecting a romantic love story featuring two star crossed lovers, and I walked away with a spiteful man who irritated his love to death.
Heathcliff was taken in by Cathy's wealthy family when they were both children. Cathy's brother Hindley is the stereotypical bully and treats Heathcliff with all the cruelness he can muster. But Cathy is kind and sweet and by the time the two kids have grown into young adults, they are deep in love. Although they know their love will face its challenges; Heathcliff is a stable boy and Cathy is still Scrooge McDuck diving into piles of gold coins.
Everything falls apart when the two are spying on some other rich folks having a party and Cathy gets attacked by that family's dog (shout out to the special effects for this particular scene. For 1939, it sure looked like that dog was ripping Cathy's leg apart - how did they do it?!). While she heals, Cathy stays with the rich family - the Lintons - for months. And while she's there, Edgar Linton falls deeply in love with her and asks her to marry him.
Here's where everyone starts becoming highly unlikeable. Cathy runs home to tell her staff the good news, and her maid is all "Um, what about Heathcliff? I thought you guys were totally in love?"* Cathy responds "Girl, please. Did you hear me? Edgar wants to marry me, and he's super rich. Heathcliff is broke, remember? I could never. I need a baller, without a doubt."**
Heathcliff overhears Cathy's totally unprovoked cruel words, runs out into a storm, and disappears. Cathy is so heartbroken. She can't believe that just because she said the meanest things possible about him that he would run off and leave her. The nerve!
Years later, Cathy and Edgar are married. And lookie-here - Heathcliff is back in town. But he's rich! And he's bought Cathy's family's estate! And he's also super upset and full of spite.
I was sympathetic toward Heathcliff up until this point. He had endured so much for Cathy. Waited for her, loved her in secret; only to be totally abandoned at her first opportunity to snag a rich husband. But when he returns to Wuthering Heights basically to torture her very existence, my sympathy went out the window.
Heathcliff expects Cathy to immediately leave her husband and be with him, especially now that he's rich (can't blame him 100 percent for that assumption). But when Cathy refuses, he starts following her around at parties, and even falsely professes his love for her husband's little sister (Isabella) just for an excuse to be in the family. When Cathy continues to refuse to be with him, Heathcliff goes on to marry Isabella and treats her miserably.
Of course, Isabella has a rough go at it, but for some reason, she still loves Heathcliff. She begs him to love her back, and he responds by telling her that her eyes are empty. (Ouch)
Not long after Heathcliff marries, Cathy falls ill. Heathcliff runs to be by her side. She admits that she still loves him and dies in his arms. Heathcliff is full or grief and rage and demands that her soul never rest as long as he is still alive. Super selfish, Heath.
"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."
And she does. The movie ends with Heathcliff running out to find Cathy's ghost in a storm and he subsequently dies on a hill. Ah, romance.
I'm not against the star-crossed lovers trope, but for me this was heavy on the angst and light on the romance. That being said, Emily Bronte - the author of the book that this film was based on - wrote some really beautiful dialogue. Check out quotes from the movie here. I just wish they weren't surrounded by such torment and anger.
* Not a direct quote
**Also not a direct quote
Up Next: The Maltese Falcon