Wuthering Heights (and the mathematically improbable lack of likable characters that reside there)

wuthering-heights-1939-03Well, this was definitely an interesting movie. I am going to say, right up front, that I have never read Emily Bronte’s novel which this movie is based upon. Having now seen the movie, I don’t think the odds of me adding it to my “Must read before I die” list has gone up.

Merle Oberon is gorgeous. That was definitely a plus. Laurence Olivier did his thing. I want to sound cultured and intelligent and report that the movie was full of longing and wild love, and two people who were destined to be together that were unfairly separated by an cruel world. Blah Blah Blah.

Ultimately, my take on Wuthering Heights (at least the 1939 film adaptation) is that Cathy was a spoiled, two-faced, petulant, lying, manipulative, horrible person. She was unwilling to face a life of possible work and toil to be with the man who had been essentially enslaved by her family, and his love for her. Heathcliff was no picnic, either. Cruel, emotionally abusive and distant, pathologically obsessed, exacting in his revenge. Truly, they belonged together. The fact that Cathy ended up marrying a dull man whose only fault seemed to be that he said cruel things about his wife’s ex, and proclaiming her undying love to him while still holding an unfairly bright torch for Heathcliff seemed beyond cruel. And Heathcliff marrying her sister-in-law, Isabella, just so he could keep his jealousy and obsession close at hand was amazingly cruel. Poor Isabella. I felt for her. Sure, she was too blind to see that she was just being used, but she did at least seem to have a shred of kindness. Until she married a man who didn’t love her, and she withered in a matter of five minutes of screen time, becoming sad and bitter.

I want to defend Cathy’s drunken, gambling, lout of a brother who eventually lost his families ancestral home to a newly rich Heathcliff, who allows him to stay as a virtual ghost in his lost home, plying him with enough alcohol to die quickly. But he was a horrible, hateful, cruel character, and I had no sympathy for him.

Ellen, the woman who took care of Wuthering Heights was the most likable character. At least her motivations were pure. But everyone else was hateful, childish, incredibly heartless, and well, I just did not like them.

The story involved a lot of flip-flopping between Cathy declaring her endless love for Heathcliff, and then for running to Edgar, who was played by quite a dapper David Niven. But he knew that her heart truly belonged on the moors with her precious, bitter, Heathcliff. When he stormed in to find that Cathy had literally died in her true loves arms, he just sort of shrugged his shoulders at the obviousness of that play. He probably called it a mile away, but it still seemed like a tacky move.

The movie is one long flashback, and I felt a lot of sympathy for the servants who had to put up with this nonsense for so many decades. I hope they inherited the manor when Heathcliff walked off to die, hand in hand, with the spirit of Cathy. They were both major pains in the ass, and definitely deserved each other.

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How awesome is this poster, though? It looks like a great horror movie. The woman playing Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major, K.331: Rondo alla Turca  on the harpsichord during the big party scene, and this movie poster, were definitely the highlights of the movie for me. The rest of the heights? Pretty wuthering.