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#73 - Wuthering Heights

We head to the golden age of Hollywood romanticism for this 1939 adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon star as forever unrequited lovers Heathcliff and Cathy as life's events bring them together and apart in heartbreaking tragedy. William Wyler directs.

Here's another film that totally matches what I was expecting to see coming in to this project. Big stars, big stories, drama, action, passion! I may sound like a movie trailer, but what many movies claim to have, this one truly delivers.

First of all, Olivier and Oberon are tremendous. As Samantha put it, "These are very pretty people." Olivier is strikingly handsome, dark and brooding -- perfectly fitting with the character. His acting is at once understated and powerful. Heathcliff's immense contempt for Cathy in the later parts of the film couldn't be clearer on his face (perhaps because Olivier and Oberon didn't get along in real life). Oberon too is well cast as the beautiful but conflicted and selfish Cathy. It's worth the price of admission to see these two making doe eyes at each other.

But the rest of the film also matches up. The supporting acting (particularly Hugh Williams as Hindley) is fine. The Oscar-winning cinematography (by Gregg Toland, who would go on to become famous for his work on Citizen Kane) creates a perfect setting with strident dark and light hues reflecting the moodiness of the story. The screenwriting is excellent and makes the cuts necessary to craft a well-paced and concise film out of Brontë's sprawling novel (though purists may take umbrage at the second half of the book being completely left out). The California hills stand in well for the wild Yorkshire moors.

It's not an easy sight to watch these beautiful people destroy one another, but darn if they didn't put it together well. Chalk up another winner.

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)


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