The most famous film adaptation of the classic Emily Brontë novel. Set in the English countryside, circa 1800. Cathy and Hindley are sister and brother, the pre-teen children of good-hearded Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway). The servants are Ellen (Flora Robson) and Joseph (Leo G. Carroll). One day Earnshaw brings home with him a street waif, Heathcliff, with the intention of raising him as an adopted son. But Earnshaw dies, and the estate passes to Hindley, who abuses Heathcliff and makes him a servant. Cathy, however, loves Heathcliff passionately, and the feeling is mutual.
Some years pass, and Heathcliff, Cathy, and Hindley grow to adulthood, now respectively played by Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and Hugh Williams. The gorgeous and willful Cathy still adores the handsome and ill-tempered Heathcliff, but he is poor, and she is tempted by the wealth and status of doting milquetoast neighbor Edgar (David Niven). Predictably, she marries Edgar, which infuriates Heathcliff so much that he leaves town.
Some years later, he returns, having somehow achieved a certain wealth in America. He purchases his childhood home from the now drunken and debt-ridden Hindley. Treated coldly by Cathy, Heathcliff turns his attentions to Edgar’s naive sister, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), and they wed. But their marriage, and that of Cathy and Edgar, both take a turn for the worse, troubled by the continued stormy and unconsummated love between Heathcliff and Cathy. —Filmsgraded.com
Wyler was born Wilhelm Weiller to a Jewish family, a Swiss father and a German mother, in Mulhouse in the French region of Alsace (then part of the German Empire). His mother was a cousin of Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures. His father, Leopold, started as a traveling salesman which he later turned into a thriving haberdashery business.
During his childhood Wyler attended a number of schools and developed a reputation as “something of a hellraiser,” being expelled more than once for misbehavior. His mother often took him and his older brother Robert, to concerts, opera, and the theatre, as well as the early cinema. Sometimes at home his family and their friends would stage amateur theatricals for personal enjoyment.
After realizing that William was not interested in the family business, and having suffered through a terrible year financially after World War I, his mother, Melanie, contacted her distant cousin about opportunities for him. Laemmle was in the habit… read more
A dream cast: Olivier as Heathcliff, Niven as Linton and Oberon incandescent as Cathy. A pleasing contrast to the heavy-handed horror of the following year’s Pride and Prejudice (which also starred Olivier); while this may not be a purist adaptation of its novel either, it makes up for it with a spirited atmosphere, fittingly tempestuous, emotionally high-strung - their world is wild at heart and crazy on top. A quite enjoyable, very defensible picture.
“A beautiful rough beast of a movie,” find most critics so far, though some do have their reservations.