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…