A nearly flawless classic
29 March 1999
This classic version of the Bronte novel is probably familiar to most movie fans, and with good reason. Although the recent Ralph Fiennes version is also excellent, nothing can quite surpass the 1939 film's bleak black-and-white cinematography or the impassioned performance of Laurence Olivier. Some of us still mourn that his then-wife, Vivien Leigh, wasn't granted her wish to be cast as Catherine, but Merle Oberon is nonetheless excellent: her Catherine isn't quite likable, but then, she isn't supposed to be. Instead of sugar-coating the story as Hollywood is so wont to do, the filmmakers give us Cathy and Heathcliff as they should be: ruthless, selfish, destructive, and fascinating. The only major drawback is the saccharine musical score, which tries to make this wild, haunting story into a candy-box romance. Fortunately, all the other elements resist this tendency. Even though the film only covers half the novel, you'll find it satisfying and unforgettable.
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