This is the first iteration of the tortured, passionate love story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, the foundling that comes to live on the moors with the Earnshaw family. It is, by most standards, the best version.
This version does eliminate the second generation’s story. It wasn’t until I read the novel, later, that I realized that. But that simplifies the focus: Cathy and Heathcliff.
Merle Oberon stars as Catherine, and she perfectly embodies the passionate yet fearful girl of Bronte’s novel. Laurence Olivier is Heathcliff, darkly brooding and obsessed.
There have been other versions:
1970, starring Anne Calder-Marshall and Timothy Dalton; this version suggested Heathcliff was Cathy’s half-brother. Oooh.
1992, starring Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes.
2009, starring Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy (TV version)
2011, starring Kaya Scodelario and James Howson; this adaptation cast Healthcliff with a black actor.
Bronte’s novel isn’t as romantic as the films. It suggests a lot of rage, fear, social commentary–it is not a pretty story, especially in the second generation as Heathcliff begins manipulating lives. But the films aren’t quite as Gothic.