Wuthering Heights (1939) Movie Review: Classic Melodrama

By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –

The Brontë sisters are amongst the finest writers in literary history. Charlotte Brontë had Jane Eyre, Anne Brontë did Agnes Grey, and Emily Brontë wrote only one novel. In spite of Emily’s tragic death at a relatively young age, her only novel remains one of the most timeless tales of all time. Samuel Goldwyn saw the aesthetic qualities of Emily Brontë’s passionate love story, which prompted him to produce the 1939 melodramatic classic Wuthering Heights.

A Toast

This film features one of Laurence Olivier’s greatest performances as Heathcliff. Merle Oberon also does well as Catherine Earnshaw even though Vivien Leigh won the Academy Award for playing the tempestuous Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. This film features some of the finest acting that was done during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In fact, Geraldine Fitzgerald received her only nomination for playing Isabella. Indeed, great performances did this novel justice as Olivier and Oberon brought Emily Brontë’s wildly romantic couple to the silver screen.

Beer Two

In spite of the strong chemistry between the two lovers, this adaptation did not exactly honor the literary qualities of Emily Brontë’s novel. That is because the film only features about half of the original source material. The basic love story within the film is also very cliché and overly dramatic because it lacks the subtle nuances within the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff that made their love story endure in the book. This film is a classic example of how it is sometimes hard for Hollywood to produce a film version of a beloved literary classic. Nevertheless, the film still retains the romantic qualities of the famous story even though it is probably too romantic.


Hollywood produced Wuthering Heights in 1939, which is perhaps the most iconic year in cinematic history. That year included classics like The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Even though Gone with the Wind acquired most of the Academy Awards at that time, Wuthering Heights fortunately received a Best Picture nomination. It might not be as celebrated as the Best Picture winner, and it might not have the family-friendly appeal of The Wizard of Oz, but Wuthering Heights will always remind audiences of the passionate tale of Catherine and Heathcliff, which will always remain one of the greatest romances of all time.

Wuthering Heights (1939) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: whenever there are scenes in the moors

Take a Drink: during every romantic and melodramatic moment

Drink a Shot: whenever you need Kleenex while watching this dramatic love story unfold

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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