Parents' Guide to

Wuthering Heights (1939)

By Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Best version of the Gothic-romance revenge tale.

Movie NR 1939 104 minutes
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The oft-assigned-in-English-Class Emily Bronte novel of romance gone sour and not-so-sweet revenge on the Yorkshire moors inspired this exquisite classic from the golden age of Hollywood. WUTHERING HEIGHTS came out the same year as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, The Women, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Stagecoach, among others. No wonder film fans consider 1939 one of the American film studios' best years ever, and some partisans give Wuthering Heights a vote as the best from that celluloid harvest, even though some of its elements (most notably a lot of weepie violin solos) haven't aged too well. Wuthering Heights offers young viewers today a much-needed reminder of the great beauty in black-and-white films. It won an Oscar for cinematography, and indeed it's impossible to imagine the somber melodrama of the moors being very effective in color.

Younger viewers may only know Laurence Olivier from his unimpressive, late-career character roles, in fantasies like Clash of the Titans and a weird after-death cameo in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Watch this for Olivier in his prime, and you'll understand why his name was synonymous for generations with the finest in screen acting. It's really hard to imagine anyone else bringing off one of literature's greatest bad-boy male sex symbols. Though the script simplifies a lot of the book, the essential idea of love tortured and twisted into hatred (that is, in itself, a strange form of devotion) comes through loud and clear.

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