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Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier, "Wuthering Heights"

One of the greatest screen versions of novels ever filmed, “Wuthering Heights” is a great classic, just like another film of Laurence Olivier, “Rebecca”. Directed by William Wyler, “Wuthering Heights” brings to our attention the tragic love story of Cathy (played by the exotic, part-Indian Merle Oberon, the wife of the British film producer and director, Alexander Korda) and Heathcliff (played by Olivier). Initially, the role of Cathy was sought by Vivien Leigh, but she was quite harshly pushed aside by Wyler, who told her she could never get a better part than Isabella (a supporting, minor role, that was later given to Geraldine Fitzgerald), because she is still unknown in the United States. Vivien’s reply was above expectations, as she earned the most coveted female role in the history of motion pictures: Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind”. In “Wuthering Heights” you will also get to see other two great British actors, David Niven (as Cathy’s husband) and Flora Robson. Despite the fact that the impressive novel by Emily Brontë was turned into a film at about one hour and a half (it’s just as if someone would cut “Gone With the Wind” at two hours in length), this production won an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and it got other seven nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Laurence Olivier was very disappointed when he lost his Oscar to another great British actor, Robert Donat, and he was also furious at Vivien’s success after she got her Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role), Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Director, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Music, Original Score (by Alfred Newman).

All in all, “Wuthering Heights” is a very good film, even if one has to admit that there is no chemistry between Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon (they appeared together also in “The Divorce of Lady X”), just like in the case of Joan Fontaine in “Rebecca”. Both actresses argued that they had a very tough relationship with Olivier, and they weren’t in good relations with him. Obviously, the only one who could stand his “genius” was his lover and wife, Vivien Leigh. Despite the uncharismatic couple of Olivier and Oberon (Olivier was slated as being one of the ugliest faces on the American screen, and perhaps this is the reason why his early career in Hollywood ended after other two great films, “Pride and Prejudice” and “That Hamilton Woman”), I recommend you to watch “Wuthering Heights” because it is a wonderful film, very well directed, with a great cast and an admirable crew that turned the famous novel into a memorable motion picture.

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