Sunday, January 20, 2019

“Wuthering Heights” is the February Film Classic in Bigfork

Wuthering Heights” is the February Film Classic in Bigfork

The second 2019 movie in the Classic Movie series in Bigfork is the classic love story “Wuthering Heights,” just in time for Valentines Day. Made in 1939 this is a black and white movie that needs to be seen on the big screen to really be appreciated. The movie headliners Merle Oberon and Sir Laurence Olivier were some of the eight nominations for Oscars. It won an Oscar for best Cinematography.  It’s haunting and beautiful music “Cathy’s Theme” is remarkable and is still remembered. The movie got a nomination for the best film score, but lost to “The Wizard of Oz”…bad luck on that one. This February Movie Classic will be shown at the Edge Theater in Bigfork by Jack Nachbar. It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the time period of the movie.  Date: Thursday February14th . Time: 6:30PM. Price: FREE of charge.

The movie takes place later than the period the book depicts, and does not cover all the chapters in the book of the same name. If you have read the book, don’t expect to see it all on the screen. Just go and see a great love story with passion and depth that will move you.

Two of the stars, Merle Oberon and Sir Laurence Olivier disliked each other and Merle is said to have asked the director William Wyler after he stopped one particular romantic scene if William could please ask Sir Laurence to stop spitting at her. At one point producer Sam Goldwyn took Sir Lawrence aside to what seemed to be a quiet talk. Sir Lawrence was hobbled by some sort of foot problem and had to use crutches between scenes. Instead of a quiet discussion Goldwyn had a rather loud discussion about several things all unpleasant. The quiet talk was pre-arranged between Goldwyn and Wyler so they could play “bad cop-good cop” to help Wyler deal with Sir Lawrence.

It has been so long since the movie was made that many of the trivia stories you can read about the movie are substantially different than the truth. In one place you might read that Heather was brought from Europe and planted where the film was being produced to make the scenery look authentic and that it grew so much better in the California sun that it had to be kept trimmed. That same heather is said in another story to be tumbleweed painted to look like heather. So it is hard to tell what stories are true. Time, I guess, allows for such variations and the truth is possibly in between. One of the things that seems to be well known and true is Goldwyn considered this movie be his best movie ever.

What also seems true and believable is that two stars Sir Laurence Oliver and Merle Oberon were unhappy being here at the time of the movie because they were separated from their significant others back in Europe and did not like it.  What also seems very believable is that movies back then were still the new “kid on the block” in the minds of some stage actors, like these two, and had not earned their respect yet. 

To get a flavor of how the movie was received by the press at the time of its release.
Here is a period review from the New York Times April 14, 1939.

Written by Frank S. Nugent.  April 14, 1939. Goldwyn Presents Film of “Wuthering Heights” at Rivoli.

“After a long recess, Samuel Goldwyn has returned to serious screen business again with his film ‘Wuthering Heights,’ which had its première at the Rivoli last night. It is Goldwyn at his best, and better still, Emily Brontë at hers. Out of her strange tale of a tortured romance Mr. Goldwyn and his troupe have fashioned a strong and somber film, poetically written as the is a living thing, vibrant as the wind that swept Times Square last night….It isn't exactly a faithful transcription…But it is a faithful adaptation, written reverently and well, which goes straight to the heart of the book, explores its shadows and draws dramatic fire from the savage flints of scene and character hidden there.

And it has been brilliantly played. Laurence Olivier's Heathcliff is the man….Charlotte Brontë, in her preface to her sister's novel, said Heathcliff never loved Cathy; the only claim he might have had to humanity was his lukewarm regard for Hareton Earnshaw; …Heathcliff is demon, ghoul…But Heathcliff is no demon and he loved Cathy, in the film as in the novel…Mr. Goldwyn has provided a flawless supporting cast…It is, unquestionably, one of the most distinguished pictures of the year, one of the finest ever produced by Mr. Goldwyn, and one you should decide to see.”

Come and see a film that has met the test of time and is a good movie.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday February 14th at 6:30PM.  It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will provide you with background about the movie and a cartoon. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn. The Classic Movie Series is part of the District 318 Adult Education Program.

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