A traveler named Lockwood (Miles Mander) is caught in the snow and stays at the estate of Wuthering Heights, where the housekeeper, Ellen Dean (Flora Robson), sits down to tell him the story in flashback.

In the early 19th century, the original owner of Wuthering Heights, Mr. Earnshaw (Leo G. Carroll), brings home an orphan from Liverpool named Heathcliff. Though son Hindley Earnshaw despises the boy, daughter Catherine develops a close kinship with Heathcliff that blossoms into love. When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Cathy and Heathcliff grow up together on the Moors and seem destined for happiness, even though Hindley forces Heathcliff to work as a stable boy.

When Cathy (Merle Oberon) meets wealthy neighbor Edgar Linton (David Niven), Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) gets jealous and leaves. Cathy marries Edgar, and Heathcliff returns with his own wealth and sophistication. He buys Wuthering Heights from the alcoholic Hindley (Hugh Williams) and marries Edgar's sister, Isabella Linton (Geraldine Fitzgerald), out of spite.

Still obsessively in love with each other, Cathy gets deathly ill while Heathcliff grows into a bitter old man. Ellen continues telling Lockwood the story as Dr. Kenneth (Donald Crisp) enters and reveals the fateful ending.
Oscar
8 Nominations
1 Award
Best Cinematography

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
The film is based on the novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The project was initially intended as a vehicle for Merle Oberon, who was under contract with Samuel Goldwyn at the time. However, when Laurence Olivier was cast as Heathcliff, Vivien Leigh wanted to play the lead role alongside her then lover and future husband. Studio executives felt the role could not go to an actress who was largely unknown in America, but they did offer Leigh the part of Isabella Linton. She declined, and Geraldine Fitzgerald was cast. Leigh was cast in “Gone with the Wind” that same year, which won her an Academy Award for Best Actress; Merle Oberon did not receive a nomination for her performance, although I believe she should have.

There were clashes on the set between actors and the director. Both of the leading players began work on the film miserable at having to leave their loved ones back in the England; Olivier missed his fiancée Vivien Leigh and Oberon had recently fallen in love with film producer Alexander Korda.

Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier also apparently detested each other. Witnesses recall Oberon scolding Olivier for accidentally spitting on her during a particularly romantic balcony scene. Oberon shouted back to Wyler, "Tell him to stop spitting at me!" Olivier retorted by shouting, "What's a little spit for Chrissake, between actors? You bloody little idiot, how dare you speak to me!" Oberon ran crying from the set after the outburst, and Wyler insisted Olivier apologize to her, which upset Olivier greatly.

Olivier also found himself becoming increasingly annoyed with William Wyler's exhausting style of filmmaking. After countless takes of one scene, he is said to have exclaimed, "For God's sake, I did it sitting down. I did it with a smile. I did it with a smirk. I did it scratching my ear. I did it with my back to the camera. How do you want me to do it?" Wyler's response was, "I want it better." Olivier in later years was more kind in his opinion about Wyler. In both his autobiography and his book On Acting, he credits William Wyler with teaching him how to act in films, as opposed to on the stage, and for giving him a new respect for films. Olivier had tended to "ham it up", as if he were playing to the second balcony, but Wyler showed him how to act more subtly.

In the final sequence of “Wuthering Heights”, the spirits of Heathcliff and Cathy are seen walking together hand-in-hand, obviously in love. This scene is not found in the book and, according to literary critic John Sutherland, was likely the stark opposite of what Brontë intended the reader to understand. He contends that a contemporary reader would not have seen Cathy's ghost's actions as a gesture of undying love for Heathcliff but one of towering, protective rage; Cathy haunted Heathcliff to death only to prevent him from cheating her daughter out of her inheritance. (The film omitted any mention of Cathy's daughter and Heathcliff's son, both of whom play a major role in the last portion of the book. In the film, neither Heathcliff nor Cathy has any children). Director Wyler hated the idea of the after-life scene and didn't want to do it but producer Samuel Goldwyn vetoed him, and the scene was added after primary filming was complete. As Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon had already moved on to other projects, doubles had to be used.

Oberon captures the role of Cathy so beautifully while Olivier is fantastic as the brooding and vengeful Heathcliff. Flora Robson is a phenomenal character actress whom I love and her portrayal of the housekeeper, Ellen Dean, is both forceful and touching.

While I have always been a fan of “Gone With The Wind”, I’ve always believed that this movie should have won Best Picture for that year. And for his brilliant direction, so should have William Wyler. Many disagree. While I have the utmost respect for director Victor Fleming, I believe William Wyler really captured the heart and soul of the star crossed lovers as well as the dark intensity of the period. “Gone With The Wind” was a huge, big budget epic that there had never been anything like it before (or for quite some time I should say. Citing Cecil B. DeMille’s “Cleopatra”) not to mention the novel alone at that time was the equivalent of the Harry Potter or Twilight books of today.

Though the film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including William Wyler’s direction, only Gregg Toland won for his haunting and evocative depiction of mid-19th century English moors.