Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Wuthering Heights (1939)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Wuthering Heights (1939)

In director William Wyler's superb romantic drama - a melodramatic and brooding screen adaptation of Emily Bronte's 1847 romantic Victorian novel about a haunted love story and doomed lovers with inseparable spirits, set on the windy Yorkshire moors of pre-Victorian England:

  • the opening scene as a solitary traveler, known as Mr. Lockwood (Miles Mander), staggered through a raging blizzard, a bitterly-cold snowy night on the Yorkshire moors, to find refuge at the estate of Wuthering Heights; he was given lodging by the landlord Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) (the master of the house) and his wife Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald)
  • in an upstairs "bridal chamber" guest room, Lockwood called out to Heathcliff that he had heard a "phantom" woman calling named Cathy, and felt someone clutch his hand in an icy cold grasp at the window

Heathcliff Calling Out For Cathy
Mr. Lockwood At the Window -
Hearing Cathy Calling and Feeling Her Cold Hand
  • after throwing Lockwood out of the room, Heathcliff flung open the window, and cried out for his long-lost love: "Cathy, Cathy, come in, Cathy come back to me...Oh my heart's darling. Cathy. My own, my, Cathy"; half-mad, Heathcliff ran downstairs and rushed out into the raging storm [Note: The film concluded when he was reunited to the ghost of his Cathy, who had come back to Wuthering Heights and was calling his name from the snowy moors.]
  • the remainder of the film was a flashback - Heathcliff's housekeeper Ellen Dean (Flora Robson) told about the tragic love between Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw (Merle Oberon) ("a girl who died") forty years earlier, and that they were being brought together: "Maybe you'd know, as I do, that there is a force that brings them back, if their hearts were wild enough in life"
  • orphaned, dirty-faced gypsy Heathcliff (Rex Downing as child) was adopted by widower Mr. Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway) on the streets of London and brought home to Wuthering Heights to live with his two high-class, manor-born children: young daughter Catherine or "Cathy" (Sarita Wooten as child) and his son Hindley (Douglas Scott as child); although Heathcliff was the stable boy and treated harshly by the tormenting and hateful Hindley (Hugh Williams as adult), he fell in love with Cathy
  • the romantic scenes of young Cathy and Heathcliff in their make-believe castle on windy Peniston Crag on the atmospheric moors where they imagined that he was a prince of noble birth, and she was his queen; they professed their eternal love to each other; when Mr. Earnshaw died, fortuned changed for Heathcliff; after many years, Hindley had turned into a dissolute alcoholic, and continued to bully, demean and order Heathcliff around, and to call him a "gypsy beggar"
  • on Peniston Crag, Cathy suggested to Heathcliff - a foreshadowing: "Why aren't you a man? Heathcliff, why don't you run away?...You could come back to me rich and take me away. Why aren't you my prince like we said long ago? Why can't you rescue me, Heathcliff?"
  • one night with Heathcliff while eavesdropping on a luxurious party held by their wealthy and glamorous neighbors the Lintons, Cathy was injured by guard dogs, and was taken under their care; as Heathcliff left her, he cursed the Lintons for their snobbery, promising to repay them some day for taking Cathy away from him: "I'll be back in this house one day, Judge Linton, and I'll pay you out. I'll bring this house down in ruins about your heads. That's my curse on you"
  • meanwhile, Cathy fell under the seductive spell of wealthy and glamour in their household and their refined neighbor Edgar Linton (David Niven); but she was torn and did return to express her love for Heathcliff when they retreated to their favorite Peniston Crag make-believe locale; Heathcliff vowed: "Cathy. You're still my queen"; in the flashback, Ellen described the situation, in voice-over: "And as time went by, Cathy again was torn between her wild, uncontrollable passion for Heathcliff and the new life she had found at the Grange that she could not forget"
  • Cathy's love for Heathcliff was eventually thwarted when he denounced Linton: ("Who turns you into a vain, cheap, worldly fool? Linton does"); and then Cathy denounced Heathcliff for his lowly status: ("The people's servant were all you were born to be, a beggar in the center of the road, begging for favors"); they violently quarreled and Heathcliff struck her twice across the face: ("That's all I've become to you. A pair of dirty hands. Well, have them then!")
  • in a key scene, Heathcliff overheard Cathy in the kitchen, without her knowledge, telling Ellen that she was considering Edgar's proposal of marriage and her insulting statement about Heathcliff - that she wouldn't marry him because of his unsuitable low birth: "He gets worse everyday. It would degrade me to marry him"
  • in a rage, Heathcliff left before hearing Cathy's confession that she wasn't made for Edgar's Heaven, and was more suited for Heathcliff; she dramatically stated to Ellen her feelings about him: "He seems to take pleasure in being mean and brutal. And yet, he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. And Linton's is as different as frost from fire...Ellen, I AM Heathcliff"
  • when Cathy realized Heathcliff had been listening to her initial words and then had fled, she raced in a driving rainstorm to Peniston Crag to find him - and to tell him of her long-repressed feelings and love, but Heathcliff had already disappeared; she collapsed there and suffered from a bout of pneumonia
The Scene of Heathcliff's Departure After Eavesdropping

Heathcliff Listening

"Oh Heathcliff. He gets worse everyday"

"Ellen, I am Heathcliff!"

Cathy at Peniston Crag in Driving Rain Looking to Find Heathcliff
  • as a result of Heathcliff's abandonment, Cathy soon after married Edgar; Heathcliff had left for America, and then two years later, he suddenly reappeared to see Cathy - he was transformed into a worldly, refined, wealthy gentleman but also dark and troubled; he spitefully claimed to Linton and Cathy: "The truth is, I remembered that my father was an emperor of China and my mother was an Indian queen, and I went out and claimed my inheritance. It all turned out just as you once suspected, Cathy: that I had been kidnapped by wicked sailors and brought to England - that I was of noble birth"
  • he had secretly bought Wuthering Heights from Hindley, to become the Lintons' neighbor; with the tables turned, Heathcliff announced to Hindley: "I'm master here now"; to find his revenge (or to incite Cathy's jealousy), he romanced Edgar's naive sister Isabella Linton, while still expressing his love for Cathy, but she refused to listen to him: ("I'm not the Cathy that was. Can you understand that? I'm somebody else. I'm another man's wife and he loves me. And I love him"); Cathy realized that Heathcliff's plan was to vindictively and lovelessly marry Isabella and then neglect and abandon her: "Don't you see what he's been doing? He's been using you to be near me"
  • it was soon proven that Cathy's prediction was correct, and Isabella was treated coldly and indifferently by Heathcliff after marriage; when Cathy became ill, Isabella speculated that Cathy's death might help her own marriage and turn Heathcliff's love toward her at last
  • the long-hindered, passionate love affair of Cathy and Heathcliff emerged in death; in a memorable, tragically-romantic deathbed scene in Cathy's bedroom, Heathcliff was reunited with the heartbroken and seriously-ill Cathy - she was possibly dying of a broken heart and suffering from an incurable disease
  • the two pledged their enduring, undying love and became reconciled after so many years of mutual unhappiness and bitterness. They passionately hugged and kissed each other, finally revealing their truest emotions to each other. Heathcliff argued as he stood up: "Oh Cathy, I never broke your heart. You broke it! Cathy! Cathy! You loved me! What right to throw love away for the poor fancy thing you felt for him, for a handful of worthiness. Misery and death and all the evils that God and man could have ever done would never have parted us. You'd be better alone. You wandered off like a wanton, greedy child to break your heart and mine." Cathy replied: "Heathcliff, forgive me. We've so little time." He vowed to stay with his dying love as her strength ebbed: "I'll never leave you again"
The Classic Deathbed Sequence

"Don't let me go"

"Will you forget me when I'm in the earth?"

"Cathy! You loved me! What right to throw love away..."

"Heathcliff, forgive me. We've so little time"

"I'll never leave you again"

"Take me to the window."

Looking Out the Window Together

"How Beautiful It is"
  • he heard her claim that he was always the only man she ever loved: "When you went away that night in the rain, I told you I belonged to him, that he was my life, my being...It's true. It's true. I'm yours, Heathcliff. I've never been anyone else's"
  • she requested to be picked up: "Take me to the window. Let me look at the moors with you once more, my darling. Once more." He carried her in his arms to her bedroom window for one last look out on the moors and Peniston Crag where they had played together as children.
  • before slumping at his side after breathing her last breath and dying in his arms, they made a pact to be together for eternity. She promised to wait for him there in death until they were reunited again one day: "Heathcliff, can you see the Crag over there where our castle is? I'll wait for you 'til you come."
  • distraught by Cathy's death, Heathcliff gave an impassioned plea to his deceased beloved to haunt him for the rest of his days. He wished that he wouldn't have to suffer a long separation: "What do they know of Heaven or Hell, Cathy, who know nothing of life? Oh, they're praying for you, Cathy. I'll pray one prayer with them - I repeat 'til my tongue stiffens - Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest so long as I live on! I killed you. Haunt me, then! Haunt your murderer! I know that ghosts have wandered on the Earth. Be with me always. Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me in this dark alone where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul!" - the flashback ended
  • it was claimed by the family physician, Dr. Kenneth (Donald Crisp), who entered the room to find Ellen and Lockwood, that after desperately searching for Cathy's ghost in the snowy cold storm, he thought he saw Heathcliff walking with his arm around a woman, but then he was found frozen to death. Ellen informed the doctor that Heathcliff was not dead, but that his soul had joined his love in death at their favorite place forevermore: (Ellen: "No, not dead, Dr. Kenneth. And not alone. He's with her. They've only just begun to live")
  • in the final memorable image, the young, ghostly spirits of Cathy and Heathcliff were re-united for eternity (super-imposed as they walked over the snow) in death on the Peniston Crag moorlands, where they had spent many happy hours together in their childhood walking joyously across the heath.

Young Cathy (Sarita Wooten as child)

Young Heathcliff Tormented by Hindley

Cathy on the Moors With Young Heathcliff

At Peniston Crag Together as Children

Years Later on Peniston Crag as Adults

Eavesdropping on the Lintons

Cathy with Wealthy Fiancee Edgar Linton (David Niven)

Love With Heathcliff Rekindled on Peniston Crag

Cathy Struck Twice Across the Face By Heathcliff

Cathy's Marriage to Edgar Linton

Heathcliff's Return to Wuthering Heights After Two Years

At Wuthering Heights to Hindley: "I'm master here now"

Cathy's Sister-in Law Isabella Hinton - Heathcliff's Future Wife

Now Married, Cathy Refused to Listen to Heathcliff's Confession of Love

Heathcliff's Neglected and Abandoned Wife Isabella - Begged Heathcliff That She Could Make Him Happy

Cathy Dead in Heathcliff's Arms

Heathcliff's Final Vow and Prayer: "Haunt me, then!"

End of Flashback: Ellen's Final Words About Heathcliff and Cathy

Last Image: Together Reunited on Peniston Crag


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