Directed by William Wyler
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Written by Charles MacArthur
Based on Wuthering Heights
by Emily Brontë
Starring Merle Oberon
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Gregg Toland
Edited by Daniel Mandell
Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Distributed by United Artists
March 24, 1939
April 13, 1939 (USA)
Country United States
Box office $624,643 (1989 re-issue)
Wuthering Heights is a 1939 American film directed by William Wyler and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. It is based on the novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The film depicts only sixteen of the novel’s thirty-four chapters, eliminating the second generation of characters. The novel was adapted for the screen by Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and John Huston. The film won the 1939 New York Film Critics Award for Best Film. It earned nominations for eight Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in what many consider Hollywood’s greatest single year. The 1940 Academy Award for Best Cinematography, black-and-white category, was awarded to Gregg Toland for his work. Nominated for original score (but losing to The Wizard of Oz) was the prolific film composer, Alfred Newman, whose poignant “Cathy’s Theme” does so much “to maintain its life as a masterpiece of romantic filmmaking.” 
In 2007, Wuthering Heights was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (Merle Oberon) meet on Peniston Crag in Wuthering Heights
A traveller named Lockwood (Miles Mander) is caught in the snow and stays at the estate of Wuthering Heights, despite the cold behaviour of his aged host, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier). Late that night, after being shown into an upstairs room that was once a bridal chamber, Lockwood is awakened by a cold draft and finds the window shutter flapping back and forth. Just as he is about to close it, he feels an icy hand clutching his and sees a woman outside calling, “Heathcliff, let me in! I’m out on the moors. It’s Cathy!” Lockwood calls Heathcliff and tells him what he saw, whereupon the enraged Heathcliff throws him out of the room. As soon as Lockwood is gone, Heathcliff frantically calls out to Cathy, runs down the stairs and out of the house, into the snowstorm.
Ellen, the housekeeper (Flora Robson), tells the amazed Lockwood that he has seen the ghost of Cathy Earnshaw, Heathcliff’s great love, who died years before. When Lockwood says that he doesn’t believe in ghosts, Ellen tells him that he might if she told him the story of Cathy. And so the main plot begins as a long flashback.
The plot then flashes back 40 years. As a boy, Heathcliff is found on the streets by Mr. Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway), who brings him home to live with his two children, Cathy and Hindley. At first reluctant, Cathy eventually welcomes Heathcliff and they become very close, but Hindley treats him as an outcast, especially after Mr. Earnshaw dies. About ten years later, the now-grown Heathcliff and Cathy (Merle Oberon) have fallen in love and are meeting secretly on Peniston Crag (because of censorship, their relationship in the film is kept strictly platonic in spite of the fact that they do kiss, while in the novel it is implied that their relationship was romantic). Hindley (Hugh Williams) has become dissolute and tyrannical and hates Heathcliff. One night, as Cathy and Heathcliff are out together, they hear music and realize that their neighbors, the Lintons, are giving a party. Cathy and Heathcliff sneak to the Lintons and climb over their garden wall, but the dogs are alerted and Cathy is injured. Heathcliff is forced to leave Cathy in their care. Enraged that Cathy would be so entranced by the Linton’s glamor and wealth, he blames them for her injury and curses them.
Months later, Cathy is fully recuperated but still living at the Lintons. Edgar Linton (David Niven) has fallen in love with Cathy and soon proposes, and after Edgar takes her back to Wuthering Heights, she tells Ellen what has happened. Ellen reminds her about Heathcliff, but Cathy flippantly remarks that it would degrade her to marry him. Heathcliff overhears and leaves. Cathy realizes that Heathcliff has overheard, is overcome by guilt and runs out after him into a raging storm. Edgar finds her and nurses her back to health once again, and soon he and Cathy marry.
Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) at the deathbed of Cathy (Merle Oberon) in Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff was thought to have disappeared forever but returns two years later, now wealthy and elegant. He has refined his appearance and manners in order to both impress and spite Cathy and secretly buys Wuthering Heights from Hindley, who has become an alcoholic. In order to further spite Cathy, Heathcliff begins courting Edgar’s naive sister, Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), and eventually marries her. The brokenhearted Cathy soon falls gravely ill. Heathcliff rushes to her side against the wishes of the now disillusioned and bitter Isabella, and Cathy dies in Heathcliff’s arms.
The flashback ends and we return to Ellen finishing her story. The family doctor, Dr. Kenneth (Donald Crisp), bursts in, saying that he (Dr. Kenneth) must be mad, having seen Heathcliff in the snow walking with his arm around a woman. Ellen exclaims, “It was Cathy!” and Dr. Kenneth says, “No, I don’t know who it was”, and tells them that he was then thrown from his horse. As he drew closer, he found Heathcliff lying in the snow. The woman had disappeared and there was no sign of her, and only Heathcliff’s footprints appeared in the snow, not hers. Lockwood asks, “Is he dead?”, and Dr. Kenneth nods, but Ellen says, “No, not dead, Dr. Kenneth. And not alone. He’s with her. They’ve only just begun to live.”
The last thing seen in the film are the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy, walking in the snow, superimposed over a shot of Peniston Crag.