Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë, written between October 1845 and June 1846, and published in 1847 under thepseudonym "Ellis Bell." It was her first and only published novel: she died aged 30 the following year. The decision to publish came after the success of her sister Charlotte's novel, Jane Eyre. After Emily's death, Charlotte edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights, and arranged for the edited version to be published as a posthumous second edition in 1850.
Wuthering Heights is the eponymous farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors where the story unfolds. Its core theme is the enduring love between the heroine, Catherine Earnshaw, and her father's adopted son, Heathcliff and how it eventually destroys their lives and the lives of those around them.
Although Wuthering Heights became a classic of English literature, it received mixed reviews when first published, and was considered controversial because its depiction of mental and physical cruelty was so unusually stark. In the second half of the 19th century, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was considered the best of the Brontë sisters' works, but later critics argued that Wuthering Heights was superior. Wuthering Heights has inspired adaptations, including film, radio and television dramatisations, a musical by Bernard J. Taylor, a ballet, operas (by Bernard Herrmann, Carlisle Floyd, and Frédéric Chaslin), a role-playing game, and the 1978 chart-topping song by Kate Bush.
The earliest known film adaptation of Wuthering Heights was filmed in England and directed by A. V. Bramble. It is unknown if any prints still exist. The most famous was 1939'sWuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon and directed by William Wyler. This adaptation, like many others, eliminated the second generation's story (young Cathy, Linton and Hareton). It won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film and was nominated for the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture.
The 1970 film with Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff is the first colour version of the novel, and gained acceptance over the years though it was initially poorly received. The character of Hindley is portrayed much more sympathetically, and his story-arc is altered. It also subtly suggests that Heathcliff may be Cathy's illegitimate half-brother.
The 1992 film Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche is notable for including the oft-omitted second generation story of the children of Cathy, Hindley and Heathcliff.
Recent film or TV adaptations include ITV's 2009 two part drama series starring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Sarah Lancashire, and Andrew Lincoln. and the 2011 film starring Kaya Scodelario and James Howson directed by Andrea Arnold.
Adaptations which reset the story in a new setting include the 1954 adaptation retitled Abismos de Pasion directed by Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel set in Catholic Mexico, with Heathcliff and Cathy renamed Alejandro and Catalina. In Buñuel's version Heathcliff/Alejandro claims to have become rich by making a deal with Satan. The New York Times reviewed a re-release of this film as "an almost magical example of how an artist of genius can take someone else's classic work and shape it to fit his own temperament without really violating it," noting that the film was thoroughly Spanish and Catholic in its tone while still highly faithful to Brontë. Also with a transposed setting is Yoshishige Yoshida's 1988 adaptation which set the story inTokugawa period Japan. In this film, the Heathcliff character, Onimaru, is raised in a nearby community of priests who worship a local Fire God. In 2003, MTV produced a poorly reviewedversion set in modern California high school.
The novel has been popular in opera and theatre, including operas written by Bernard Herrmann, Carlisle Floyd and Frédéric Chaslin (most of which like many films cover only the first half of the book) and a musical by Bernard J. Taylor. The libretto of Herrmann's opera (written by his wife) incorporates material from poems by Emily Brontë, and his score has a few musical motifs that appeared in both prior and subsequent film scores by Herrmann.
In autumn of 2008, Mark Ryan launched a dramatic musical adaptation of the novel, narrated by Ray Winstone. He composed, sang and produced the tracks with Robb Vallier who also worked on Spamalot. He also directed the video for the song "Women" filmed especially for the website and featuring Jennifer Korbee, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Katie Boeck.
A graphic novel (long, mature style, comic book) version came out in 2011 from the publisher Classical Comics, a publisher much praised by teachers and librarians for their high quality versions of classic novels. The graphic novel is 150 page and stays close to the original novel. It was adapted by Scottish writer Sean Michael Wilson, and hand painted by comic book veteran artist John M Burns. This version received a nomination for the Stan Lee Excelsior Awards, 2012 voted for by pupils from 170 schools across the UK.
[Works inspired by]
Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights" is most likely the best-known creative work inspired by Brontë's story that is not properly an "adaptation." Bush wrote and released the song when she was just 18 years of age, choosing it to be the lead single in her debut album (despite the record company preferring another track as the lead single) and it shot her to worldwide fame. It was primarily inspired by the Olivier-Oberon film version which deeply affected the teenage Bush. The song is sung from Catherine's point of view as she pleads at Heathcliff's window to be let in. It uses quotations from Catherine, both in the chorus - "Let me in! I'm so cold!" - and the verses, with Catherine's admitting to her servant of "bad dreams in the night." Critic Sheila Whiteley writes that the ethereal quality of the vocal resonates with Cathy's dementia, and that Bush's high register has both "childlike qualities in its purity of tone" and an "underlying eroticism in its sinuous erotic contours."
Wuthering Heights is also in the company of novels that have inspired a role-playing game, despite not being a fantasy, spy, or detective story. The game is distributed free on the Internet by the French author Philippe Tromeur. The game is briefly alluded in the introduction to the 2007 Broadview Press edition of Wuthering Heights and in a footnote in the 2005 (Volume 33) issue of periodical Victorian literature and culture.
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