To film such a book as Wuthering Heights is something like taking photographs on a dull day. Anyone can make a success of snapshots in sunshine, and so, too, any ordinarily clever producer who weaves his film out of flowers and young love and happiness is pretty sure that the result will be attractive. But the rough gloom at Wuthering Heights, where there is neither hero nor heroine, moral nor mirth, makes far heavier demands. It is a credit to the British film industry that the screen version of the book shown yesterday in Manchester should be so good. In many ways it is as fine a production as any that this country has achieved.
At present the film is at the “private view” stage of its career when its spectators are impelled by a sense of duty or business rather than fixed by a wish for entertainment. It will be interesting to see how the sombre beauty of Wuthering Heights appeals to the people who will later find it like a hollyhock in a daisy field, among the cheerful trivialities of the ordinary kinema programme. Public taste has been so lowered by hundreds of bad American productions that it will perhaps be a drag to get it up high enough to appreciate Wuthering Heights.
The book is followed fairly closely, with just the necessary omissions of secondary characters and events. The scenes are laid in the Brontë country round Haworth, with two splendid houses – all wood panelling and heavy, studded doors – for Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. These pictures of rugged, endless moors and of fields girt about with stone hedges are very thrilling. It is strange how infinitely more appealing to English people are scenes of their own country than the loveliest photographs of Californian bigness; there is something human and lovable about dramas played in familiar places.
The part of Heathcliff is taken by Milton Rosmer. To us in Manchester who knew him in his Gaiety Theatre days this performance is an amazing reversion of his art. It is violent, blustering, turbulently melodramatic; just the kind of acting that Emily Brontë would have wanted for her Heathcliff. It surpasses all the historic claims of Bottom the Weaver, but it is so exactly right for the story and the savagely leaden atmosphere that one would not have it different.