Monday, February 13, 2012


I've been looking forward to getting to the year 1939 in my classic movie rewatch because that year is renowned as being one of the greatest in cinema history. So many amazing films were produced that year and I have ten nine of them in my collection.
The first two were adapted from literary classics. Now, I know I had  "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on a VHS tape and I was sure it was transferred to DVD at some point, but I could not for the life of me locate it anywhere. Determined to watch it anyway, I found it on Youtube and watched it in twelve parts! I know this is cheating but never mind. I really wanted to see it again. This movie did not disappoint. It is beautifully produced and superbly acted. Charles Laughton as poor Quasimodo the bellringer, is truly amazing . He is able to convey so much emotion with his voice and facial expressions despite the restrictions posed by the prosthetic makeup. There are some surprisingly brutal scenes. The abuse inflicted upon poor Quasimodo is horrific and distressing to watch.

Maureen O'Hara (age 18!) as the beautiful Esmeralda

Here's hoping my DVD of this turns up. If not, I will certainly purchase this in the future.

The second movie was "Wuthering Heights". Many cinematic and TV adaptations of this beautiful book have been made over the years, but in my opinion, none of them have captured the book successfully. This 1939 version is not perfect, but it has its moments.
The best thing about it is Laurence Olivier. His dark, brooding appearance is just right for the tormented Heathcliff. I didn't particularly enjoy Merle Oberon as Catherine. I keep imagining how wonderful this movie would have been if Vivien Leigh had played Cathy. This was just prior to Olivier and Leigh marrying. He wanted her in the role, but the producers decided she wasn't mainstream enough and only let her audition for the role of Isabella. Ironically, she then won the lead role in "Gone With the Wind" in the same year!

Here's Olivier and Leigh on Oscar night 1939-40. She won the Best Actress award for "Gone With the Wind", while he was nominated for the Best Actor award for "Wuthering Heights". They are gorgeous.

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