I watched the Wuthering Heights movie (The Masterpiece Classics version)
A big difference that is noticeable right away is the fact that the movie starts at the end of the book, when Linton is going to live with Heathcliff. It continues until Young Cathy is locked in the house and being forced to marry Linton. It’s interesting that the movie starts out in this way, rather than following the book with having Mr. Lockwood there and Nelly telling the story. In this version, there is no Lockwood at all and Nelly is not the narrator of the story. The story is being told through Heathcliff’s memory as he gazes up at the window at Young Catherine.
Because the story is told in this way, it was necessary for the end (at least the beginning of the end) to be shown first... to provide an opening for Heathcliff to delve into his memories. I think it also brings the audience into the movie, because it really thrusts you into the action. There is no introduction to the characters like there is in the book (Lockwood’s stay). This makes the audience want to know who everyone is and what is going on and why it’s going on. However, they don’t really get to find out what is going on until the end of the movie, when the memories are over and Linton and Young Cathy marry.
Also in the movie, Young Cathy and Hareton do not marry. The story does not progress that far, stopping after Heathcliff dies.
In the book, Young Cathy says to Heathcliff that she and Linton are in love. “’I shall,’ said Catherine. ‘Linton is all I have to love in the world and, though you have done what you could to make him hateful to me, and me to him, you cannot make us hate each other! And I defy you to hurt him when I am by, and I defy you to frighten me.’” (page 269). She uses this fact to mock Heathcliff about having no one. “’I know he has a bad nature,’ said Catherine: ‘he’s your son. But I’m glad I’ve a better, to forgive it; and I know he loves me, and for that reason I love him. Mr. Heathcliff, you have nobody to love you; and, however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty arises from your greater misery! You are miserable, are you not? Lonely, like the devil, and envious like him? Nobody loves you – nobody will cry for you when you die! I wouldn’t be with you!’” (page 270).
However, in the movie the two are just friends. They knew each other before Linton went away to live with Heathcliff. When Heathcliff finds Young Cathy and brings her to Wuthering Heights, she instantly recognizes Linton and goes to him. However, it is not said that these two are in love, just that they are forced to marry.
Another difference is that when Cathy returns to Wuthering Heights, she is excited to see Heathcliff and does not insult him as she does in the book. However, the Linton’s do come for dinner and Heathcliff does get dressed up.
I also think it’s interesting that in the book, Heathcliff claims that Catherine’s corpse is still recognizable. “… when I saw her face again – it is hers yet… “ (page 270). However, in the movie, we see that she is in fact a skeleton. We also see her as Heathcliff does, not changed in the slightest.