Very Good. Item #6149
N.p.: [Walter Wanger, prod.], . Suggested screen treatment, largely in prose, for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Blue paper covers bound by brass brads with typed titling. 44 numbered leaves.
Likely earliest draft of what would become the 1939 film produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by William Wyler, which earned eight Academy Award nominations (winning for Cinematography) and the award for Best Film from the New York Film Critics Circle.
Mordaunt Shairp was an assistant master at the University College School in London, best known at the time for his play The Green Bay Tree (1933) -- controversial for its suggested homosexual subtext and starring later-Heathcliff Laurence Olivier when it debuted on Broadway -- and for adapting the script for Sidney Franklin’s film The Dark Angel, which earned later-Catherine Merle Oberon her only Best Actress Academy nomination. While Shairp’s name has since been lost from the final film’s history, movie news blurbs in December 1935 issues of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and New York’s Times Union reported he had been hired by Walter Wanger to adapt Wuthering Heights, with actress Sylvia Sidney attached to the project. How the production changed hands to Wyler and Goldwyn is a bit murky. Wyler claimed he was tipped off by Sidney, also then under contract with Wanger, who claimed the part wasn’t right for her. Sidney, however, called Wyler’s account a “total lie,” saying she was dying to do the role and that Wanger bought it for her and Charles Boyer, but then snubbed her and sold the production to Goldwyn following a “terrible fight” when she refused to portray the secondary “kasbah girl” role in Algiers. Sidney would eventually get a chance at Wuthering Heights in 1941, though via radio on Philip Morris Playhouse opposite Raymond Massey.
Shairp’s initial treatment would be taken over by writers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, who are credited with the final screenplay, sometime in 1936. The apparent earliest draft among Wyler’s papers at the Margaret Herrick Library is a “first draft continuity” script with changes dated March 2, 1937, already credited to MacArthur and Hecht but still bearing a Walter Wanger Productions stamp. It seems no Wuthering Heights materials survive in Wanger’s papers at the University of Delaware. Shairp died at the age of 51 at his home in Hastings in January of 1939, two months before the film’s Hollywood release.
Front cover detached and chipped around edges, with loss to a pencil note at top left corner. Pages lightly toning with wear to fore-edge of first leaf. Pages unmarked. No other copies or drafts by Shairp found.