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Acting Pinnacle

December 17, 1995

The "Wuthering Heights" excerpt from Jan Herman's forthcoming book on William Wyler failed to mention the actress who finally did play Isabella, Geraldine Fitzgerald ("Withering 'Heights,' " Dec. 10).

Though her film career spanned more than 50 years, it was her first and only Oscar nomination. She and Laurence Olivier remained friends until the end of his life, and it was one of her proudest compliments when she read in one of his last interviews, "I watched 'Wuthering Heights' on television the other night and the only performance that still holds up is Geraldine Fitzgerald's."

As her publicist, I was privileged to escort Geraldine to a breakfast date with Bette Davis in 1977. Davis brought up "Wuthering Heights," which they discussed for several minutes. Davis made no mention of ever wanting to play it herself and said to Geraldine, "You should have played Cathy, not that Merle Oberon. She never ran through any moors!"

Geraldine's own memories of the filming include the fact that Sam Goldwyn was constantly criticizing Olivier's looks and said the American public would never take to him. Olivier was miserable because he missed Vivien Leigh.

Fitzgerald had just finished supporting Bette Davis in "Dark Victory" and turned down the role of Melanie in "Gone With the Wind" because she didn't want to play another second lead, which she of course quickly realized was foolish.

Now 82 and retired, she is the only living cast member of "Wuthering Heights." Ironically, the film that launched her Hollywood career also provided her most recent on-camera appearance--Pioneer's new laser-disc version of the picture, which contains an interview with her.



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