Is there anything sexy about a ghost? Can ghosts have sex? How can anyone fall in love with a ghost? I mean a stranger-ghost. Not like Patrick Swayze, who haunts his wife to protect her. Besides, they were married and in love before he was murdered and became a ghost. So, getting back to the subject, is it possible a stranger-ghost could hook up with the living? Is it possible, that eHarmony or PlentyofFish missed a possible cash market? Yes, I am teasing!
The Silver Screen classic, The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947), and the subject of sex is the focus of this post. It is inspired by The Third Annual Sex Blogathon hosted by Steve at Movie, Movie Blog, Blog. Thank you Steve for the invitation. The link below with take you to other posts based on this theme in this blogathon:
As we all know, sex is a basic human behavior much like the feelings of love. However, love and sex are two separate things. You can express your love through the act of sex; but, love is not needed to have enjoyable sex. Nor, do you have to have sex in order to love someone. So, when a film is based on a romance, it doesn’t need to include explicit sex scenes to convey the emotions of love. However, it does need the sexual tension and the belief that a sexual union might take place. This subconscious implication of sex is what some people describe as “sexy.” In other words, implied sex is the part of the sexual tension needed to make a film truly sexy. When it comes to implied sex and sexual tension, the film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, superbly utilizes both.
This gorgeous film is based on a book by an Irish writer, R. A. Dick (1945). If there ever was an explicit sexual pseudonym, this is it. The only other pseudonym that may surpass this one is, Seymour Butts. Forgive me, I digress. Her real name was Josephine Leslie. Luckily when the book was adapted to screen, it was done by one of the best writers in Hollywood: Philip Dunne (The Last of the Mohicans (1992); How Green was My Valley (1942); The Robe (1953)….) When the movie rights were purchased by Twentieth Century Fox in 1946, there were strong “decency” codes in place for studios to follow. Not a problem, because nothing in this film is sexually explicit. However, it is loaded with implicit sexual or sexy innuendoes. Take a look at the movie trailer to get an idea of some of those sexual implications.
This film has a wonderful cast of talented actors: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best, and little Natalie Wood. Along with the great love story, script, and actors. I have to mention how beautifully this black and white film was shot. The cinematographer, Charles Lang, was nominated for an Academy Award for the stunning visuals . For instance, this was filmed in California; but, you would never guess it because it really looks like London and the White Cliffs of Dover in England. Joseph Mankiewicz admirably directs and Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, North By Northwest, Citizen Cane, Twilight Zone) wrote a haunting, melodic, score to make this a near perfect movie. Herrmann said, he believed this was the best movie score that he had ever written. Twentieth Century Fox must have thought so too; since, the film begins with his music instead of the blasting of trumpets that is done in most of their film’s opening.
Lucy (Gene Tierney) is a young, beautiful British mother who has been widowed for a year. Unfortunately, Lucy’s deceased husband, Edwin, was an unsuccessful architect and did not leave much money behind for his family, except for a few dividends from an old gold mine. As a result, there was very little money for his wife and child to survive on. Being a proper British woman in Victoria times (1900), she is forced to live with her mother-in-Law and sister-in-law, Eva. Since these two repressive in-laws have had little control or no control in their own lives (typical in that time period for women), they decide to micro-manage Lucy and her young daughter (Natalie Wood). Thank goodness Lucy was able to keep her loyal, personal maid, Martha (Edna Best), with her during this trying time.
The film opens with Lucy explaining to her in laws that she has decided to take her daughter and maid and move to another town, near the sea.
As Lucy says it: I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. You both have been kind: but, I am not really part of the family now that Edwin is gone. I never had a life of my own. It’s been Edwin’s life, yours and Eva’s, never my own.
Of course, they think she is mad and ungrateful for all they have done for her. Behind the door, we see little Anna and Martha, gleefully listening. They (Lucy, Anna and Martha) are a small crew of strong and supportive women.
To Gene Tierney’s credit, she realized very quickly that Lucy’s character, which was originally written as a ditzy, screwball type of gal, was not believable or true to the character. It took a very strong willed woman who was determined to change the course of her life to leave the “comforts” of being cared for and wing it alone, especially, one that was near destitute as Lucy. So, they rewrote the script and reshot a few days of filming, to put the film on the right track.
Lucy meets with a rental agent, Mr Coombes, who keeps presenting overpriced homes for her to rent by the sea. She sees a much cheaper one at 52£, a month. He nervously tries to dissuade her; but, Lucy is determined to be shown Gull Cottage. Almost as soon as they arrive, Lucy senses it is haunted. Nearly, every step they take through the house, he tries to convince her that it is not a good choice. Yet, every step she takes, she knows that she belongs there. Eventually, they hear an disembodied laugh and run out of the home. Coombe explains that no one has stayed in that house overnight. The Sea captain, Daniel Gregg, who own the house, died there four years ago. He committed suicide and has haunted the place since. Far from being afraid, Lucy finds it all exciting and she wants the house even more.
Meeting A Ghost
So Mrs Muir and crew, move into to house and b gin the cleaning task. As Martha scrubbed the floors, Lucy does the ironing. She hears Martha using nautical terms and phases she had never use before. Martha says it must be bought on by the sea air. As Martha encourages Lucy to take a nap, Lucy reveals a regret or fear she has about herself.
Don’t say I am not strong enough. I feel useless, halfway through my life and what have I done?
Martha leds her up the stairs to take a short nap before tea. As Lucy shuts the French doors, she scratches her finger. She settles in a nice leather easy chair as the ship’s clock chimes in at 4:00 pm. The door opens. Rummy, the pet doggie, begins a low growl. Then a manly shadow appears looming near a sleeping Lucy.
As the clock chimes at 5:00 pm, Lucy awakes at the sound of the door banging against its frame. The very door that she scratched her finger closing. There is a strong wind and a ominous storm about to cut loose. As Martha comes back to fetch her for tea, Lucy asks her if she remembered her shutting the door. Of course, Martha does remember. Lucy is mystified at how the door opened in its own, or is she?
During the terrible storm, she tucks Anna in for bed and then says her good nights to Martha. She goes to the kitchen to boil water for her hot water bottle. The gaslight goes out. She has to relight it. Then, it goes out again. Then, the candle she was using to light her way into the kitchen goes out. Finally, she is not only frightened, she is angry. Instead of running away, she demands the ghost to show himself, even calling him a coward. She hears a voice: light the candle. Lucy answers: How can I when you keep blowing it out? The voice shouts: LIGHT THE BLASTED CANDLE! Then, he appears from the shadows in a corner in the kitchen.
Upon materializing, Lucy is more amazed than scared. She asks: Are you Captain Gregg? He answers: Aye.
Meeting A Ghost Continues
The discussion between the Captain and Mrs Muir is very funny and brilliantly written. Here are some of that discussion. I have highlighted the sexy bits from their discussion:
Mrs. Muir apologizes for calling him a coward because it must have embarrassed him.
Mrs Muir: Forgive me for calling you names. I really didn’t believe you…or I wouldn’t have ….it must have been embarrassing to you
The Captain is puzzled: Why?
Muir: Because of the way you died
Captain: The way I died, madam?
Muir: I mean because you committed suicide
Captain: What made you think I committed suicide?
Muir: Mr Coombe said…
Captain interrupts: Coombe is a fool. They are all fools. I went to sleep in front of that confounded gas heater in my bedroom. I must have kicked the gas on with my foot in my sleep. It was a stormy night like this with a Gale wind blowing into my Windows (doors). Like any sensible man would, I shut them. The charwoman testified I always sleep with my windows (doors) open. How the devil should she know how I slept?
Muir: I am so glad
Captain: You have a strange sense of humour Madame.
Muir: I mean that you you didn’t commit suicide. Then, why do you haunt?
Captain: I still have plans for me house which doesn’t include a pack of strangers barging in and making themselves at home.
Muir: Then, you were trying to frighten me away!
Captain: You call that trying? I have barely started.
Muir: I think it is very mean of you to frighten people and childish too
Captain: In Your case, I am prepared to admit I charted the course with regret. You are not a bad looking woman, especially when you are asleep.
Muir indignantly: So, you were in my room this afternoon.
Captain: My room madam
Muir: I thought I dream it. Did you open the widow (door) to frighten me?
Captain: I opened the window because I didn’t want another accident with the blasted gas. Women are such fools.
Muir: You of all people should not have bought that up!
Captain: I wouldn’t call that remark in the best of taste.
Muir: Well, I’m sure it was very kind of you. But, I am quite capable of taking care of myself. Now, if you don’t mind.
Muir lights the stove to boil the water: Are you still there?
Captain: Of course, I am still here. Long after you have packed up and gone.
Muir: I am not going. The house suits me perfectly
Captain: My dear woman, it is not your house…and I want it turned into a home for retired Seamen
Muir: Then you should have said so in your Will
Captain: I didn’t leave a Will
Muir: Why not?
Captain: BECAUSE I DIDN’T EXPECT TO KICK THE BLASTED GAS ON WITH ME BLASTED FOOT!
Muir: I won’t be shouted at! Everyone shouts at me and orders me about and I’m sick of it. DO YOU HEAR? BLAST! BLAST! BLAST!
Captain bursts out laughing.
Muir: I won’t be laughed at either. I won’t leave this house. You can’t make me leave it. I WONT!……I love this house. I thought I must stay here the moment I saw it. I can’t explain it. It was as if the house itself were welcoming me. Asking me to rescue it from being so empty. You can’t understand that, can you? I suppose you think I am a silly woman, but that is the way I feel.
Captain: Hmmm…Well, there might be some truth in it at that. I felt that way about a ship once…always swore she sailed twice as sweetly for me as she would any other master out of gratitude.
Well, you love the house. That counts for you. And you’ve spunk. You didn’t frighten like the others. That counts for you too. You may stay, on trial.
Muir rushes toward the Captain: Oh, thank you!
Captain: Keep your distance madam!
Muir: I am sorry. You’ve made me so happy
Captain: I’ve no intention of making you happy. I am merely doing what is best for this house.
Muir: Then we’ll agreed. And you will go right away and leave us alone.
Captain: I will not go right away! Why should I?
Muir: Because of my little girl Anna…..
Captain: Very well, I will make a bargain with you. Leave my bedroom as it is, and I promise not to go into any other room in the house. And your brat need never know anything about me.
Muir: But if you keep the best bedroom, where should I sleep?
Captain: In the best bedroom.
Mrs. Muir looks shocked.
Captain: I in heaven’s name madam, why not? Why bless my soul, I am a spirit. I have no body. I haven’t had one for four years. Is that clear?
Muir: But, I can see you.
Captain: All you can see is an illusion. It’s like a blasted lantern slide
Muir: Well, it’s not very convincing, but I suppose….it’s alright.
Captain: Then, it is settled. I’m probably making a mistake. I was always a fool for a helpless woman.
Muir: I am not helpless
Captain: you’re kettle is about to boil over…one thing more. I want me painting hung in the bedroom. The one that’s in the living room.
Muir: Must I? It’s a very poor painting.
Captain: It’s my painting. I didn’t invite your criticism. I make that a part of the bargain. I want you to put it there now, tonight. Good Night.
Muir: You might have turned on the light before you left.
The gaslight comes on.
Later, Mrs. Muir places the Captain’s painting in her room. As she begins to unbutton the front of dress. She stops and buttons them back up. She goes to the painting and covers it with a blanket. As she is a about to drift off to the land of nod, she hears the Captain’s voice:
My dear, never let anyone tell you to be ashamed of your figure. The next morning, Lucy has Martha pack away all her mourning clothes.
Collaborating With A Ghost
So, the love story between Mrs. Muir and Captain Gregg continues and their bond is strengthen through their honesty and bravery. From their first meeting, they overcome their fears of each other. Then, they confided in each other. Neither one, unrelenting for the sake of the other one until they bared their souls. Then, a bit of flirting takes place during with their bargain. They find themselves in a strange, but nonetheless sexy predicament. The next morning the Captain reveals he built the house; and, it is based on a poem, The Nightingale, by Keats.
Soon, the in-laws show up to bring Lucy home because the gold mine petered out. The Captain doesn’t tell her what to do, but he is very happy to support her decision to stay. He (like the Invisible Man) escorts the ladies out the door. With no money left, and family jewels pawn, the Captain tells her to write a book on his adventurous Seaman life. They will call it Blood and Swash by Captain X. He tells her the stories as she writes it. He even tells her which publishers to give her manuscript too.
Captain: Since we are collaborators, call me Daniel. I shall call you Lucia.
Muir: My name is Lucy
Daniel: The name doesn’t do you justice, my dear. Women named Lucy are always imposed upon; but, LUCIA, now there’s a name for an Amazon for a queen.
As Lucia writes this unvarnished biography of a Seaman, she must use words that have never left her mouth. The Captain leaves nothing out, including his sexual escapades. As he explains his visit to a brothel in Marseilles, Lucy stops typing. Captain Gregg asks her why she stopped.
Looking affronted, Muir claims: I have never wrote that word before.
Captain: It is a perfectly good word
Muir: I think it is a horrid word
Captain: It means what it says, doesn’t it?
Muir: All too clearly
Captain: What word do you use when you convey that meaning?
Muir: I don’t use any!
Captain: Hang it all, Lucia! If you are going to be prudish, we will never get the book written. Now, put it down the way I give it to you.
She looks disgusted as she slowly types: Tick, Tick, Tick …Tick! Only four letters are typed. Again, sex is implied; but, we can easily understand the sexual overtones.
Once the book is complete, Lucy realizes that her friendship with a ghost may not be in her future. She confides her misgivings to the Captain.
Mrs. Muir: When we were writing the book, I was happy. We were accomplishing something together. But now, when I think of the future, it’s all dark and confused, like trying to see into the fog.
The Captain offers her some advise: You need to get out in the world more, meeting people, meeting men. Lucy says she doesn’t desire to meet men. He reassures her that she should: You are a confoundedly attractive woman. Really, my dear, you owe it to yourself.
Going Out In The World And Meeting New People
When Lucy visits the publisher, Mr Sproule, she also catches the roaming eye of another author. Lucy meets Uncle Neddy (George Sanders). He writes children books while at the same time, he “loathes” them. His real name is Miles Fairley. His is extremely experienced with the ladies and wastes no time letting Mrs. Muir that he wants to get to know her better.
He is charmingly caddish. He gives his appointment with the publisher to Mrs Muir. Which was not a great sacrifice since we soon learn the publisher hates his little draft for a book. Once Lucy persuades Mr Sproule to read her manuscript, he laughs, almost immediately from the first page. Of course, he wants to publish her book; and, he wants to meet Captain X who wrote the book. Mrs. Muir tells him that the Captain is on a long voyage. Meanwhile, Mr Fairley has waited over three hours before Mrs. Muir emerges from her meeting with Mr Sproule.
After her meeting, Fairley who is trying to impress her, catches a cab; and, they both ride to the train station together. As she is about to leave, he grabs her hanky from her hand, as a memento. Lucy is flattered; but, The Captain is not impressed with Fairley and tells her so on the train.
Although the Captain does not feel Fairley is not good enough for Lucia, he knows he must leave her to live her life to the fullest with a man who is alive. Eventually, the Captain will visit Lucy in her dreams. He will tell her good bye and tell her she dream it all about hi. He never really existed.
Oh, I can’t help you now. It will only confuse you more and destroy whatever chance you have left for happiness…what we have missed, Lucia. What we both have missed. Good-bye, my darling.
Then, he fades away…
I have to praise the actors in this movie. Each of them is perfect in their roles. Also, I now know why Rex Harrison was referred to as “Sexy Rexy!”
Even though the Captain went into the light, the movie does not end here. It continues to show the passing years; until, Mrs Muir is old herself and near death. Anna grows up and marries a lovely man. They name their daughter little Lucy. Martha continues to be Lucy’s friend while taking care of her. We even know what happens to Uncle Neddy as he became older too. It is a beautiful story with some surprises here and there.
So, is The Ghost and Mrs Muir sexy even though there isn’t the slightest kiss between them? Of course it is. Despite the fact that sex with a ghost is physically impossible; or, is it? He did physically throw out her in-laws.
If he can or cannot, the possibility is there. Plus, there is sexual tension, at least on Lucy’s part. Nearly, every time these two characters meet they make kind comments to each other; they are honest; they confide in one another; when they bicker, they always find their way back to each other; they laugh often together; and, they are true to themselves while bringing out the best in each other. For me, I think there is a lot of a sexy in this movie. As far Lucy falling in love with the Spirit of Captain Gregg and vice versa, I will leave you with the wise words of Oscar Wilde:
You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.
The link below with take you to other posts based on this theme in this blogathon:
For those of you who would like to read more on the subject of ghosts and sex, here is a link to a Scottish newspaper with a very interesting “true story” about a ghost having sex with the living:
I do not own any of the images used in this post