A seaman in the truest sense is ne’er content on land,
And I have lived a life of which a captain may be proud:
Kept my ship in Bristol fashion,
Kept my crew content with rations,
Kept alert for mares’ tails warning tempests to withstand.
Yet now I wish, my beard more ashen,
That I’d found a second passion,
Plucking me a darling from the vast landlubber crowd.
I don’t mean some brief harbor love, although I’ve had a few;
I mean the kind worth waiting for through months before the mast.
I’d hoist the anchor eagerly
To reunite with such as she
And boast from stern to scuttlebutt to share a love so true.
The ship may list from weather to lee
And on her beam ends she may be,
But I’d have stronger cause to live and hold the tiller fast.
A lover in the truest sense is ne’er content at sea
But charts and stays the swiftest course from ocean unto wife.
When in the offing I appeared,
She’d stand upon a headland, cheered
And counting seconds till we both could reach the nearest quay.
I wish in such a course I’d steered
Before grey crept into my beard,
But maybe love can find a seaman even after life.
MPAA rating: Not Rated (might as well be G)
It’s been a while since my trusty Viewing Companion (a.k.a. VC) got to choose a movie, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one of her favorite romances. I’ve seen it a few times before, and for some reason, its full appeal never hit me until this latest viewing.
Gene Tierney plays the widowed Mrs. Lucy Muir, who moves with her daughter (Natalie Wood) and maid (Edna Best) to a large house by the English seaside, which she comes to realize is haunted by the deceased Captain Gregg (Rex Harrison). After a halfhearted attempt to scare her off, Gregg admires her spunk enough to let her stay, and the two of them allow their testily heartfelt conversations to bloom into unadmitted love. The captain’s blustery manner complements Mrs. Muir’s obstinance, and while she cares for the house they both love, he acts as her friend, security system, and inspiration to write a money-making memoir. Of course, romance can be strained between flesh and blood and spirit, and their relationship is soon threatened by the suavely courting Miles Fairley (George Sanders, known as the deep voice of Shere Khan in 1967’s The Jungle Book), who might be more seductive if he didn’t have a creepy disregard for personal space.
Both Tierney and Harrison are at the top of their games here, with Harrison in particular exceeding all but his My Fair Lady role in bringing to life the gruffly affectionate captain (whose coarse sailor language never extends beyond “blasted”). One scene in which he remains invisible to Lucy’s unwelcome in-laws seems to anticipate the similar dynamic between Sam and the holographic Al in Quantum Leap, while the tear-jerking final scenes match the best romantic endings. I also find it interesting to note that The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was turned into a 1968 sitcom, in which the ghost was played by Edward Mulhare, who also took over Harrison’s role of Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady on Broadway.
Sometimes it takes several viewings to help one fully appreciate a film, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir deserves such appreciation and its 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s a well-scripted, non-physical romance of the best kind, managing to be mildly spooky, delightfully charming, or tenderly bittersweet when it needs to be. It may not make my VC cry anymore, but it arouses the same emotions (minus the tears) in both of us.
Best line: (Lucy Muir) “You can be much more alone with other people than you are by yourself, even if it’s people you love.”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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