The scene I'm posting (and the movie it's taken from) is a favorite of both mine and of Paula Jane's; after seeing it again the other day, it prompted a discussion of the sexiest film scenes we know, especially those which don't show sex explicitly (and while you may disagree, I think that's a disqualifier anyway). She thought it would make a good topic, and I agreed—obviously, because here we are—and hopefully she'll have some things to impart, as well. I'm gonna choose my top ten, and post em in no particular order over the next few weeks, beginning with the scene in question, from I Know Where I'm Going!.
The Film was a production of The Archers, a legendary British film unit led by director/screenwriters Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and consisting of a remarkable group of actors and crewman who collaborated to make some of cinema's best and most criminally under-seen masterpieces, among them The Life and Times Of Colonel Blimp(1943), The Red Shoes(1948), Black Narcissus(1947), A Matter of Life and Death(1946), and numbers of others, including of course, I Know Where I'm Going!, in 1945.
Similarly, the films stars are actors not much celebrated these days, but far superior to legions who are. Pamela Brown plays Catriona MacLaine Potts as though she was both a person and an element. Seeing her in the film for the first time, climbing a grassy hill with the easy grace and earthiness of a Celtic Goddess—clutching a brace of rabbits in one hand, a rifle in the other, and leading a yammering pack of hounds—she could've been Danu, in the flesh. When she enters the house a few frames later--rather, bursts into it, free and large and passionate as any man or god—she rather takes one's breath away (watch the stunned reaction of Wendy Hiller—mirroring the audience). She and Michael Powell were beginning a life-long love affair, and it's easy to see how he fell under her spell; and although her role is a supporting one, it is vital. The strength and authenticity of her character, as well as her odd, disquieting beauty, reflect the place, its people, and the way of life they hold to.
Roger Livesey is a key actor—perhaps the key actor, considering the vehicles he starred in—in the annals of Archer films. His performance as the title character, Clive Candy, in The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp demonstrated his astonishing range, conveying deep humanity to a character only seen as caricature to that point. It is a performance for the ages, one I encourage you to see immediately. A Welshman of lumbering appearance, and soulful aspect, there is a bit of Prufrock about him, ostensibly; deeper investigation reveals an actor whose gentle masculinity is more genuine (to me) than a dozen Clark Gables stacked together. In this film he plays Torquil MacNeil, the Laird of Kiloran. He is a naval officer on leave, and has leased his property to a rich London industrialist. He has done so from necessity, because he cannot afford to maintain it. If he leases it for 2 years, he reckons he can live on it for 6.
Wendy Hiller plays Joan Webster, the singularly determined young woman (she knows where she is going) engaged to be married to the industrialist. Hiller was George Bernard Shaw's favorite actress, and she is among my favorites, too. Brilliant in everything, she acted primarily on the stage, and is probably best known for being the original, and most compelling, Eliza Doolittle (on both stage and screen) in Shaw's Pygmallion, as well as the idealistic heroine of Shaw's Major Barbara. (Additionally, Anne of Green Gables fans undoubtedly remember her as the difficult and invalid Mrs. Harris, from Anne of Avonlea.) Not conventionally beautiful, with perpetually surprised eyebrows, insolent lips, broadset eyes, and little visible softness, she bore the more credible and genuine attributes of talent, intelligence, and luminescence to great effect.
In the film, Hiller’s Webster is in a hurry to join her fiancé in Kiloran, where they are to be married. It is a small island in the Irish Sea, off Scotland’s western coast, and it is often inaccessible, because of the fierce seas surrounding it. When she arrives at the little hamlet where the ferry to Kiloran is located, it is during one of these periods of high winds and dangerous waters, and she is compelled to wait for days at Mrs. Potts’ house, in the company of Livesey’s MacNeil, who is waiting to cross over, too. He is immediately and unabashedly drawn to her—as she is to him, although she fights it for all she’s worth. The scene that follows is a depiction of a typical Celtic Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), in particular a Clan Campbell celebration of an elder’s 60th wedding anniversary. The people are vivid, and unaffected in a way that is unfamiliar to Joan, but nearly as magnetic to her as MacNeil is. They watch the action from outside, she on a ladder, to get a better view, he directly beneath her. When the pipers—her pipers, hired for her wedding, stranded on the mainland just as she is—play My Nut Brown Maiden, MacNeil quotes a verse:
Ho ro my nut-brown maiden,
Hee ree my nut-brown maiden,
Ho ro ro maiden,
You're the maiden for me.
The pay-off is his delivery of the last line—the audacity of it, as he looks directly at her, with sudden, smoldering, unapologetic intensity. Cheeks blazing, her alarm and excitement are palpable.
Enjoy it (and watch the damn movie, if you haven’t seen it):