Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Innocents (1961)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Innocents (1961, UK)

In Jack Clayton's scary, gothic, supernatural horror-melodrama with a co-adapted script (by Truman Capote and William Archibald) of Henry James' classic 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw - it was about a sexually-repressed young governess who feared spirit possession in children she cared for in a remote mansion, and believed in the presence of sinister and haunting ghosts or spirits; the movie's main theme was whether the children ("the innocents") were actually legitimately possessed and malevolent, or whether the supernatural phenomena were entirely in the imaginative and unraveling mind and visions of the emotionally-vulnerable protagonist who projected evil upon the two young ones and attempted to exorcise the spirits. The film's taglines were: "Apparitions? Evils? Corruptions?" and "A Strange New Experience in Shock."

The macabre film's repeated images/sounds of death and decay were emphasized with its cinematography, shadowy and dark scenes, deep focus, oblique camera angles, and a depiction of heaviness and claustrophobia within a mansion - functioning as one of the additional characters in the film. There was a repetitive use of reflections, mirrors, glass and windows.

  • before the title credits, and with a black background, a little girl sang "O Willow Waly" about a weeping willow tree: ("We lay my love and I beneath the weeping willow. But now alone I lie and weep beside the tree...")
  • the film's opening B/W shadowy images accompanying the title screens were evocative and atmospheric - a pair of hands (with a rosary) was clasped in prayer, as a female silently sobbed and then clenched her hands together; the woman's face appeared at the left of the screen, obviously having an episode of emotional anguish; in voice-over, the individual stated: "All I want to do is to save the children, not destroy them. More than anything, I love children. More than anything. They need affection, love, someone who will belong to them and to whom they will belong"
  • in the opening sequence following a dissolve from the opening credits, an interview was being conducted in a London office with the woman from the credits - Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) - she was a young and proper female Victorian, seeking her first position of employment as a governess-caretaker for children living at Bly House - a vast, gothic, bleak English country estate
  • she was being questioned across a desk by the wealthy mansion owner and bachelor known as the Uncle (Michael Redgrave); he introduced the film's central theme by asking at the start of the interview: "Do you have an imagination?" and Miss Giddens answered affirmatively; he then stated: "Truth is very seldom understood by any but imaginative persons"; she was perfectly suited for the job of working with children
  • the Uncle admitted the honest truth about his situation - he often traveled and was away from London and enjoyed adult pleasures, and was entirely indifferent to his two young, orphaned and strange, slightly-corrupted children: "I am a very selfish fellow and the last man alive to be saddled so suddenly and so awkwardly with two orphaned infants. It's most unfortunate for I have no room for them, neither mentally nor emotionally"; from Miss Giddens' application (and her statement during the title credits), she seemed to have the right intentions to affectionately love his two children, nephew Miles (Martin Stephens) and niece Flora (Pamela Franklin)
  • he clearly stated that if she was hired, she had to "solemnly promise to accept full and complete responsibility" for them, and not bother or trouble him: ("Never. Never. Neither complain nor appeal nor write. Simply take the whole thing over and leave me alone"); he explained how the previous governess Miss Jessel had suddenly died about a year earlier, and it upset Flora who was very close to her; currently, Miles was off at school, while Flora was being taken care of by the house-keeper; after hiring Miss Giddens, the very persuasive and suave Uncle's last words to her were: "You're in supreme authority. Whatever happens, you must handle it alone"
Arrival at Mansion of New Governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr)
  • after arriving at the mansion, Miss Giddens was greeted in the garden by the excited, mischievous, bright and talkative Flora (who often wandered about), and the expectant, kindly housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins); Miss Giddens was relieved and a bit overwhelmed by the 'heavenly' beauty and expansiveness of the gardens and mansion: "I never imagined it would be so beautiful"; she also regarded Flora as "angelic"
  • in her first night in the mansion with many empty rooms, the paranoid and slightly-deranged Miss Giddens hinted at her own fears: "Sometimes one can't help imagining things"; during the governess' first fitful night of sleep in the same bedroom with Flora, the young girl awoke, viewed the garden from the bedroom window and began humming the tune from the title credits: "O Willow Waly"
  • young Miles was returned home from boarding school shortly after being unexpectedly expelled by the headmaster for being a danger ("injury") or corruptive influence ("contaminate") to the other students, but Miles evaded and ignored questions about his disciplinary expulsion; during their carriage ride to Bly House from the train station, after Miles made an inappropriately mature compliment about Miss Giddens' beauty, she jokingly rebuked him for his too mature politeness: "I think you're far too young to be such a deceitful flatterer"
  • on his first night at Bly House, Miles told Miss Giddens he was "excited" to see her, and that his Uncle was very indifferent toward him: ("He doesn't care about me or Flora. He doesn't care what happens to us"); as she put Miles to bed, she leaned over and assured him that she was unlike his Uncle: "I have time. And I care...Can't you see that I want to help you? Trust me"; she noticed a tear running down Miles' cheek; suddenly the window slammed shut and the candle blew out due to an unexpected wind gust

Miss Giddens to Miles: "Trust me"

Tear Running Down Miles' Left Cheek
  • one morning in the hot and blinding sun while clipping rose blossoms, Miss Giddens briefly glimpsed an unfamiliar, shadowy adult figure on the mansion's tower rooftop; after climbing the mansion's interior staircase, she found Miles in the same exact location with his pigeons, but he claimed he hadn't seen anyone, and implied that it was all in her "silly" imagination
  • during a quick game of hide-and-seek with the children before their bedtime, Miss Giddens viewed a full-gowned woman crossing in the hallway in front of her; in the attic, she also noticed a photograph of a handsome man (in a miniature behind a cracked glass) within a music box (playing the tune 'O Willow Waly'), and then when she went to hide, she saw a man staring at her through a window (the same man who was on the tower), causing her to scream
Strange Occurrences in Bly House

Brief Glimpse of Adult Male on Mansion's Tower Rooftop

Female Apparition in the Hallway

An Old Photograph of Handsome Man in Attic

Adult Male Staring at Her Through A Window

Miss Giddens' Reaction

Close-Up of the Adult Man's Face
  • in a conversation with housekeeper Mrs. Grose, Miss Giddens learned the identity of the apparition (on the tower and at the window) and the man in the photograph (with "dark, curling hair...the hardest, the coldest eyes...handsome and obscene") - it was Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde), the estate's valet before he died!
  • Miss Giddens began to suffer from disturbed sleep, with moans and groans during the night from dream-nightmares about Peter Quint; the next day, she discussed the frightening apparation of Quint at the window in more detail with Mrs. Grose; according to her, the valet Peter Quint died after head trauma from a drunken fall on icy steps outside during the winter; she speculated that he was possibly being violently chased and hunted when the 'accident' occurred; Master Miles found Quint's body and screamed in dismay; Miles was especially attached to Quint - in an unusual way: ("That poor little boy worshipped Quint....Such power he had over people. You can't blame the child. A lonely boy with no father. Quint took advantage, that's all. It made me sick to see Miles trotting after him like a little dog. They were always together")
  • again before bedtime, their discussion was interrupted by a public performance - Miles entertained the Governess and Mrs. Grose by reciting a poem about a lost lord rising from the grave on a moonlit night - it appeared highly unusual:

    "What shall I sing to my lord from my window?
    What shall I sing, for my lord will not stay?
    What shall I sing, for my lord will not listen?
    Where shall I go, for my lord is away?
    Whom shall I love when the moon is arisen?
    Gone is my lord, and the grave is his prison.
    What shall I say when my lord comes a calling?
    What shall I say when he knocks on my door?
    What shall I say when his feet enter softly,
    leaving the marks of his grave on my floor?
    Enter my lord, come from your prison.
    Come from your grave, for the moon has arisen!"

  • after the recitation, Mrs. Grose was asked more questions, but refused to discuss any more details about the late Governess Miss Mary Jessel (Clytie Jessop) ("an educated young lady") and her relationship with the very forceful Quint, claiming they were dead and gone: "They're dead, gone. There's no point in telling tales of what's over and done with"
  • during an outing to the garden's gazebo and lake with the two children, Flora began humming the strange music box tune ('O Willow Waly'); as they were looking out over the water together, in a very chilling instant, Miss Giddens saw the supernatural spirit figure of Miss Jessel dressed in black sitting in the reeds next to the lake; was it real or only in Miss Giddens' increasingly paranoid mind?
  • that evening, Miss Giddens reported to Mrs. Grose about the ghostly appearance at the lake of Miss Jessel: "There are two of them....Two of those abominations. Today, down by the lake, there in the broad sunlight, I saw the other one"; now that Miss Giddens had witnessed apparitions of both a mysterious woman in the hallway and at the lake (Miss Jessel) and the mysterious man (in the photograph and the 'ghostly' ethereal appearance in the window), two deceased individuals, she concluded that they were 'haunting' the estate as apparitions
  • Miss Giddens concluded to Mrs. Grose that somehow, the 'possessed' children were playing "some monstrous game" that was connected with the two supernatural and malevolent ghosts (as the possible reincarnations of the previous governess Miss Jessel and the dead Peter Quint): "I can't pretend to understand what its purpose is. I only know that it is happening. Something secretive and whispery, and indecent. I tell you, believe me, the children are in dreadful peril...You don't think I'm imagining it?"
  • Mrs. Grose described more about how the late Governess had carried on in a "sick," horrible, physically and mentally abusive relationship with her illicit Irish lover Quint, who would often savagely beat her and make her grovel: ("It was more like a sickness, a fever that leaves the body burned out and dry. There was no cruelty she wouldn't suffer...Bad she was, but no woman could have suffered more"); the couple would also use some of the empty rooms for sexual relations, in plain sight of others; when Quint died, Miss Jessel entered into deep mourning with a "broken heart"
  • Miss Giddens felt obligated that it was her duty to save and rescue the two children, now that they had been corrupted and made to be "wicked" by the two horrible past employees; however, she also suspected that the two "innocents" might both be "calculating liars" who were deceiving them about the real nature of their characters; she thought of telling her scandalous findings to the town's vicar Rev. Fennel
  • a montage of overlapping images represented Miss Giddens' suspicions during more feverish nightmares - she imagined whisperings of the two precocious and unnerving children as they were being secretive with each other, and envisioned Mrs. Grose's description of how the children "used to follow Quint and Miss Jessel, trailing along behind hand in hand, whispering"; she further explained her worries about the children's secrets to Mrs. Grose: "They're talking about them. Talking horrors. So far these monsters have kept their distance. Only been seen in high places, through windows, across the lake. But they intend coming closer"; she also pressured Mrs. Grose to reveal that Miss Jessel had drowned herself in the lake ("In wickedness. She put an end to herself. She was found in the lake, drowned") - presumably where she was seen
  • as Miss Giddens packed up and prepared to leave the mansion for London to speak to the children's Uncle, she had a fleeting view of a sobbing woman (Miss Jessel) in the mansion's schoolroom; after the incident of seeing the "pitiless" woman, Miss Giddens abruptly changed her travel plans - theorizing that the ghostly Miss Jessel was "hungry" for her lost love, available to her only by inhabiting the bodies of the children: "But she can only reach him, they can only reach each other by entering the souls of the children, and possessing them. The children are possessed. They live and know and share this hell"; she felt she must not leave the children alone, and rescue them from their living hell, with or without the Uncle's help; she thought the best alternative was to have the children admit to their possession: "One word, one word of the truth from these children, and we can cast out those devils forever"
  • however, it appeared that Miss Giddens was the one who was deranged and possessed - acting strangely and hearing whispers, creaking noises and distant echoing laughter, as she wandered around the mansion carrying a candelabra as her only light source
  • that evening at bedtime, after Miss Giddens sent Miles to bed for being deliberately rebellious and disobedient (for being barefooted outside in the garden after dark in his nightgown), she was horrified that Miles kept a dead pigeon with a broken neck under his pillow, to be buried the next day: ("Yes, poor thing, I'll bury it tomorrow"); and then Miles suddenly sat up and put his arms around her neck, asking her for a goodnight kiss: "Kiss me Goodnight, Miss Giddens" - they shared a deeply passionate adult kiss on the lips
"Kiss me Goodnight, Miss Giddens"
  • the next day while Miss Giddens was composing a letter to the Uncle, Flora went missing, and Miss Giddens immediately told Mrs. Grose that she suspected that Flora was "an old, old woman"; the young girl was found dancing with an imaginary (or unseen) partner in the gazebo by the lake to the tune playing on the music box, after rowing out in a boat by herself (something she was physically incapable of doing); Miss Giddens saw the mournful apparition (her third view of the ghost) again standing in the reeds by the lake; to put her theory into practice about having the children admit that they were possessed, Miss Giddens began to pressure Flora to admit to the presence of Miss Jessel; Flora screamed and became hysterical, denied seeing the ghost, and denounced Miss Giddens: "You're cruel! You're wicked! I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!...Take me away from her!"; Mrs. Grose was disgusted by Flora's obscenities: ("In all my years - and I've known a vile tongue or two in my time - never have I heard such obscenities")
  • Mrs. Grose also seriously questioned Miss Giddens' negative effect upon the children after her arrival; the accused Miss Giddens snapped back - upset with Mrs. Grose's lack of support: "You turn on me. You blame me. And all I want to do is save the children, not destroy them"; Mrs. Grose implied that Miss Giddens was the problem and was possibly insane: "All I know is Miss Flora was a sweet, innocent child, a happy child, until you made her face that...bad memory"; with the absolute authority bestowed upon her by the Uncle, Miss Giddens ordered Mrs. Grose, Flora and the servants to vacate the house the next morning, to take Flora to her Uncle, leaving only Miles behind, while still affirming her honorable intentions to have him confess to his ordeal: "To wake a child out of a bad dream, is that a cruelty?"; Mrs. Grose disagreed: "Waking a child can sometimes be worse than any bad dream"; the housekeeper promised to tell the Uncle the "truth" - probably that Miss Giddens was psychologically unstable
  • once Miles and Miss Giddens were left alone in the house, the young boy dubbed himself "the master of the house" to protect her; when he said: "We've got the whole house to ourselves," she corrected him: "More or less. There are still the others" - referring to the two apparitions
  • in the frenzied concluding sequence set in the hot and humid greenhouse, he accused her of not believing him and for not "telling the truth," and implied that she was "cruel" and "afraid" of him because he was different from other boys; she kept interrogating him about the reasons for his dismissal from school; although he admitted to his own frightening behavior and vulgar language, Miss Giddens kept implying that the ghost of Quint had taught Miles his bad behavior and language: ("Shall I tell you his name?")
  • having been pushed too far, Miles denied her assertions, screamed at her, and accused her of being a mad "hussy" for pressuring him into trying to acknowledge the existence of Quint: "You don't fool me. I know why you keep on and on. It's because you're afraid. You're afraid you might be mad. So you keep on and on, trying to make me admit something that isn't true. Trying to frighten me the way you frightened Flora....But I'm not Flora. I'm no baby. You think you can run to my Uncle with a lot of lies. But he won't believe you, not when I tell him what you are - a damned hussy, a damned dirty-minded hag! You never fooled us. We always knew") - as he chastized her, Miss Giddens had another apparition of Quint reflected in a window behind him; both Miles and Quint in the window cackled at her
  • and then in the garden where Miles had fled after smashing the window with Flora's pet turtle Rupert, Miss Giddens grabbed him when he stumbled to the ground, hugged him and tried to reassure him: ("Oh, it wasn't you. That voice, those words, they weren't yours"); during another pressured interrogation as she cradled him (and he softly asked for forgiveness), she pressured and begged him to admit that the ghost of the dead Quint existed and was present there with them, and then shook him: ("Say it now, now while I'm holding you. Say his name, and it will all be over...The man who taught you. The man you've been meeting, that you've never stopped meeting")
  • the extremely-stressed Miles pulled back, yelled back at her and again ran off, while screaming at her: "You're wrong, you're insane, you're're insane, you're insane"; she pursued him and kept insisting: "His name, Miles. His name, Miles...Tell me his name! You must tell me his name!"; Miles responded: "He's dead!" Miss Giddens looked up and experienced another ghostly appearance of Quint on the hedge nearby - as she became disoriented by her spinning vision of a circular set of statues surrounding them, and cried out: " Look...look! Look!...He's here! For the last time, he's here...he's here, and you must say his name!"
  • Miles screamed out about possibly having seen the ghost that she was warning him about (as the hand of one of the statuesque figures in the garden moved): "Quint! Peter Quint! Where? Where? Where? Where, you devil? Where?" - but the moment after Miles had yelled out, he collapsed lifeless to the ground at her feet

Miss Giddens Pressuring Miles: "Look...He's Here! For the last must say his name!"

The Hand of a Garden Statue Moved

Miles: "Where, you devil, where?"
  • in the film's ending - Miss Giddens ran to Miles' side after he fell to the ground and cradled his fainting body in her arms, to assure him and believing that he was finally freed from Quint: ("He's gone, Miles. You're safe. You're free. I have you. He's lost you forever"); but then she realized that he had died: ("Miles? Miles! Miles! Oh! Oh, no."); sobbing, she leaned over and kissed him; she hadn't comforted or saved him, but had in fact terrorized and destroyed him

"He's gone, Miles. You're safe. You're free. I have you"

Kissing Miles After He Died in Her Arms

Opening Title Credits Image

Mrs. Giddens (Deborah Kerr) Interviewing for Governess Position

The Uncle - Bachelor and Wealthy Mansion Owner

Bly House Housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins)

Flora (Pamela Franklin)

Miles (Martin Stephens)

The Paranoid and Slightly Deranged Miss Giddens

Miles' Recitation-Monologue of a Poem About a Lord Rising From His Grave in the Moonlight

Miss Giddens' Brief View of Apparition of Miss Jessel Next to Lake
, While Flora Hummed Tune

Miss Giddens' Report of Her Fears About the Ghosts to Mrs. Grose

Secretive Whisperings of the Two Children - A Montage of Overlapping Images

Miss Giddens' Brief View of a Sobbing Woman in Schoolroom of Mansion

Was Miss Giddens The One Who Was Possessed?

Miles' Broken-Necked Pigeon Hidden Under His Pillow

Flora Dancing by Herself in Gazebo By the Lake

Miss Giddens' Second View of Ghostly Miss Jessel by the Lake

Miss Giddens Pressuring Flora to See Miss Jessel By the Lake

Left Alone with Miles in the Mansion and the Greenhouse

Another Appearance of Quint in the Window Behind Miles as He Screamed at Miss Giddens And Called Her an Insane and Mad "Hussy"

Miss Giddens' Fearful Reaction to Ghost of Quint in the Window Behind Miles

Miss Giddens Hugging and Reassuring Miles After He Fled to Garden

Miss Giddens' Exclamation at Her Viewing of Quint's Apparition: "Look! He's here!"

Quint - Seen by Miss Giddens in the Garden


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z