Have to... again... bring up THE THORN BIRDS, everybody's favorite ABC Wolper mini-series of 1983. On the surface, this is one of the great heterosexual romances of primetime TV. Two of the stars, Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown (among the few actual Australians cast) fell in love off camera and have enjoyed a long lasting marriage since. Yet there is so much to comment here, after seeing this so many times since it aired initially.
Of course, you have closeted star Richard Chamberlain as Father Ralph de Bricassart giving up the woman he loves for his ambitions in the Catholic church (I love God more), but still giving Meggie (Ward's character) a son, Dane. The latter is played by Philip Anglim whose wikipedia article indicates no special women in his life, but is just as nebulous as Robert Osborne's was before his passing. (In other words, it is none of our business until the actor wants it to be our business.) Later Dane drowns trying to save two girls who are more attracted to him than he is to them, being that he is trying to be a celibate priest like Daddy.
Most of the male stars are shirtless. Chamberlain is half naked or shirtless in major scenes with Barbra Stanwyck and Rachel Ward, both ladies I am sure felt quite safe with him. The big excuse for Ralph's avoidance of women is that he never loved his mother. Poor Stanwyck as Mary Carson so wants to bed Ralph that she is practically having the Big O just talking to him. This was her greatest performance of her last decade as a screen star.
Meggie's first child, Justine, is the product of her husband Luke (played by Brown, Ward's real future husband). However he spends little time with her sexually and even has a boyfriend Arnie, who warns him that he can't waste any “energy” with his wife that is required for cutting the sugar cane. It is blatantly obvious that Arnie wants Luke's “energy” all to himself. There's a hilarious scene set in the men's shower room with Luke and Arnie talking to each other buck naked and you can tell that Luke is not thinking of Meggie at all. Arnie keeps Luke occupied on the Sundays he is supposed to be spending time with his wife. After the New Years party, Arnie is waiting in the car and Meggie promises him that she won't keep Luke “too long”. As she disrobes in the bedroom, Luke moans “Megan, I... can't... stay...”
Later Father Ralph confronts Luke in the cane fields, pretty much confirming that Luke has created a “lavender marriage” for himself a.k.a. “you got what you wanted”. He tells him he can't “give her your love” but he might as well allow Ralph to provide financial support so she can have a “life” (after his baby was born). Meanwhile Arnie gives Ralph an "if looks could kill" expression that emphasizes which of Luke's relationships was strongest here.
My favorite scene of all is when Meggie, holding baby Justine, says “hello Luke” while he is in the missionary position with Arnie. They are shirtless but wearing trousers just so we don't THINK they are doing what we THINK they are doing... only Meggie doesn't have to THINK much when catching them in The Act.
“Cheer up, Luke. You still got your mate Arnie. Maybe you will be more use to him because you are none to me. And if I did want to have more kids, it wouldn't be hard to find a better breeder!”
Excuse me, I don't have the accent correct. “Breed-ah!”
Fast-track to 1954 (the earlier scene being 1935) when Father Ralph sees his son (not knowing he is his son) for the first time... shirtless, of course, with his sister Justine by the pool. Dane says “if it is about the stud rams...” and Ralph replies “You must be Meggie's boy.” Not to read too much into this, but it echoes an earlier scene two episodes back when Father Ralph explains sex to a much younger Meggie who says she learned a lot watching the sheep. The whole conversation is rather strange in light of Ralph being Dane's father and neither knowing at this point... and Meggie earlier telling Luke about finding a better breed-ah. Ralph being the better stud ram to produce Dane. (Oh... let's not forget that actor Richard Chamberlain is an Aries. Lol!)