Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) Poster

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Excellent movie. Great acting, cinematography, editing, music, script, dialogue. It's got it all.
qmtv10 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent movie. Great acting, cinematography, editing, music, script, dialogue. It's got it all.

After watching a bunch of low life garbage movies, mostly modern nonsense, this movie is highly welcome.

They don't make movies like this anymore. Why? Because the writers don't exist, or if they do they are not given the chance. What we get now days is action nonsense with cliche dialogue.
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"Why do you gotta have big blue eyes...and a beautiful smile...and freckles?
thejcowboy229 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Some of the best love stories ever written or shown always have huge barriers or obstacles in the way. Whether it's interference from opposite families, or rivalry against the suitors. Screen writers John Lee Mahin and the legend of the cinema, John Huston let their imaginations go a bit further pitting an unpolished Marine Corporal and a Woman of the cloth alone on a deserted island in the South Pacific during the latter stages of World War II. A cast of only two, Robert Mitchum as Corporal Allison USMC and Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela are stranded. How they ended up on this island isn't very clear but the past isn't important the present is more important for their survival. Apparently there's a vacated Japanese base situated on the island which provides shelter and a checker board or draughts to pass the time. Mitchum is a natural as the rough, good nature, survival tested Marine who's use of the English language would make an English professor cringe. On the other hand the glamorous refined and very British Deborah Kerr shines through her habit as the gruff Marine Corporal is falling for her yet the Allison character is forbearing toward the sweet respectful Sister. Not all is pleasant as the Japanese troops return putting the unlikely couple in a compromising situation. There is one scene I particularly enjoyed when Allison and Sister Angela are watching a night time battle on the beach. Just out of view are the battleships, yet you can see the bombs bursting as if it was a four of July celebration of fireworks. Allison does profess his love for Sister Angela, but the for the outcome of love and survival,. you'll have to watch this wartime love story. FYI One of four movies Mitchum and Kerr starred together. They had unparalleled chemistry . Second time Kerr plays a Nun. Earlier work in Black Narcissus.
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"You got your cross, I got my globe and anchor."
classicsoncall28 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
You have a pretty good idea where the dynamic between the principals is going shortly after the shipwrecked Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum) meets Catholic Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr) on a tropical island somewhere in the Pacific. What you might not expect is the intelligent handling of their situation without actually having them commit to a physical relationship. The story line did leave room for that when Ma'am Angela stated she hadn't taken her final vows yet, but staying true to her vocation, was able to let Allison down in a way that allowed him to keep his dignity and not look foolish.

One of the things in their many conversations that perked my ears was when Sister Angela mentioned a former friend of hers named Sister Fidelis - I had one of those in Catholic high school! I found that kind of interesting. The story no doubt has similarities to the much better regarded "The African Queen" with Bogart and Hepburn, but the one I thought of instead was another Bogie flick from 1955 called "The Left Hand of God". In that one, Bogart's impersonating a priest to save his skin, and winds up falling for a missionary portrayed by Gene Tierney. As in this story, the romantic tension between the players is broached but never fully played out.

I haven't seen Deborah Kerr in as many vehicles as Robert Mitchum, who I think is one fine actor. Here he plays somewhat against type, showing a rare sensitive side compared to some of the tough guy roles he's usually associated with. Nevertheless, Kerr demonstrates a resourceful resilience to the character of Sister Angela. This is one of those few movies that left me contemplating what might happen to the characters once they were rescued and returned back to the world, seeing as how they might have been made for each other under entirely different circumstances.
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Who would have thought Kerr and Mitchum would have such chemistry?
calvinnme8 September 2017
Marvelous WW II film, set in the South Pacific in 1944, on an island three hundred miles from Fiji. Mr. Allison (Mitchum), sole survivor of from his submarine, washes up on an island. He meets Sister Angela (Kerr), who was left behind when the ship that was supposed to take her from the island left without her. A Japanese plane flies over while on a reconnaissance mission. I'll let you watch and see where the film takes it from there.

Mitchum and and Kerr (she was nominated for an Oscar) are both excellent and have chemistry, as the film gradually turns into a love story/comedy. Mitchum's encounter with a turtle and Kerr's introduction to sushi are especially memorable. On paper, you would think this teaming would never work - Kerr playing one of her various governess/nun personalities, Mitchum being one of his various hard guy types with a soul, but they play off of each other marvelously and are paired in three more films after this, the last one being in the 1980s.

Oswald Morris did the fine cinematography. John Huston wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay, and four different composers were responsible for the musical score, which verges on being cute. Very worthwhile.
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I'll admit that "Sea Wife" has prejudiced me against this movie!
JohnHowardReid13 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Producers: Buddy Adler, Eugene Frenke. Copyright 1957 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Roxy: 14 March 1957. U.S. release: March 1957. U.K. release: 4 August 1957. Australian release: 11 July 1957. 9,544 feet. 105 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: A cut-down version of "Sea Wife". This time the nun has to contend with only one guy instead of three!

NOTES: Deborah Kerr was nominated for Hollywood's most prestigious award for Best Actress, losing to Joanne Woodward in "The Three Faces of Eve". John Lee Mahin and John Huston were nominated for Best Screenplay (based on material from another medium), losing to the infamous award handed to Pierre Boulle for allegedly scripting "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

COMMENT: For all British-based film critics and commentators, it's just about the most impossible thing they've ever been asked to believe. But the fact is that "Heaven Knows, Mr Allison" was Fox's 5th most popular release of 1956-57 in the domestic market. The explanation (like most seemingly impossible feats) is quite simple. "Mr. Allison" was released in North America a good five to nine months before "Sea Wife".

OTHER VIEWS: I just don't believe it! I've just got the testy taste of the tedious "Sea Wife" out of my system, and here's yet another movie from the very same studio based on that identical wearisome theme! It wasn't a very exciting premise to begin with. Not in movies anyway. Because all the faith, all the stubborn religiosity, all the real reasons that induce human beings (of either sex) to accept a life of celibacy, aren't going to be discussed or even hinted at. It's just a meretricious device to throw a man and a woman together on an isolated island so that she can reject his advances and kick the hell out of him. A great evening's entertainment for sadists, misanthropists, masochists and misogynists, but downright boring for the rest of us.

Oh, the locations look effective enough, and they're well-composed in CinemaScope, and there's a bit more action in this one at the end — if you're prepared to be bored solid for 105 minutes and pay for the privilege — but if I want to see a travelogue on the West Indies I'll take James A. Fitzpatrick any day. Yes, he's boring too, but only for a tenth the length!

In this one, the nun is played by Deborah Kerr, no improvement at all on dreary Joan Collins, whilst the virile young man is Robert Mitchum. Grudgingly I'll admit that Bob is slightly less wooden than Dick, but mostly he comes across more forcefully because his part is more pointedly characterized. In other words the writing is of better quality. Considering the atrocious script forced on Burton and Collins, acting comparisons are unfair. But no way in my opinion did Deb deserve a Best Actress nomination. But since she did get one, why wasn't Joan Collins nominated? I thought they were equally bad, but since Miss Collins had to contend with a script that everyone agrees was far inferior, I would have expected Joan to get the nod first. Maybe some Academy voters think the players make up their own lines?

Both "Sea Wife" and "Allison" are disappointing movies — for exactly the same reasons. Whilst retaining their basic plots, both remove all the worthwhile characterization and conflicts of their original novels, diluting them to a pablum that can be teasingly presented in the front-of-house poster art, but that in actuality amounts to precious little in the way of genuinely gripping entertainment. — J.H.R. in July 1957 "Films in London" (with added comments).
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Mitchum and Kerr
billcr125 July 2017
John Huston actually wanted Marlon Brando for the role of the marine in this film. He turned it down and Robert Mitchum was given the lead. He is a WWII soldier stranded on a Pacific island with a Catholic nun, Angela (Deborah Kerr). He is a rugged, somewhat dim witted lug with a pronounced New York City accent. She is refined and awaiting her final vows to enter into the Church of Rome. This leads to some very funny exchanges between the two stars. He explains that they may possibly be stuck alone together for years. She shows him her ring and explains that she is to married to Jesus in the future and he responds with, I guess it's an engagement ring. He wants to know why such a pretty young woman would want to be a nun. Meanwhile, they hide in a cave during an attack by the Japanese navy. They form a strong emotional bond; but not to worry for all you Catholic viewers out there. The pair never cross the line into any kind of hanky panky at all. A representative of the RC Church was present during filming to make sure everything remained "kosher." Mitchum and Kerr are excellent and I can highly recommend this old fashioned movie.
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John Huston's genius as a director
kijii21 December 2016
This movie is not at all what I expected. One might imagine that a the movie, Directed by John Huston, about a US Marine and Catholic nun marooned together on a South Pacific Island during World War II, to be quite different. Yet, any preconceived notions about a hardened man being schooled and converted by a strong-willed religious nun are soon laid aside as these two people slowly reveal themselves to each other as the movie progresses. Nor is this a Robinson Crusoe-type movie of discoveries and survival techniques. However, there are some modern similarities, with Japanese troops landing on the island, making survival even more challenging for the pair.

The pairing in this basically two-person movie, with Robert Mitchum (as Mr. Allison) and Deborah Kerr as the nun (Sister Angela), must have seemed as unusual as the pairing of the prim and proper Katherine Hepburn character, (Rose Sayer) with the uncouth African stream boat captain, Humphrey Bogart (Charlie Allnut), were in The African Queen (1951). Yet, these unlikely pairings were part of John Huston's genius as a director. While thinking of these two John Huston movies, there ARE some comparisons to be made: 1) and handy man; 2) a war setting; and an unlikely couple thrown into an unusual situation.

In this movie, Allison is washed ashore in an inflatable life raft, whereas Sister Angela had been left behind as the sole survivor of a remote island mission. Kerr's performance is also unusual in that she is so shy that she barely talks, yet she is obedient and cooperative with Mr. Allison's knowledge about survival. Mr. Allison is a polite and gentle Marine with an unusual background of being orphaned as a child and adopting the Marine Corp as the only family he had ever known. He is as uneducated about women as he is about the Catholic Church (or any religion for that matter). He gradually falls in love with Sister Angela and asks her to marry him, not realizing that, as a nun, she was already married to the church.

Another thing I like about the movie is the chance to see Japanese soldiers viewed as actual people (joking and laughing with each other, drinking, eating, and playing card games), as Mitchum and Kerr watch them from a safe location while figuring out what they should do.

Kerr received her 4th of 6 Oscar nominations for the movie. Mitchum and Kerr would later co-star in two more movies: The Sundowners (1960) and The Grass Is Greener (1960).
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The Nun and the Warrior
higherall728 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a two character story similar to Mamet's OLEANNA and yet what a world of difference. The altitude of thematic content gives it a ten and underscores the difference between the films of today and the films of the so-called yesteryear. The situation the characters find themselves thrust into makes for a fascinating character study of two people from completely different walks of life. There is in this film a meditation on the values of War and Peace as lifestyles without these subjects ever being formally mentioned. This is first and foremost a story about duty, love and honor that never gets preachy or uses a sledgehammer to drive its points home.

Everything is expert about this film from the way spiritual values are conveyed through the interaction of the characters, to the brilliant color cinematography of Oswald Morris, and the deft direction of John Huston who co-authored the screenplay with John Lee Mahin. I find myself reluctant to share any of the details so as not to spoil the experience for those who have never seen this film. The best I can say is that it is both life affirming and spiritually affirming while the decisions and choices that the characters make are never maudlin and reflect the personalities of individuals adhering to the codes of institutions to which they believe they owe their growth and development. These are mature adults dealing with harsh situations in rational and realistic ways.

Long ago I decided that Robert Mitchum was one of the three greatest natural actors that American Cinema ever produced. The others being Gary Cooper for films like SERGEANT YORK and Glen Ford for films like BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. But once you see his performance as Corporal Allison in this film you will see my point and also understand why I think he was probably the main inspiration for the character of Nick Fury in Marvel Comics. I would have to admit I would be hard put to imagine anyone else acting this role so creditably. The same goes for Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela. This performance does not hearken back to her earlier work in BLACK NARCISSUS, but is an entirely fresh interpretation of a Bride of Christ.

This film stands out because in an age that is in many ways the fallout from the 'anything goes' sixties and the quest for individual and personal power, it defines in a curious way what it means to be a lady and a gentleman. Also, I found the intelligent exercise of strength of character quite sexy as it is inevitably demonstrated by this unlikely pair of castaways. Even though this could have been done as a stage play, its virile sensitivity is almost flawlessly conveyed as true cinema; the accent always being on the visual rather than the verbal. Herein what the characters do speaks volumes more than anything that they might ever express in words.

Also, here Machismo and Marianismo drift out of the smoke and the violence of a great World War and scramble ashore and stumble blindly forth from the desolation to rub shoulders together on a hope and a prayer. There is humor and shared adventure and a sense of having gotten to know two people who say what they mean and mean what they say and live by this accordingly. I doubt that you will ever see two worlds collide in quite such an entertaining and inspiring way. Heaven may be looking down on Mister Allison and Sister Angela, but every time I see this film I find myself looking up to them.
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human drama amid war
Lee Eisenberg9 May 2016
What are the chances of two people from different backgrounds developing a friendship amid the horrors of war? That's the scenario depicted in John Huston's "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison". Robert Mitchum is a cast-away hard-ass marine who lands on an island where a pious nun (Deborah Kerr) has taken up residence during World War II. I think that the movie would have been more interesting if the Japanese troops had gotten depicted as more than simply the empty antagonists. As an adventure story it works well, showing the corporal and the sister having to figure out things like catching a sea turtle. A particularly effective scene shows Mitchum hiding amid the rocks, using the waves as cover while the Japanese search the area.

So, I wouldn't go so far as to call this movie a masterpiece, but I did enjoy it. If anyone ever tells you that history is boring, use this movie to disprove that comment.
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sol-20 February 2016
Stranded on a Pacific island together, a marine and a nun plan to wait out the end of World War II, but their platonic friendship is tested when forced to hide out in a cave after Japanese soldiers take over the island in this solemn drama starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. The romantic tension to come is obvious from the get-go, but the film does well outlining similarities between soldiers and nuns, bringing to a light a bond between them that is far less predictable. Most pointedly, the characters draw a comparison between leaving the convent and deserting a unit, but other similarities include firm commitment and a shared belief that they act for the greater good. Despite all these attempts to equate the characters with one another, Mitchum still comes across as more open to temptation (whereas in theory they should both be equally as hesitant yet tempted). The film also does not milk the potential danger of being spotted by the Japanese for all that it is worth, save for one great sequence in which Mitchum spies on the Japanese from a building's rat-infested wings. The film still resonates though as a tale of unlikely companionship and the gradual bond that builds up between the pair is undeniable. The project also benefits greatly from Oswald Morris behind the camera; the early shots that glide over the seemingly empty island building (and a gravestone) are quite haunting, and the isolated nature of the island constantly shines throughout, highlighting how important being mutually cut off from the world is to the protagonists' gradual friendship.
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Pretty Decent
gavin69424 September 2015
A Marine and a Nun, The Marine (Robert Mitchum) is shipwrecked on a Pacific Island and the Nun (Deborah Kerr) has been left behind there, they find comfort in one another as the two wait out the war.

First, I want to say I think it is a shame that the Japanese actors are uncredited. Sure, they have only a very small part. But still, with a cast of basically two people, would it hurt to add these two guys? (Even IMDb has no idea who they are.) But what I really liked about this film is just how strong Robert Mitchum is. I love him as a dirty, nasty villain, in such classics as "Cape Fear" and "Night of the Hunter". But you know what? This just shows he also has a caring side and can actually come across as romantic and sweet when he wants to.

Deborah Kerr is also good, but I wish they had not scripted the nun to be so naive. She comes off as very ignorant at times, which is unfair. No doubt any real nun would be quite worldly.
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Who says you need a lot of people to make a good movie? :)
gilligan196526 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Has Deborah Kerr ever made a bad movie? Has Robert Mitchum? NO! Neither has John Huston!

All are present in this great movie about two people from completely different backgrounds suddenly thrown together and working together to avoid or overcome the many dangers they encounter...to survive.

Deborah Kerr, the beautiful-yet-dainty lady of the 1950s, as a Catholic Nun, stuck on a Pacific island during World War 2 with Robert Mitchum, the tough-guy ladies-man of the same era, as a US Marine!?!?

Sister Angela (Kerr) is not only a devout 'almost' Nun, but, also a beautiful "LADY;" whereas Corporal Allison (Mitchum) is not only a devout and tough US Marine, but, also a studly "MAN."

I'm only happy that this movie was made in the 1950s (1957), because, if it was made in the late 1960s or later, some, or, many, improper and even, unsavory things may have happened that would have turned the potential 'hero' Marine into something much less honorable; and/or, the innocent 'celibate' Nun into something less pure. I felt the need to include this because, in reality...how many pairs of heteros are there in the world who could possibly find themselves in a situation like this and not have 'thoughts' and 'feelings?' ...and, how many of them wouldn't actually act upon them, especially after time goes on, and, on, and, on, and you continually find this 'good-looking opposite-sex' person as your 'only' companion, day-after-day, week-after-week, etc...and, they're so good to you!?!? It could either be like Job's devotion to God; or, like your natural devotion to nature and normalcy...even, love!?!?

However, Sister Angela is a Nun and a Proper Lady; and, Corporal Allison is all of a Gentleman.

Either way, this is a great movie that not all will find particularly realistic and/or believable, but, all will enjoy...without exception.
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My favorite non action war movie
home314019 January 2015
I grew up in the 60's and attended Catholic schools. To a young man Nuns were the most mysterious people we could imagine. They lived life behind the doors of covenants and as young boys we thought that god himself might strike us down if we were to ever somehow end up inside one. They wore the unusual clothing including what I believe were called "habits" as head gear and one was left wondering wonder what else they may have on. This movie educated me to the fact that the nuns were indeed women. That they have feelings and dreams and more then just a devotion to God. I will always remember how in 2nd grade I had wet myself in class and was sent to the principal for punishment. Instead of being punished Sister St Mary Dennis comforted me. Destiny finds Mr Allsion and Sister Angela in a situation where two people very different upbringings are thrown together and must rely on each other to survive. The 1950's release date forced the director to hold back on the love interest but he did a great job of conveying what each of them felt. It was a very good movie that I think begs for a remake using a more modern day Hollywood storyline.
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Rough and Gentle Entwined in Love
David J. Willmore25 April 2014
I love stories set in WWII, and I enjoy love stories. I also don't think they no longer, mostly, make pictures like they did prior to the 1960's.

This films hit the nail on the head for all of my likes, but it could have been a great mess.

Two strong characters combine. One is Mr. Mitchum's typical dark protagonist hero. He is rough, from a rough life, but with a heart of gold. Kerr is a novitiate that would be a nun if the war had not intervened. She is strong and saintly kind.

Most believably Mitchum's character falls in love with Kerr's character as they struggle to survive as two against the Japanese enemy and more.

The chemistry between the two is dynamic and strong. I found myself hoping Mitchum's character could steal the nun away. The tension between the two and their struggle to stay alive.

This is really a love story set in WWII and not a WWII story with a love story. If you want to feel the magical romantic love of days gone by pick up this film. At the very least watch the free for Amazon Prime members show.
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A competent Mitchum star-vehicle film
karmaswimswami18 April 2014
Although shot in Trinidad and Tobago, this film is a creditable member of the South Pacific-island clade of films. The hand-held CinemaScope photography in the opening sequences augurs Mitchum's arrival on the island from a raft as life-giving. The acting has understated elegance to it even when the storyline is not cliché-free and is not aspiring to numinal heights. The cinematography is inconsistent: one wishes a few more shots had brought out faces of the actors in reflector-lit close-up to venerate the characters. Even so, this is a pleasingly paced story with emotional consistency, noble themes honored by the story arcs, and one that lets the viewer bask in a sustained, stable way in John Huston's able and subtle techniques.
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A seriously overlooked film, a masterful gem.
robert-259-2895429 January 2014
Of all the great World War II films, this one seems to be the most overlooked of all. That is a crime of the highest magnitude, for it remains a masterpiece of the genre. First of all, the central story—a jarhead and a nun, trapped on a deserted island together. You couldn't possibly find a better "hook," and you never will. But to make a film starring, essentially, only two people, demands actors, script, and direction of monumental talents... and they find it in these two actors, both in the prime of their professional lives. You couldn't have found two people more perfectly suited to their roles— Mitchum's natural, macho demeanor was tailor made to the part, but that only made his more tender moments just that much more moving. And who could have embodied the pristine loveliness and virginal qualities of Kerr? Answer: No one, now, or ever. I am honored to have the associate producer, of the film Harold Nebenzal as my uncle (he also assoc. produced another wonderful motion picture, "Caberet"), and his heroic service as a Marine on those same Japanese-held islands in the South Pacific during WWII gave the final script and film it's altogether authentic feel. If you've missed this film gem, simply do yourself a favor and watch it. It's truly an achievement for the ages.
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Great performances in an interesting script
vincentlynch-moonoi22 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is probably not a film that will appeal to everyone...in fact, I'm surprised it has received such a high rating here (7.3 as of this rating). I say that not because it's not a good film, but rather because it is a very different type of film. For example, generally I don't like war movies; there are rare exceptions, and this is one of them. Usually we like movies to have a little romance in them; there is none here. And the ending is a bit ambiguous; do the two main characters have a continuing relationship in any sense, or once they are saved that's the end? So what is it that makes this such a good film. I'd have to say it is two things: First, in terms of movie-making, two very strong performances by two fine actors. Robert Mitchum had the easier time of it here...it wasn't really a stretch to make his character interesting...and he does so very well. Very believable. Deborah Kerr probably had a tougher time of it. It's a bit more of a challenge to make a nun all bundled up in her habit so that all you can see are her hands and face interesting. But she did...although it took a while.

The story is interesting...a nun and a marine stranded on a Pacific island during the closing days of the Japan-America conflict of WWII. Could they survive? Would they survive (at least without great suffering)? Of course the answer was yes, or we wouldn't have a film. But the experiences they had were interesting, and pretty much believable.

I'm not sure this is a film I'd want to watch a third time (I saw it once when it came out and again in 2013), so it won't end up on my DVD shelf, but it's very well done and quite interesting.
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A Two-Person Screenplay
romanorum124 May 2013
The movie, set in 1944, begins with a US marine drifting on a rubber raft to the shore of a small island in the South Pacific during World War II. The rugged chap, Corporal Allison, discovers a Roman Catholic nun, Sister Angela, living all alone after she was inadvertently left behind by those who fled before the impending Japanese onslaught. The island has plenty of natural foods, with along with fishing, will provide the two with plenty to survive. Although the two are incompatible – the corporal is crude, while the nun is refined – they make the best of what they have. They learn to co-exist and share a not uncomfortable existence. It all changes when a small Japanese detachment arrives to secure a base on the island. Before that they shelled the island, destroying many of the breadfruit and coconut trees.

Now the soldier and nun retreat to a hidden cave on higher ground, and the lifestyle of two mismatched people becomes less comfortable. Now they have to hide from peril. The corporal can still provide food like fish, but as they cannot take a chance on cooking, it must be eaten raw. Here Sister Angela has a problem, so the marine takes a huge chance and sneaks into the Japanese encampment to take a large supply of canned goods. The nun says that she will surrender herself to the Japanese, as the worst that can happen to her is that she will be placed in an internment camp. "That is not the worst thing that can happen," replies the corporal, discouraging her.

Sister Angela wears a white habit, meaning that she has not yet taken her final vows of celibacy, after which she will wear a black habit and exchange her silver ring for one of gold. The marine begins to fall for the nun, but of course she will have none of it. In the purpose of her life and religious training, she is spiritually married to Jesus. Meanwhile, the main bond of the two leads is mutual respect for their beliefs. The marine understands that his job as a soldier is to protect her from harm. The nun's job is to pray. Those who maintain that this movie could have been a "love story" do not understand that being a Catholic nun means going beyond the things of this world. And a story about falling in love would not be the point of the film! After a time American forces prepare to invade the island. Will the nun and soldier survive the ordeal?

This film has heart. Although the story is simple, it is beautiful. Two people essentially carry the whole picture, and the acting is great. Also the movie is a visual delight. As the situation is dangerous and often tense for our hero and heroine, the picture is not boring. See the expression on Mitchum's face when he smells the welcome bottle of sake. Although Deborah Kerr received an Oscar nomination for this movie, Robert Mitchum did not. Never did either performer ever win an Academy Award for acting. Hard to believe, is it not?
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A Great Disappointment
Victoria Bergesen10 March 2013
I have just watched this film's debut on TCM. Robert Mitchum is one of my favorites, and there is no doubt that Deborah Kerr was a fine actress. Who can doubt John Huston's prowess? This script seems like an African Queen knock-off. A "crude" man discovers an unworldly religious woman in the middle of nowhere. They survive primitive conditions and great hardship and come to love and respect each other.

The characters are one-dimensional. Apparently the script was altered from the original novel to placate the codes of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. Whatever the reasons, this is not a film I would see again.
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Limited in Scope
elevenangrymen7 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers

In 1957, Robert Mitchum is in Tobago, filming Fire Down Below. He arrives back in the United States, and he finds out that he has another gig. A marine and a nun stuck on an island. The island: Tobago.The film is called, Heaven Knows, Mister Allison. The plot alone draws comparisons to The African Queen. And there is Deborah Kerr, playing a nun. Again.

THE PLOT: Corporal Allison was boarding a raft on a scouting mission, off of a submarine in 1944's Pacific. The Japanese bombed him, and he was left alone in the raft. When he came to, he was alone in the raft, in the middle of the Pacific. After a while, he drifted to an island. After checking out some abandoned shacks, he found Sister Angela, a nun, in the church. He falls asleep, and when he wakes up, Sister Angela is praying.

After initially meeting awkwardly, the two soon become comfortable together, and come close to being friends. It is when the Japanese land on the island, that the strange relationship is put to the test.

THE CRITICISM: Just to make myself clear, I thought that this film was a pale imitation of The African Queen. It's not a bad film, just not as good as that film. That said, it does have it's entertaining moments. I feel that it lacks that magic that was captured with The African Queen. Kerr and Mitchum have absolutely terrific chemistry, so the blame rests rather on the screen play. The film has a terrific setup, and then after a while, there is only so much you can do with a Marine and a Nun, without delving into some nasty business.

Unfortunately, because of the production code, you can only go so far. So then we are fed multiple moments of Mitchum acting macho while Deborah Kerr gets to sit on the sidelines and pray. There are only two characters for the whole film, and if they begin to get tiresome, you have a serious problem. Don't get me wrong, Deborah Kerr can act the part, and Mitchum is certainly very macho, but again, only to a point until it becomes tedious. Then the Japanese decide to make the island a base, and Mitchum falls for the nun. She of course, is engaged to Jesus.

The film is beautifully shot, in Colour and Cinemascope (widescreen). The lush island of Tobago never looked better. I spoke of the performances above, but to recap, Mitchum and Kerr were good, not great. The screenplay was awkward, and it felt forced at points, but the problem was the limitations of the production code.

Huston's direction was good (notice good, not great). I couldn't help but imagined how he felt whilst directing it. It feels rushed, the shots get the story told, but he doesn't add much visually. Overall I feel that it felt kind of like he was doing it for the money, and he was frustrated about it. You can tell that he was limited, and it made him frustrated.

It was not bad, but not great. Overall, the word I would use to describe the film is limited. Limited in plot options, performances, direction and screenplay.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, 1957, Starring: Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr Directed by John Huston 7/10 (B-)

(This is part of an ongoing project to watch and review every John Huston movie. You can read this and other reviews at everyjohnhustonmovie.blogspot.ca)
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Disappointing Huston movie!!
pierre-luthier10 April 2012
When you see that a movie has John Huston as a director, you want to see it.

I thought that was true till I saw Heaven knows Mr Allison. I was deeply disappointed and maybe angry after seeing it. I thought it was a cheap advertisement for US navy and for catholicism. I was doubting all movie long if it was ironical, because the nun and mitchum were so caricatured. Of course it is well filmed. Of course the actors are good, even brilliant.But the scenario has a toltal lack of impartiality. I m sorry but I can recommend this movie to no one unless you re a stubborn militar or a non-open minded catholic. PS: I am catholic
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Great 1950s shipwreck adventure
LouE1520 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
What a very pleasant surprise, watching this film on TV recently for the first time. It's a simple, well-made story of two shipwrecked characters during wartime. How they get on – practically, emotionally – is offset by a host of ingredients – WWII, the Japanese, the protagonists' respective professions – which make the story infinitely more interesting. The actors are good enough to show that each character has an inner life – this is tremendously important and elevates the film above standard wartime adventures or romances. There are obvious comparisons to be made – to 'The African Queen' and to 'Hell in the Pacific' in particular – but this is good enough in every respect to stand on its own. I'm beginning to understand why the 1950s are referred to as a Golden Age for Hollywood. "Anastasia", "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness", much of Hitchcock's output, "The Journey" – all great 1950s films.

"Heaven Knows, Mr Allison" is really all about the interaction, the inner and outer life, between two people who didn't choose to be where they are (stranded on an island in the thick of danger), but make the best of it: Robert Mitchum's marine, Corporal Allison, a practical, man's man, rough and tough but with a good heart; and Deborah Kerr's nun, Sister Angela, whose motivations are more opaque, but who shows nevertheless a soldier's resilience. Corporal Allison knows pretty well what he is and is not: he's not 'nice' but he is good at his job. * * Spoilers from here ** The trouble is, so is she: she's a good nun. Not even the periodic reappearance of the Japanese could have prevented this from becoming a 'lovers on the windswept beach' story had it not been for this important fact. His good heart, and her job, keep the sexual subtext submerged. Both actors have 'complicated' faces in addition to proved acting skill, in a story that in weaker hands would have been all batting eyelashes, heaving chests and sweaty stares, a second-rate doctor-nurse romance. I agree with other reviewers that you don't learn nearly as much literal information about her – her profession, her place in it – as you do about him. But Kerr's skill is that you do still learn quite a bit – what there is to know you can find from her energetic embracing of the practical difficulties of their temporary life together; from her silence when he is speaking; from her looks (at him, away from him). She's brave: she isn't defensive; she doesn't shrink; and when she does it's not from him; but from the ugly reality his words force in front of her.

I was intrigued to read from another reviewer that the book on which the story is based brought the subtext very much into the plot: uptight 1950s Hollywood wasn't going to have any of that. But in fact I think the restraint for once improves the film. It would have been so facile and predictable for poor old Sister Angela to follow the leanings of practicality (boring but true!) and her own liking for her fellow castaway, and give up her vocation for the comfort of life in the arms of that big, handsome, happy man. But as anyone who has seen "The Nun's Story" (- another great 1950s film!) knows, being a nun involves strength on a military scale; and it's this that she draws on – that they both draw on – to survive their inclinations. It is survival in every sense; survival of desire. The shot of her without her veil is extraordinary. Allison is wordlessly more attracted to her than ever when he sees her calmly accepting the practicality that he has had to remove her clothing – that crucial symbol of her faith. Had either acted on their inclinations, could they have survived the boat trip out of there? Unlikely (see the original book of "The African Queen"!). The beauty of this ending is that you suspect it won't matter. They have an inner life, these people – a faith strengthened through what newspapers would call today "their ordeal". His not taking her in his arms; her not ripping off her veil and her ring; their not walking into the sunset arm in arm – these things don't matter. What matters is her faith; his being a soldier – surrounded, at the end, by soldiers. And that's why this film is, besides being an enjoyable adventure story, a highly respectful and intelligent view of both professions, a credit to all involved.
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Always wonderful Huston.
psagray10 May 2010
The marine American "Allison" (Robert Mitchum), a rough but well soldier and the beautiful nun "Angela" (Deborah Kerr), are trapped in a desert island of Pacific during World War II. . While hiding the Japanese in a cave and struggling to survive, both van known and establishing a curious relationship.

The master Huston is able to draw a magnificent act of any film. After seeing the film we see a resemblance to "The Queen of Africa" also of Master Huston, especially when the relationship between the marine "Allison" and the nun "Angela" begins to take human aspects. But before that happens Huston is responsible for ourselves through its excellent camera about first eight minutes unforgettable, tremendously dynamic. Huston and Mitchum are spoken through the camera perfectly showing what they can do two great masters in an open and close your eyes. They make a movie that ends becoming one of these small jewelry that the cinema hides in its corners.

From here Huston filmed something that he liked and to what earlier in his career had referred: the relationship between a man and woman tremendously different both and they get, in the middle of terrible troubles, find strong linkages between them and show the viewer of a form metaphorical and symbolic, poetry ending invading the relationship of the cape "Allison" and nun "Angela". Both become such a relationship with a beautiful and evocative love story. It is full magic interpretative and direction

In addition to the quality in the direction of John Huston, the film is supported by the two players, curiously in the "Oscar" the Americans nominated to the British Deborah Kerr, while the British in the "BAFTA" nominated Robert Mitchum, although the two acted splendidly.
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It's a nicely paced, well made film with little genuine depth or action
secondtake17 April 2010
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

John Huston made sure this was a rugged movie despite the fact there were only two characters, a man and a woman, working through themes of intimacy, integrity, and respect. I'm not sure he made it a necessary movie, though. Robert Mitchum as a U.S. Marine washed ashore a South Pacific atoll, is resourceful but defers to Deborah Kerr as an Irish nun stranded alone there. The two create parallels of devotion to a higher cause, with and without prayer. The backdrop of the Japanese invading the island and the Americans coming at last to save them (incidentally) is party of what makes it exciting, but the same movie could have been made in a whole range of settings to the same effect.

You do have to ask at some point about the point of this kind of movie, and partly it has to do with a country still coming to terms with the end of the war, a decade later, and with soldiers facing demons and standing up as honorable veterans. But it's also a movie about platonic love, in a way, about making a romantic movie without a shred of romance. Kerr is perfect for this, of course. She plays a cool, somewhat inhibited woman well (she is a brilliant actress, surely, within this range, including roughly similar roles in Black Narcissus and Night of the Iguana and even An Affair to Remember where she is likable but plays without any romantic excess). Mitchum is more at ease in the rough and tumble of the island (and the filming, which had some adventure to it) and he's key to keeping it alive.

It was filmed in Trinidad and Tobago using the original anamorphic CinemaScope process. According to Wikipedia, Kerr and Mitchum filmed one scene unofficially where they wildly kiss, but it was never intended for release. I don't know if there out outtakes anywhere, but I've never seen it.

Is this movie great in any way? Not really. It's enjoyable, it's solid, it is more convincing and less exciting than, say, African Queen (to name one Huston adventure film set in an exotic locale). It follows a slow, steady course, with consistently great acting. There is a memorable scene of two Japanese soldiers relaxing with some sake and a game of go (with Mitchum in hiding, watching). And the whole analogy between Catholicism and the Marines has some superficial interest. But it's a tightly contained exercise, and a little to careful and canned for my taste.
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