Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) Poster

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8/10
The story of how two people learn the true meaning of love…
Nazi_Fighter_David8 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Heaven knows Mr. Allison" is a story of love and war on a South Pacific island swarming with Japanese troops in the second World War…

A man and a woman, the only ones to live through a storm, find each other at a deserted church…

There were few words when such people met; there was sympathy, but the sympathy was not expressed in words…

Together, they share many dangers… Out of their trials grows a love which bring to each a new closeness to God…

Robert Mitchum plays a United States Marine in serious trouble… With an ordinary girl or woman, he would have just taken charge of her and he would have begun at once to do what he could for both of them… But a woman in holy orders was a great mystery to him… A nun was something outside his experience…

He had believed that nuns were delicate creatures, living far from the roughness of the world… Nuns were strange, mysterious beings, behind the walls of secret, quiet, holy places… But here he was one of them alone in the jungle, in the middle of war and danger… And she apparently believed that he, Private Henry Allison had been brought here by God's hand just for the purpose of helping her…

Deborah Kerr plays Sister Angela, the nun who was expecting someone when Mr. Allison came… Her face, almost hidden by the white head-dress, looked surprising young… There were shadows of worry under her eyes, but the eyes themselves were almost like a child's…

To her, there was no importance in the fact that Allison was a man… Her faith, her years of religious training, the high purposes of her life, all placed her above and beyond the things of the earth…

To Allison she appeared sexless in the sense that she was beyond her sex… To him she was a being who ate and drank and slept and had to be protected… In other ways, she was a complete mystery…

The adventure, beautifully filmed in the West Indies, is a touching story of unrequited love and an expert acting duet by two legendary stars…
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9/10
Extremely impressive John Huston movie which - criminally - has been largely overlooked in recent times.
Jonathon Dabell4 November 2005
It's always interesting to hear what movie directors think of their own work, and John Huston once made a very insightful comment about this 1957 film which he made for 20th Century Fox:- "Allison is seldom referred to. But I think it was one of the best things I ever made". Huston has hit the nail squarely on the head with this comment. It is - just as he states - a film that has faded into obscurity as the years have passed. It is also paradoxically one of his great works. Perhaps The African Queen, The Red Badge Of Courage, The Asphalt Jungle and Treasure Of The Sierra Madre rank in the director's very top tier of work, but Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is definitely among the front-runners in the second tier.

The story is extremely simple, but absorbing. American marine Allison (Robert Mitchum) is washed ashore on a Pacific island during WWII. The only other person on the island is a nun named Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr). Although they are totally different types of people - and in other circumstances might well have looked down their noses at each other - they find that their mutual plight draws them together and creates a very close friendship. Their situations worsens, however, when a Japanese force arrives and stations a garrison on the island. Allison and Sister Angela find themselves in genuinely grave danger now. Initially, they were merely shipwrecked.... but the arrival of the Japanese soldiers places them in the very midst of the enemy, with nowhere to run and almost nowhere to hide.

As it was made in 1957, the filming was fraught with difficulties, because at that time the Catholic church imposed strict censorship laws on films dealing with religious situations or characters. In the original Charles Shaw book which provided the inspiration for the film, the marine and the nun fell in love.... but it would have been deemed offensive if that were to happen in a 1957 film, so Huston had to create a revised resolution in which the marine and nun gain strength, hope and determination from each other without ever physically consummating their relationship. The performances are meticulous, with Mitchum showing what depth and sensitivity he could bring to a part when asked to do more than his usual man-of-action thing. Kerr is, if anything, even better and earned a thoroughly worthy Oscar nomination (she was eventually beaten - probably undeservedly - by Joanne Woodward). Oswald Morris shoots the film splendidly, ensuring that it is always pleasing to the eye, while Huston expertly juggles the suspense and the sensitivity. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a really first-rate film and how sad it is that such a likable motion picture has become virtually forgotten.
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9/10
one of the reasons i love "old" cinema
tenthousandtattoos4 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Picture a film like this made today. For starters it wouldn't be called Heaven Knows, Mr Allison! Possibly just Heaven Knows...but even that's a stretch. The characters would be cardboard, impossibly-beautiful celebrities. There'd be a bad nun joke. There'd be tacked-on, unnecessary action scenes, lots and lots of sexual innuendo, and to top it off a run-of-the-mill love scene...oh and before I forget, the two leads would have gotten together in the end, no doubt about that.

This film is one of the reasons I love old cinema (by old I mean from 1930 to say, 1980 (was born in '79). This is a fun movie to relax with on a cold Sunday night. The camera lingers on scenery and the performers, we're never in any real "hurry" to get to the big climactic showdown. The relationship between the two leads goes so far beyond today's "ooh she's HOT...ooh he's HOT" kind of thing, it is REAL, and dramatic on its own terms without the need for a heavy musical score or "insert emotion here" film-making. Well done movie I can watch over and over, which to me is the sign of movie magic.
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10/10
Only Robert Mitchum could do this movie.
twbratton20 August 2002
First off, Bob Mitchum is the most under-rated actor of all time. He put everything he had into every role and made it look natural. This movie was no exception. He became "Mr. Allison" and made us believe he had been ship wrecked like this before. Having been a combat Marine myself there were so many details I noticed that he was able to incorporate naturally into his part. This allowed viewers of any knowledge level to enjoy the most authentic portrayal of this character. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is a real treasure and a good indicator of Bob Mitchum's work.
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Huston's treasure island.
dbdumonteil31 December 2002
One of Huston's buried treasures,this offbeat tale of a nun and a marine stuck on an island.They say it was to be directed by Wyler,but he turned it down and went to make "desperate hours".

Deborah Kerr had already played a nun in Powell-Pressburger's excellent "Black narcissus",and the part was tailor-made for her.The same goes for Robert Mitchum as a crude,simple,but with a golden heart marine.People cannot help but be struck with the analogies between "heaven" and "African queen" :both feature an odd couple,in jeopardy;that's why the former is overlooked today which is totally unfair.

The two characters are extremely endearing and,when the movie is over,it seems we've always known Sister Angela and Corporal Allison.I dig the line:"it's a gourmet's dish" when the nun is eating turtle soup.I love the way the scenarists show the analogies between a nun's and a marine's lives.The Garden of Eden metaphor is obvious,but the story subtly progresses,and the Snake's temptation happens late in the movie.

The cinematography is splendid,with a superb use of cinemascope,and Georges Delerue's score deserves admiration.Yes "heaven knows..." is certainly one of Huston's sleepers.But I wonder what Luis Bunuel would have done with such a screenplay.
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8/10
Magnificent and Adorable Movie
Claudio Carvalho27 January 2008
In 1944, in South Pacific, the castaway Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum) drifts in a raft to the Tuasiva Island, where he meets Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr). She tells him that she is the only person in the island and was left behind by the runaway boat to Fiji Island while seeking the local priest. Stranded in the island, but with water, fish and fruits, their paradisiacal life ends when the Japanese arrive to build a base, forcing Allison and the nun to hide in a cave. The crude marine provides the necessary supply for their survival and falls in love for the nun.

"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" is not a masterpiece, but it is one of my favorite movies ever. The beautiful story is a kind of Robison Crusoe in times of World War II, without Friday, cannibals or pirates, but a hardened marine, a gorgeous nun and Japanese. The story has war, adventure, romance and drama, and is supported by the awesome direction of John Huston and the stunning performances of Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr in the roles of endearing characters. Deborah Kerr deserved her nomination to the Oscar, but Robert Mitchum was forgotten by the Academy in spite of having a top-notch performance. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Céu Por Testemunha" ("The Heaven as Witness")
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8/10
A marine and a nun alone in a Pacific island
esteban174729 June 2003
This film is among the best of my collection, when I like to see a good film, this is always in the first line. Robert Mitchum acted here extremely well as a marine with a very poor, not to say vulgar, background in his life. He confessed he was born orphan, he never knew who were his parents, and after 14 years old he escaped from the orphanage and was put in jail several times. His life changed once he was recruited by the US Marine. The always brilliant Deborah Kerr is here a nun with a very character and humor, always able to understand the behavior of Mr. Allison (Mitchum). It is normal that when two persons of opposite sex are together some strange feelings may appear, the mariner obviously may some hints in his favor, but the nun politely said no. In conclusion, excellent film with an interesting plot and wonderful acting, a real good film forever.
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My favorite WW2
Matthew3 September 2002
This movie stands out as my favorite WW2 film. It not only explores the nature of honor, but also male female relations and faith in such things. I give it my highest marks with the caveat that it is NOT an action film. This is primarily a drama.
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8/10
It Might Be Paradise If It Wasn't For The Japanese
bkoganbing10 August 2006
One of the great injustices of Hollywood history is the fact that Deborah Kerr was nominated for Best Actress while Robert Mitchum got nary a mention for Best Actor in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. Kerr had several nominations, but never came up a winner. Mitchum was nominated once at the beginning of his career in the Best Supporting Actor category in The Story of GI Joe and then never again.

In Mitchum's case I think that some of his irreverent comments offended a few people. Sometimes Bob was a bit too candid about what he thought of the film industry and his chosen profession. Otherwise he might well have gotten nominations for this, Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear, Ryan's Daughter, The Sundowners, The Friends of Eddie Coyle and a few others.

This film is always and rightly compared to The African Queen with a female in the religious missionary profession and a hell-raising outsider thrown together in war time. The African Queen was in World War I and this film is set on a backwater Pacific island in World War II.

Corporal Allison, USMC arrives on a rubber raft after the Japanese opened fire on a submarine he was on. The only other person on the island is a nun who has seen all the others die or flee the island. It's a small island, but apparently strategically located.

The film is about these two mismatched people thrown together and what they have to do to survive. Deborah Kerr is a nun who hasn't yet taken her final vows and being alone on the island with Mitchum is a temptation no doubt.

Mitchum though has his own code. He's a foundling kid who took the name of Allison because that was the street in Milwaukee he was dropped off on. He was a juvenile delinquent until he joined the Marines and they gave his life a meaning. The Marine Corps manual is his Bible as much as the Scripture is Kerr's.

I can identify with that because in fact I had a cousin who was in the Marines who did in fact straighten him out. He was a hell raising kid in his youth and he became if not a solid citizen after his service, at least a respectable one.

John Huston got unforgettable performances out of his credited cast of two. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison has not dated one single bit since its release.

We all need something to believe in to get us through in this world.
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8/10
underrated Huston classic
tolbs10106 February 2005
This film shows the depth of feeling that John Huston was capable of as a director. It also shows how wonderfully he handled actors, eliciting great performances from both Mitchum and Kerr. Though it doesn't have the humor of The African Queen, it shows a similar since of dignity to the characters. It also shows respect for the audience in that it doesn't feel the need to resort to romantic over-indulgences or tear-jerking death scenes to win us over. Both characters remain intact physically and spiritually at the end. Also worth mentioning is Oswald Morris's beautiful location photography on the island of Tobago. Fox did a wonderful job on the DVD transfer.
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8/10
On an island with you
jotix1007 August 2004
Walter Huston loved to film on location; all his great movies reflect this predilection. It helps too, that Mr. Huston and John Lee Mahin produced a great screen play and the bonus was the casting of the two stars. Since it's a two character film, the director couldn't gamble with any light weight actors and it pays tremendously by the incredible performances Mr. Huston got from them.

The story of the nun who is left behind in a Pacific island and the arrival of the shipwrecked Capt. Allison, brings two people together from such different backgrounds, that under another direction wouldn't have played so well as it does in this movie. There aren't any false moments in the film.

It is a credit to Mr. Huston the pairing of Deborah Kerr with Robert Mitchum, who are amazing in their roles. There's an aura of sex between both of the actors without it being obvious, or on your face. It's the subtlety that makes this film work they way it does. Both Ms. Kerr and Mr. Mitchum would appear not to be ideal for these two characters, but they have the right chemistry to make us care for these two people stranded in the Pacific.
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8/10
Two perfect performances transcend the mismatched-couple-in-the-wilderness genre
imogensara_smith19 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can't shake the feeling that I shouldn't like HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON as much as I do. The premise—a marine and a nun are stranded together on a Pacific Island during WWII—is hokey and implausible; I'm no fan of organized religion or the military; and Cinemascope Technicolor adventure movies are not my cup of tea. But actually it's a small-scale movie about two people alone together—they are the entire cast, apart from some extras playing Japanese soldiers—and I find it as moving as any love story I can think of, though it's non-traditional: platonic on one side, unrequited on the other. The script and direction are good, but the success of the movie rests entirely on Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, who give two of the most beautiful performances I've ever seen. The respect and affection they show for each other (they felt the same off screen) elevate it above all other mismatched-couple-in-the-wilderness movies.

Deborah Kerr is so expressive she could have been a star in the silent era, though she does an excellent Irish brogue here too. Every feeling and reaction shows vividly but naturally on her face—from her queasiness trying to eat raw fish to her delirious spasms during a fever, from her childlike delight at discovering food left behind by the Japanese to her anguish when she thinks her companion has been killed. Her character, Sister Angela, is brave, funny, sensible, warm and open: you never question the marine's devoted love for her. Running around the hillsides and beaches in her flowing white habit, she looks like a little girl trying to keep up with her big brother.

But good as she is, Mitchum's Cpl. Allison is the engine of the story; he's the one who breaks your heart. It's redundant to complain that Mitchum should have been nominated for an Oscar as Kerr was. The chance of the Academy honoring a man with Mitchum's bad-boy reputation was always slim, and how likely is it that he would win a "best actor" award when he never looks like he's acting? With most actors, no matter how good they are you remain aware that they're giving "a performance." But you never, ever have this feeling with Mitchum; you can never see any mechanism at work, any thought-out characterization. You could watch this and think he's just some big, dumb, good-hearted guy. (Try watching it back to back with CAPE FEAR, where you might think he's just some diabolical sleazeball.) He uses a generic Brooklyn, working-class guy accent (he's supposed to be from Milwaukee, but so what?) and touchingly addresses Sister Angela as "Ma'am"--she treats him with equal respect, always calling him, "Mr. Allison." He's gentle and protective; more than any other, this role demonstrates Mitchum's ability to be macho—overwhelmingly, coarsely masculine—and at the same time incredibly delicate, tender and sensitive. There's poetry in his gestures, as when he whittles a comb for Sister Angela and wraps it in a leaf with a hibiscus flower. In a way, his love for her doesn't seem sexual, but more like the love for an adopted child or a kid sister. When he proposes to her he says, "I want to look after you"; it gives him such pleasure to take care of her, to know she needs him. Mitchum didn't need to act when it came to expressing affection for Deborah Kerr, whom he always called his favorite actress. Once during the filming, after they had been standing on sharp rocks, he got down on his knees, unlaced her shoes, and massaged her feet.

Kerr never suggests that Sister Angela is sexually tempted (though heaven knows, most women sharing a cave with Mitchum would be!) but her platonic love for him, and her pain at being unable to return his love, opens a wider world for her. Their relationship is truly chaste, with no innuendo, no exploitation of the dirty jokes inherent in the situation; John Huston had to fight to make it this way, since studio bosses actually wanted something more suggestive. It's delicate and yet mature—and it's sexy too: when Mitchum takes off his shirt to keep her warm, and the way he strokes her forehead gently when she's sick, and when he needs to undress her he holds up a blanket and hides his face behind it. Somehow despite being such an earthy man, Mitchum makes Allison's restraint entirely credible. Even when he gets drunk and expresses his frustration, you know he wouldn't do anything to hurt her.

I forgot the mention that the Japanese invade, and then the Americans invade, and our heroes catch a sea turtle and so forth; the action is always peripheral to the development of the personal relationship. I don't really like the final "moral" of the story, because the marine and the nun, after having the opportunity to abandon their institutions in favor of personal ties, turn back to the institutions. I love Allison's drunken speech about how pointless it is for them to adhere to their jobs alone on the island: "What are you gonna do all day, pray? Yeah, and I'd drill. I can see you telling your beads, me doing the manual of arms, on opposite ends of the island….We don't belong to anything off this island, all we've got is it and each other. Like we were Adam and Eve, yeah, and this was the Garden of Eden!" But I can't say I'd want the film to end differently. The respect and chasteness and sense of duty are what make the characters so appealing. They say goodbye with heartbreaking politeness; you can tell that despite all the danger and discomfort, they're a little sorry to be rescued.
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8/10
A lot better than I assumed it would be....in fact, it's very, very good
MartinHafer20 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
For years I avoided watching this film whenever it came on television. This was mostly due to my thinking that because it was the movie about a nun and marine trying to survive on a tropical island together during WWII so I assumed it would be filled with clichés and sappy dialog. I really expected it to be like the merging of THE SINGING NUN with FATHER GOOSE as well as a standard war film! However, after watching the film, I am very happy to report that the film was very intelligently written--and not at all what I had expected. It's one of the best films either of the leads (Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr) made.

The film begins with Mitchum being washed up on shore on a tiny Pacific island in 1944. The island is deserted except for a nun (Kerr) and although there is plenty to eat and drink on the island, they are worried that no one will ever find them, so they plan on taking a big risk and sailing 300-odd miles to civilization. However, there plans are changed when the island is bombed and then occupied by the Japanese. Much of the film was spent in hiding until a very exciting and nerve-racking conclusion.

The film wasn't the least bit preachy or silly, but dealt with the relationship between Kerr and Mitchum as well as the delicate subject of burgeoning sexual attraction between them. The way this was handled should neither offend anyone's religious sensibilities nor bore them with heavy-handed platitudes--a tough job for such a film but it managed to handle it very well. This made for a very interesting and realistic film--one of the better war films because it was so different and because of the excellent performances.
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9/10
Being a total fan of Robert Mitchum, I may be a bit prejudiced.
patriciathompson29 October 2002
This movie, having been filmed in the mid fifties, does not include the blood and violence, nor sexual content and gratuitous language that many are now accustomed to. If you are looking for that kind of movie, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a movie with heart and real content, this could be perfect. The acting is top-notch, as is the cinematography. The plot flows beautifully and holds your attention to the very end. "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" is a classic, although it never received the attention it deserved.

This is one of my all-time favorite movies; I have loved it since I was a child. It is a movie parents can feel comfortable watching with their children (not the very young, of course!), but is a good "date movie" as well. Not a "chick flick", it is a war movie, but one which women will enjoy as much as men do.
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9/10
Very touching and memorable!
TheHG1 June 2001
Whenever good moving drama, excellent casting, and fine direction conjoin in film making, the result is one heck of a memorable movie. HKMA is one such movie. It is one of Robert Mitchum's best works. Deborah Kerr is also superb. And the interesting thing about these two performers is the wonderful chemistry between them (they have worked together in at least two other movies, and they were consistently outstanding). This is a war-time story with a heart although the central theme is about clash (or conflict) between opposites. Mitchum vs. Kerr, man vs. woman, soldier vs. nun. However, they become allies because they have a common enemy. The screenplay is extremely well-written, and the movie is expertly directed. Lastly, I would like to say that "Patience pays!"; this movie is finally available in widescreen DVD! Enjoy!
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10/10
One of Huston's best
Elizabeth-3285 December 2002
I absolutely love this movie! It's a great character study of a nun and a Marine who questions religion, both marooned on an island. With only each other as company, the two become close...very close. Sister Angela has not taken her final vows yet, and Corporal Allison is wondering if he should admit his true feelings for her.

Beside fighting their growing love for each other, Sister Angela and Allison must defend themselves against the Japanese, who may discover their secret hiding place at anytime. With action, hints of romance, and great drama, "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" is a must-see movie. You'll appreciate this movie even more if you've seen Huston's "The African Queen." You'll notice some similarities in the stories.

I think this is my favorite role Robert Mitchum ever played. He is tough as nails, but also sweet and tender when it comes to his feelings and treatment of Sister Angela. And Deborah Kerr is brilliant in her Oscar nominated role. Bottom line: see this movie! It's a treasure!
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10/10
Wonderful Mitchum
philharvey1 January 2003
I'm wondering if Robert Mitchum ever play in a bad movie. This one is another winner from this great actor.

There's a lot of tension in this movie especially when the Japaneses arrive and set up their campement in the island. The marine and the nun spend a lot of their time in a little cave, trying to steal some food to the Japaneses, and waiting with the hope of the end of the war.

I've never heard of this movie before, it seems to be a forgotten classic, it deserve to be shown for a large audience.
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Subtle, bittersweet story of the bond forged between a tough but tender-hearted Marine and a young nun stranded on a Pacific island during WWII.
Rogue-1815 August 1999
Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr give beautiful performances in this touching study of a Marine and a young nun who find themselves stranded on a Pacific island during WWII. Their platonic relationship deepens when the Japanese return to occupy the island, and Cpl. Allison and Sister Angela take refuge in a cave, surviving by his wits, her prayers, and the saving grace of their mutual respect and affection. Mitchum gives one of the finest performances of his career as the proud Marine who finds himself falling in love with his companion, and Deborah Kerr is unaffectedly enchanting as Sister Angela. Quiet moments of compelling character study are interspersed with suspenseful action sequences set amid ruggedly beautiful scenery.
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6/10
Simple plot, complex characters...
Neil Doyle29 December 2006
HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON is essentially a two-actor film and must have looked awfully good on paper whenever ROBERT MITCHUM and DEBORAH KERR read the script. They knew they had the right attributes to play the leads--a tough U.S. Marine and a ladylike nun stranded on a Pacific isle during World War II, threatened by nearby Japanese invaders--and must have instinctively known that under John Huston's direction they would get good guidance.

Well, they did. Both are at the height of their appeal as film actors, knowing their craft thoroughly enough to make both of them able to carry the story through to a satisfying conclusion. Huston had already done the same sort of thing with Hepburn and Bogart in the African jungle, although HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON has an even tighter reign on the two actors as the main focus.

Kerr may have deserved her Best Actress Oscar nomination, but why did Hollywood always fail to recognize Robert Mitchum's contribution to a good film? Did they resent the way he talked about Hollywood phoniness and fakery in such blunt ways to the press that they were unable to view his performance with an uncritical eye? Mitchum gives every bit as good a performance as Kerr does--and that's a fact. In Marlon Brando's immortal words: "Mitch shoulda been a contender!"

Well worth seeing, especially if you're an admirer of the two stars.
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8/10
Great performances, wonderful movie....
doghouse-86 November 2001
Deborah Kerr and the screenplay received two very well deserved Oscar nominations. I also thought that this was one of the best Robert Mitchum movies I have seen. The plot was pretty basic, but the performances made the movie. And, the ending was perfect. 8/10
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9/10
"Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me"
Steffi_P15 December 2009
With the war becoming an increasingly distant memory, pictures set during the conflict, while still very common were less often telling true stories of the war, and more often using the war as a backdrop for any number of genre-crossing fictional tales. So we get comedies like Mister Roberts, the anti-war epic Bridge on the River Kwai, the musical South Pacific, and this very touching wartime romance. Heaven Knows Mr Allison is not really a war film, it is simply an ideal excuse for the age-old story of two people thrown together by circumstance, and finding love in their unlikely situation.

And here it really is just a tale of two. With only him and her to carry the entire picture, the casting may be a small job but it has to be dead right. And I for one cannot imagine anyone doing this better than Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. Mitchum is one of those true old-style actors, who but for his rugged looks would have been very at home in 1930s Hollywood, an actor who only really has one persona, and yet is a good actor all the same. It didn't matter whether he was playing a marine, a cowboy or a cop; he was still the same sturdy, laconic Robert Mitchum. But within that one persona he has a full range of expressiveness and credibility. This is among his best performances. Kerr is also very much cast to type, but this in fact presents her with a rather tough job, at least if she is to bring some sincerity to the part. The Sister Angela character is your stereotypical prudish Irish spinster, who does everything but say "Lawks a mercy", and that's only because the screenwriters had more sense. To make matters worse as a nun she must be completely swathed in robes, hiding all but the front of her face and necessarily stiffening her performance. And yet, she conveys every thought and emotion through tiny gestures, facial twitches and changes in posture. Above all, she brings a very warm and believable character out beyond the stereotype.

The director is John Huston, unleashed on his first Cinemascope production. This was a time when everyone was still figuring out what to do with the new shape. Many early widescreen pictures naively fill the frame with detail, to the point of allowing the lead actors to blend into the background. Huston, a painter in his spare time and thus someone who knew how to fill a canvas, does the opposite. Importantly, he realises that in 'scope ratio it is best to frame actors from the chest up rather than the waist up during intimate scenes, so as not to make them insignificant amidst all the extra width. He resists any temptation to overuse the natural beauty of the location, often framing Kerr and Mitchum against plain backgrounds. He even keeps the first few minutes, when he is pretty much obliged to show a lot of scenery, as low key as possible, with the beach glimpsed over the edge of the raft, or rough shots of Mitchum moving through the undergrowth. He eventually hits us with the first really pretty shot when Mitchum and Kerr run down to the beach to catch the turtle, as if to match the joy of the moment. He several times treats us to these landscape shots again, but mostly only at moments of silent emotion. He focuses us on the drama and dialogue by shooting it in simpler surroundings.

The result of this fine acting and direction is that we become totally absorbed in this story of the simplest elements, which could easily have been dull in the wrong hands. And it's a tribute to the power of Heaven Knows Mr Allison that it works despite being a tentative and unconsummated love story. Of course, we are dealing with a nun being tempted to give up her vows to marry a marine, and in the 1950s you couldn't have pushed the subject too far. The story must remain within the moral boundaries of its time, and yet through these magnificent performances the intensity of the characters' emotions and the depth of their romance is all up there on the screen.
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8/10
Surviving more than just the war.
bobsgrock30 March 2009
Two people trapped on an island while trying to hide from the Japanese as well as escape sounds today like the plot for either another sequel to The Blue Lagoon or some cheap, dirty romance plot. However, under the steady direction of John Huston and supported by two very strong performances from Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, this film more than rises to the surface but does very well in expanding its simple plot.

As the story unfolds, we find that the Marine, Corporal Allison, has landed on shore after being stranded from his squad. He combs the island and comes upon a little Irish nun cleaning the church all alone. They decide to try and take Allison's raft to Fiji, but Japanese soon take the island and build a military station and the two castaways are trapped in a tiny cave at the head of a mountain. Of course, being stuck with another person of the opposite gender would rise up some feelings in most anybody, especially a war-torn, orphaned Marine such as Allison. The trick here is that the nun, Sister Angela, is all set to take her final vows to stay celibate but hasn't yet.

Huston does a terrific job in balancing the gritty, tough feelings of survival and trying to survive each other all while attempting to get back to the real world and their respective situations. Mitchum is very good here as the beaten Marine who feels almost no connection with anyone until he meets this warm and sweet nun, played wonderfully by Deborah Kerr. Both bring out the best in their performances and show that you don't need a lot of action and firepower to tell a good story. Of course, this movie has that too.
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9/10
A beautiful film
Maddyclassicfilms6 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Heaven Knows Mr. Allison is directed by John Huston and stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr.

During the Second World War United States Marine, Cpl.Allison(Robert Mitchum)abandons ship during an attack and floats across the pacific in his life raft.

He ends up on a small island with a few thatched shacks and a church and soon discovers he's not alone. A young nun Sister Angela(Deborah Kerr)is on her own after the priest who was with her died when they were stranded on the island.

Cpl. Allison soon finds himself falling in love with a woman (who for obvious reasons)he can't have.A touching and well made film about survival and love this is well worth watching.

There are some similarities to be found in this to The African Queen, with two people thrown together in unusual circumstances who are complete opposites but can work together to get out of or make the best of the situation their in.

Mitchum and Kerr are both superb and have beautiful chemistry in this. Mitchum makes your heart ache for Cpl. Allison, especially as he begins to realise he may never get to have this woman. Kerr is equally good as the devout nun who comes to care for Cpl. Allison, but can never forget the religious vows she has taken.

If you like Kerr and Mitchum in this, make sure you see their 1960 film The Sundowners where they play a married couple.
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10/10
Acting at its best!
gemmin23 June 2006
The plot is intensely interesting and the two actors, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr are superb! This is a wartime movie, but without the usual combat footage, although some intense combat scenes are included. The story focuses on the relationship between a hardened marine and a Catholic nun, thrown together by the fortunes of war. The differences in their characters, beliefs and way of life create a wonderful opportunity for the plot to develop. With John Huston directing and co-writing the script, the movie could hardly miss. I am not exactly sure if I have ever seen the beginning of this movie. I have caught it on TV several times, but it is always somewhere in the middle of the story. I guess I will just have to rent the video. This is one of my top favorite movies of all time.
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