Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
Directed by John Huston
Written by John Lee Mahin and John Huston from a novel by Charles Shaw
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
When I was about 12 years old, I decided Robert Mitchum was the sexiest man alive. This movie was the reason why.
As the movie begins, a marine, Mr. Allison (Mitchum), is drifting at sea in a life raft. In the nick of time, he spots a tropical island. He rows to shore and looks around. He can see from a graveyard and church that Christians have been here. He explores further and discovers a young Irish nun, Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr). He finds she is the lone inhabitant, having been abandoned when she and an old priest went to fetch the church’s priest.
Sister Angela proves to be a real team player with a sense of humor. She helps Allison gather food and construct a shelter. They plan to improve the life raft for a long and dangerous voyage to Fiji. Then Japanese troops return, destroy the raft and the fruit trees on the island. The two are forced to hide inside a cave.
Allison eventually declares his love to Sister Angela but she has already given her heart to Jesus. One night, he gets drunk on stolen sake and makes advances. She runs, terrified, into the rain. Now he must nurse her back to health, all the while dodging ever more Japanese.
I was a pre-teen at the time movies of the late 50’s were making an appearance on my local TV station, Channel 9 in Los Angeles. Channel 9 had a feature called The Million Dollar Movies where they would show one movie nine times in a week. I watched this one over and over. My catechism-trained heart thought the story was utterly romantic and Mitchum made my blossoming hormones go pitter-patter.
Now, of course, it all seems pretty tame. Mitchum and Kerr retain their basic appeal though and I think Huston did as well as possible with a rather contrived plot line. I’ve always envisioned the picture in B&W like on our family’s TV set but it is actually in vivid color. The South Seas look beautiful. Worth seeing.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.