Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison1957 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

Cpl. Allison, USMC: Whatcha gotta be a nun for?

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.

heaven knows mr allison 4

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.

This post is part of the Second Annual Sex! (now that I have your attention) Blogathon on MovieMovie blog.  For excellent posts on the theme go here and here.


13 thoughts on “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

  1. I did watch this one on television not too long ago, but I think I only got the second half and I was a bit distracted at the time. What I remember most was that I really wanted to watch it properly and from the beginning.

  2. When I was about 12 years old . . . you know the rest of the story. HEAVEN KNOWS MR. ALLISON is on the to-be-revised list. I’m looking forward to color and widescreen!

      • I have now revisited HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON. I was fascinated by how much I remembered. It certainly burned its way into my brain at an impressionable age. I watched it streaming from Amazon — the color and scope were beautiful. What a nice, tight script. Two wonderful stars. And the Pacific Ocean!

        • I was about to second your vote for the Pacific. My guess was Hawaii. Turns out we saw the wrong ocean. It’s actually the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago to be specific.

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  4. Thanks for contributing to the blogathon with this highly unique choice! Somehow, I missed ever hearing about this one — but with Robert Mitchum and a nun, it could have gone a lot worse!

    • It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that it was directed by John Huston. So it’s got that going for it at least.

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  7. Love this movie! Family lore has it that my husband’s paternal grandmother Loved Robert Mitchum until it hit the newspapers/tabloids that he was arrested for marijuana use or it was in his pockets…something like that. Then he fell off of the pedestal that Grandma put him on, for a bit.

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