Dec 5, 2010

Heaven knows, Mr. Allison (1957): Mitchum & Kerr are terrific

Via: acertaincinema
Today I re-watched this great film directed by John Huston with my parents. If you, for some weird reason, haven't seen it yet, well, you should. Based on a novel by Charles Shaw, it's basically about the days that a marine (Robert Mitchum) and a nun (Deborah Kerr) spent together in a deserted island, only visited by a bunch of Japanese soldiers during the II World War. 
Why is it great? First of all, because of the large ensemble cast:

Well, maybe it's not large, but it's incredibly talented. Both were solid and believable players, that worked great together. Mitchum plays "Mr. Allison" in a way that you completely understand his honest affection for Sister Angela. You can see that he is a good man whose life hasn't been great but he has all the intentions to be nice and never complain about anything. And Deborah, as the nun, lets you see the girl behind her habit, a kind and full of life young woman that believes in what she's doing and thinks is ready to take her final bows.
This movie could have ended up being like Black Narcissus (1947), a melodrama that includes a "hey ya chick" macho character and nuns catfighting for him (yeah, I don't like this film). But here, the encounter of these special people is really well-managed on the screenplay and directionally speaking, showing it in a measured way, measured in terms of what they say with words to each other (he wants to marry her, for example) or what they say with their face expressions to the audience (she's kind of disappointed because he regretted declaring his love). 
That's why the scene in which he gets drunk is so powerful, because he completely speaks from his heart (why she has to be a beautiful nun?) and she runs away from the truth (if they're gonna stay there for so long, there's no point of staying a nun).
There's a beautiful trick in this movie. If the mentioned scene was the climax, what happens right after should be the ending: Sister Angela starts realizing that she would like to stay in the island with her "Mr. Allison". But they met by chance and so the unpredictable events in life decide whether they continue together or not. Besides all this, the movie contains great and tense action scenes, especially the one in which Mr. Allison enters in the Japanese base to steal food.

Fun stuff? Ok. I still haven't got Baby I don't care, Mitchum's biography, but here is what Youtube user SeleneBowie commented/quoted :
There are many other great stories in that book regarding Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, including one where the crew get together to mislead the Catholic Legion of Decency who were checking that Deborah's nun was entirely respectable. "Bob and Deborah spoke their lines, then moved closer together, Mitchum sliding his hand under nun Kerr's breasts while she cupped his buttocks and they began to kiss with open-mouthed abandon."
"One time she [Kerr] was rowing a raft in open water during the tortouse-chasing scene, Huston constantly shouting, "Faster! Row faster!" The wooden oars split in half in her hands, and Kerr, in her damp nun's habit, screamed in fury , "Is that f---ing fast enough?" Mitchum, floating nearby, swallowed a gallon of saltwater laughing." 
Plus, Robert Mitchum found a new passion while filming in Tobago, as Youtube user BearfamilyRecords explains:

"In 1956, at the height of the short-lived calypso craze that saw Harry Belafonte top the charts worldwide, Robert Mitchum filmed two movies in the British West Indies, 'Fire Down Below' and 'Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison'. Calypso originated in Trinidad, and Mitchum filmed 'Mr. Allison' in Trinidad's sister island, Tobago. As his co-star, Deborah Kerr, remembered, "He possessed enormous musical knowledge and sense of rhythm. He'd mastered the West Indian songs with their complicated rhythms before a week was up in Tobago." By the time they'd finished filming 'Fire Down Below', Mitchum was singing calypsos at local clubs, and he continued to do so after he returned to the United States. Someone from Capitol Records heard him sing at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, and signed him up. Over the course of several nights in the Spring of 1957, Mitchum recorded his classic calypso LP, 'Calypso - Is Like So...' Using his droll sense of humor, he made up new calypsos from older numbers he'd heard in the islands. The result? A lounge classic. We've revisited that LP, complete with its fabulous 'white man gone to ruin in the tropics' cover. "

Here's an interesting behind the scenes documentary clip (there are more parts available to see):

So, what are you waiting for?
 More on Kerr, Mitchum & Huston :


  1. This is one of those films that used to pop up regularly on local and network TV, so I've seen it many times over the years. Would love to see it again, though, and revel in the matchless combination of Mitchum, Kerr...and Huston.

  2. Thanks for you comment Lady Eve :) Here in Chile local tv never show old movies, just recent blockbusters. That's why I love getting TCM :)

  3. Hi Clara, just put up a fresh post about James Bond January, hope you're still up for contributing stuff?

    It'd be appreciated if you could spread the love as this is growing exponentially, so the more the merrier! (Thanks for the banner at the top of the site too!)


  4. Thanks for you comment Lady Eve :) Here in Chile local tv never show old movies, just recent blockbusters. That's why I love getting TCM :)



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