Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison


1h 47m 1957
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Brief Synopsis

A marine and a nun are shipwrecked on a Pacific Island.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Mar 1957
Premiere Information
World premiere in Los Angeles: 13 Mar 1957
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Group Productions
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Tobago, British West Indies; Tobago,British West Indies
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison by Charles Shaw (London, 1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

In 1944, somewhere in the South Pacific, Corporal Allison, a lone Marine, drifts, half-conscious in a life raft. Spotting land, he jumps overboard, pulls the raft to the beach and scouts the island. Coming upon a church, Allison is startled to see a nun, clad in an all-white habit, sweeping the porch. The nun, Sister Angela, is equally stunned to see him. After she informs him that although she is the only inhabitant of the island, God is her constant companion, Allison, exhausted, passes out. Upon awakening, the nun feeds him the last of her supplies and presents him with a pipe that once belonged to Father Philips, an elderly, beloved priest who died on the island. Sister Angela recounts that she and Father Philips came to the island to take the local priest to safety in Fiji. Once they reached the island, however, the natives who rowed them there fled in fright, leaving them stranded. The Japanese soldiers had wiped out all signs of life, and the local priest had vanished. Soon after, Father Philips died, leaving Sister Angela totally alone. Allison then relates that he ended up alone after the Japanese sunk his submarine, killing all but himself. The nun and the Marine begin to form a bond as they work in unison to catch a turtle for dinner. That night, Allison proposes that they attempt to sail the three hundred miles to Fiji on his raft. The sister eagerly consents to join him, and begins to weave a rudder from palm leaves. While working one day, the gruff, poorly educated Marine, wary of offending the proper nun, explains that he never knew his parents and took the name of Allison from the street on which his orphanage was situated. He continues that the Marine Corps offered respite from his life as a juvenile delinquent and concludes that the Marines are his church. Hearing the sound of Japanese reconnaissance bombers, the two take shelter in a cave. That night, the ground rumbles as the Japanese pummel the island with their bombs, causing Sister Angela to shake uncontrollably. Allison tries to reassure her, but they emerge to find the island in flames, their raft destroyed. Out of the rubble, Allison finds the charred church cross and presents it to Sister Angela. A flotilla of Japanese ships then appear on the horizon, and soon a battalion of soldiers are charging up the beach, forcing Allison and Sister Angela to retreat to their cave. With raw fish as their only food source, Allison sneaks into the Japanese camp one night to pilfer some supplies. Trapped in his hiding place when some officers enter the supply room to play a game of Go, Allison is forced to stay the night in the camp. Come morning, when the troops assemble for reveille, Allison steals back to the cave and finds the nun wandering the jungle, cross in hand, anxiously searching for him. When Allison presents her with a gift of a comb he fashioned from a reed, Sister Angela tells him that although nuns do not use combs because their hair is so short, she will cherish his as a keepsake. After Allison observes that leaving the nunnery must be akin to deserting the Marines, the sister confides that she has not yet taken her final vows. That night, the sky is lit by the gunfire of a distant sea battle, and by the next morning, the Japanese troops have departed. Relieved, Allison begs Sister Angela not to take her vows and proposes to her, but is embarrassed when she responds that she has already given her heart to Christ. The next day, he apologizes to the nun and avers that a Marine is not the marrying kind. That night, as a heavy rain pounds their shack, Allison gets drunk on sake and laments the irony of being stuck on a desert island with an attractive nun. When he smashes Father Philips' pipe in frustration, Sister Angela runs out into the rainy night. Allison finds her the next morning, soaked and delirious. Soon after, the Japanese return and Allison carries her into the cave and then sneaks into one of their tents to retrieve some dry clothes for her. Discovered by a soldier, Allison stabs the man and dumps his body into the water. Two days later, Sister Angela awakens, now coherent, and Allison informs her that the Japanese have returned. When the island erupts in flames, Allison explains that he had to kill a man, and thereby alert the enemy of their existence. As Sister Angela prays, the soldiers locate their cave. The Japanese are about to toss in a grenade when Allied bombers announce their presence, causing Allison to dance in delight. With dawn approaching, Allison announces that he has received a message from God, directing him to lessen casualties by disabling the massive Japanese artillery guns. While throwing the breech blocks for the guns into the sea, Allison is wounded. His mission accomplished, Allison returns to the cave, and knowing that they will soon be rescued, bids goodbye to the nun. In response, she promises he will be her dear companion always. As the American flag is hoisted over the island, American Marines carry Allison down the hill on a stretcher, the nun walking by his side.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Mar 1957
Premiere Information
World premiere in Los Angeles: 13 Mar 1957
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Group Productions
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Tobago, British West Indies; Tobago,British West Indies
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison by Charles Shaw (London, 1952).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1957
Deborah Kerr

Best Writing, Screenplay

1958
John Huston

Articles

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison


Robert Mitchum swore he only found out he was playing a Marine in his next picture when someone came over to fit him for a uniform. Lucky for him the shoot for Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison--a drama about a Marine (Mitchum) and a nun (Deborah Kerr) marooned together on a Pacific island, and intended as a spiritual sequel to The African Queen by Twentieth Century-Fox executives--ended up being one of the most positive experiences of Mitchum's career. Shot in three months on Tobago, with a screenplay chastened up considerably from its racy book source, the shoot was a lively one, full of near-miss explosions and sharp coral reefs. Mitchum got along famously with fellow hellraiser John Huston for all the predictable reasons, but he also found great kinship in the more mannered Deborah Kerr. Their on-screen chemistry was no illusion--the legendary tough guy would massage Kerr's abused feet after difficult takes. (It also amused him how she'd curse a blue streak while still in her nun costume.) Kerr was "the only leading lady I didn't go to bed with", said Mitchum, and he meant it as a tremendous compliment.

By Violet LeVoit
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Robert Mitchum swore he only found out he was playing a Marine in his next picture when someone came over to fit him for a uniform. Lucky for him the shoot for Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison--a drama about a Marine (Mitchum) and a nun (Deborah Kerr) marooned together on a Pacific island, and intended as a spiritual sequel to The African Queen by Twentieth Century-Fox executives--ended up being one of the most positive experiences of Mitchum's career. Shot in three months on Tobago, with a screenplay chastened up considerably from its racy book source, the shoot was a lively one, full of near-miss explosions and sharp coral reefs. Mitchum got along famously with fellow hellraiser John Huston for all the predictable reasons, but he also found great kinship in the more mannered Deborah Kerr. Their on-screen chemistry was no illusion--the legendary tough guy would massage Kerr's abused feet after difficult takes. (It also amused him how she'd curse a blue streak while still in her nun costume.) Kerr was "the only leading lady I didn't go to bed with", said Mitchum, and he meant it as a tremendous compliment. By Violet LeVoit

Quotes

Trivia

The director and the explosives expert were reportedly left hanging onto an elevated platform on location--uninjured--after a short-circuit in explosives-effect wiring unexpectedly set off all of some 30 planted detonation devices at one time.

The script called for several Japanese-speaking officers and a company of Japanese troops to be on the island. There were no Japanese men on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, where the film was shot. A half-dozen who spoke the language were finally found in a Japanese emigrant community in Brazil and flown to the location to play the officers. For the non-speaking roles of Japanese troops, the company hired 50 Chinese who worked in the island's restaurants and laundries. This caused friction with the local islanders, who found it difficult if not impossible to get their clothes cleaned or to get a meal in a restaurant because most of the employees were working on the film.

Notes

The film opens with the following written acknowledgment: "Twentieth Century-Fox acknowledges with thanks the generous cooperation of the United States Marine Corps in the production of Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison." At the end of the film, the comma in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is replaced by a period to read Heaven Knows. Mr. Allison. Although the nun is called "Sister Angela" in the film, the Variety review lists her as "Sister Angelica."
       Hollywood Reporter news items yield the following information about the production: In July 1952, Eugene Frenke purchased the rights to Charles Shaw's novel. Under the terms of their contract, Shaw was to receive ten percent of the profits. Shaw's generous financial arrangement caused financing difficulties, forcing Frenke to relinquish his ownership of the rights, according to a November 1953 news item in Publishers Weekly. In December 1953, Los Angeles Examiner reported that John Wayne and Robert Fellows had attempted to buy the rights to the novel, but Frenke regained control. Wayne had intended to star, but was replaced by Kirk Douglas after losing the rights. In May 1954, a Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Paramount was negotiating with Frenke for the rights and William Wyler was slated to direct.
       An April 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that in the film's original plot, the female lead had stolen a nun's habit and was posing as a sister to elude the Japanese. The Catholic Church rejected this story line because the woman and the Marine fall in love. In the Shaw novel, however, the female protagonist was a nun. In May 1954, Wyler submitted a new story line that was approved by the Church. A modern source adds that the project was shelved after Wyler lost interest. A late April 1954 news item noted that Frenke was negotiating with several studios to produce the film. A May 1954 Daily Variety item noted that Charles Feldman purchased the rights from Frenke and would co-produce the picture with him. By June 1954, Hollywood Reporter announced that Twentieth Century-Fox had bought the rights to the novel as a vehicle for Clark Gable. In December 1955, John Lee Mahin was borrowed from Louis B. Mayer to write the screenplay and, according to a June 4, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Anthony Mann was to direct the film and Ellis St. Joseph was to write the script.
       According to a November 1956 New York Times news item, the picture, which began production under John Huston's direction in August 1956, was shot on location in the West Indies to qualify it as a British quota picture. Modern sources note that the Marines featured in the cast were based in Trinidad and add Fusamoto Takasimi, Noboru Yoshida and Anna Sten to the cast; however, Sten was not in the released film. Deborah Kerr was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, but lost to Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted Best Actress (Kerr) by the 1957 New York Film Critics Association.

Released in United States Spring March 1957

CinemaScope

Released in United States Spring March 1957