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Friday, August 12, 2016

Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957)

In 1944, a Marine (Robert Mitchum) and a nun (Deborah Kerr) are stranded on a desert island in the South Pacific. When the Japanese invade the island, they are forced to hide in a cave together and the inevitable attraction (at least on his side) is unavoidable. Based on the novel by Charles Shaw and directed and co-written by John Huston, this is a strong dramatic piece. Comparisons to Huston's THE AFRICAN QUEEN are superficial because there's very little similarity between the two films. The 1951 film is a romp rich in humor but there's no humor (if there was I missed it) in ALLISON. It's a rather sweet film really about a rough Marine who has no identity outside of his calling and in her way, the same can be said of the nun. The differences between them are many but the most important is that he's lonely and she's not. In interviews, Mitchum was always dismissive of his acting ability (and acting in general) but he was being disingenuously modest. He was an excellent actor and no more so than here. The vulnerability hidden behind the coarseness and his romantic awkwardness toward Kerr displays a true actor at the top of his craft. Beautifully shot in CinemaScope on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago by Oswald Morris (LOLITA).

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