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Film / Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

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Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a 1957 war film directed by John Huston, based on a novel of the same name by Charles Shaw. It stars Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr in their first collaboration together.

During World War II, U.S. Marine Corporal Allison (Mitchum) washes up on an island in the Pacific after one particularly gruelling battle. He finds the island deserted except for one Irish nun, Sister Angela (Kerr). She too was left abandoned on the island after an evacuation attempt gone wrong. The two agree to work together to survive, as well as hide from the Japanese army when they land on the island.


  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Mr. Allison gives one to Sister Angela when he thinks they won't be found, and asks her to marry him.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Inverted. Mr. Allison sports a beard in the first act of the film and is clean-shaven after Sister Angela rejects him.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Despite running around doing all sorts under the hot sun, neither of the protagonists show any signs of sunburn. Mr. Allison is only a little bit tanned. Granted they are in a cave for most of the film, and Sister Angela's white habit is made to protect from the sun.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The U.S. Marines arrive in the nick of time to capture the island and save the protagonists. This notably didn't happen in the book.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Marines rescue the protagonists, but they soon realise they'll probably never see each other again despite their close friendship.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Mr. Allison says that the cave would be a great bomb shelter. This gets tested in the finale when the Americans bomb the island.
    • Subverted in another case. Sister Angela says she has yet to take her final vows. Mr. Allison asks her not to take them so they can be together, but she refuses.
  • Comforting Comforter: Mr. Allison does this to Sister Angela while she's ill.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Mr. Allison asks Sister Angela not to take her final vows and marry him, but she refuses.
  • Empathic Environment: It rains on the island for the first time after Sister Angela has rejected Allison's proposal.
  • Fanservice: Mr. Allison gets a few Shirtless Scenes, including one where he takes his shirt off to use as a blanket for an ill Sister Angela.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Mr. Allison and Sister Angela become such through their experiences on the island.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Sister Angela tears off some of her habit to stitch up a wound on Mr. Allison's shoulder towards the end.
  • Hope Spot: The Japanese leave the island in the second act, allowing Mr. Allison and Sister Angela to leave the cave and get some R&R. Then they show up in the third act again.
  • In Vino Veritas: While drunk on saki, Mr. Allison gives a despairing speech that they'll never be found.
  • The Load: Sister Angela can do very little when the Japanese are around, since her white habit is too distinctive. So she must remain in the cave at all times to avoid being spotted. For this reason, she offers to give herself to the Japanese and save Mr. Allison the trouble of having to help her.
  • No Name Given: We never find out Mr. Allison's first name. And since nuns always take a new name when they take their vows, we never find out what Sister Angela's pre-vocational name is either.
  • Oblivious to Love: Sister Angela fails to pick up on Mr. Allison's attempts to flirt with her.
  • The Pollyanna: Sister Angela seems to maintain a positive attitude, despite the Trauma Conga Line that goes on around her.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Sister Angela's white habit becomes dirty and grubby in the film's third act, reflecting the escalating conflict on the island.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Sister Angela keeps the pipe of the priest who came with her to the island and died. She's furious with Mr. Allison when he breaks it.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Defied. When Mr. Allison asks if Sister Angela hated having to cut her hair short to become a nun, she says it was "no great sacrifice."