Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

In John Huston's action-adventure drama set during WWII about two characters marooned on an island, similar to Huston's earlier film The African Queen (1951):

  • the film's intriguing and lengthy opening under the credits without dialogue - the view of a drifting raft on a blue ocean, that finally revealed its occupant: an unconscious Marine
  • the contrasting personalities of the two major lead characters, both shipwrecked on the Pacific island of Tuasiva during WWII and finding survival in a cave, when the island was occupied by the Japanese:
    - US Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum), rough and poorly-educated
    - Roman Catholic novice nun Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), Irish heritage, only a month away from taking her final novitiate vows
  • the scene of Mr. Allison's questioning of her devotion to her religious vows, and her explanation of her dedication: (Corp. Allison: "Ma'am, suppose a nun changed her mind, you know, she didn't want to be a nun anymore. What could she do about it?" Sister: "Our vows are not taken lightly, Mr. Allison." Allison: "You mean no nun ever got out?" Sister: "Well, it has happened, but rarely. If the reasons are truly grave, his Holiness in Rome sometimes grants a special dispensation... permission from the Pope"); he was shocked when she told him she would take her final vows in a month: ("You mean, uhm, you still, uh, if you wanted to, that is, you still, could like, uh, pull out?"); she responded that she could change her mind: ("I could, if my mind and my heart were not made up")
  • the moment of smitten Corp. Allison's awkward and nervous proposal of marriage to Sister Angela one night: ("Ma'am, there's something I'd like to say to you...Don't take those vows, those, those final ones. Don't do it, huh, Ma'am. I, uhm, I never loved anything or anybody before. I never even lived before. Not really lived - inside. So uh, that's why I wanna ask you to marry me. I want to look after ya, not only while we're here but, uh, for the rest of our lives. I couldn't keep from sayin' it, Ma'am. So, uh, tell me if there's a chance, huh? I-I don't mean to give offense, Ma'am, but, uh, is there?"); she politely declined by responding that she had already become married (or committed) to God: ("No, Mr. Allison. You see, I've already given my heart to Christ, our Lord"); he asked: ("You mean like you was engaged, or somethin'?"); she showed him her silver ring - and told him: ("And when I make my final vows, I'll wear a gold one, a marriage ring")
  • and then the next day, his apology to her for asking for her hand in marriage: ("I must've been off my rocker last night. A Marine oughtn't to get married. That ain't fair to his family or the Corps. One of 'em's gotta get the short end. Like just before an attack, he asks himself: 'Which is better? A bad husband, or a bad Marine.' He ends up both. Even a peacetime marriage ain't no good. Marines get sent all over the world. And I mean, there's all kinds of temptations. So, uh, it's better that he ain't tied down, like - You do me a favor, huh, ma'am? Just, uh, forget I opened my big mouth")
  • his drunken feelings of ironically being stuck on an island with an attractive nun: ("Whatcha wanna be a nun for?...Just my luck. That's ol' Allison's luck. If ya hafta be a nun, why ain't ya old and ugly? Huh?...Why do ya hafta have big blue eyes and a beautiful smile and freckles?") and his lamentable, frustrated feelings about being there with her - maybe for years: ("Let me tell ya somethin', Ma'am. We're gonna be on this island for years and years, 'till the war's over, anyway. If our guys were comin', they would have been here by now. What I mean is, we've been bypassed...Just you and me, see? Now, what's the point of you bein' a nun if we're all alone? Answer me that. Can't, can ya, 'cause there ain't no point. No more than my bein' a Marine. What would ya do all day - pray? And I, uh, I'd drill, I guess, huh? I can see that. You telling those beads, and me doin' the manual of arms on different ends of the island. We don't belong to nothin' beyond this island. All we got is it and each other -- like Adam and Eve. Like, uh, like we was the first two people on Earth, and this is the Garden of Eden!") - causing her to sob and then flee into a torrential downpour and afterwards, she became deathly sick and he took care of her
  • the final bittersweet sequence of wounded Corp. Allison bidding farewell to Sister Angela, knowing she would soon be rescued by the Marines: ("Ma’am, we're coming to the end of our time together. Oh, we'll be seeing each other on and off for the next couple of days maybe, but, it won't ever be just the two of us again, so I’d like to say this now. Very pleased to have met you, Ma'am. It was a privilege to know you. I wish you ev-every happiness. Goodbye"), and her promise to always be his close friend and dear companion: ("Goodbye, Mr. Allison. No matter how many miles apart we are, or whether I ever get to see your face again, you will be my dear companion always. Always.")
  • the film's last lines - a Marine asking his Captain about why the Japanese hadn't fired on them: ("I don't get it, Cap'n. Four howitzers, plenty of ammo, no breechblocks. They haven't fired a round"), and the Captain's response ("Beats me") - not knowing that Allison had disabled and sabotaged the four Japanese guns (by removing their breechblocks) to prevent them from firing
  • the final scene - as Allison was carried down a charred hill on a stretcher to a rescue boat, the Sister steadfastly walked by his side, assisting him - and they exited together
Wounded Mr. Allison's Farewell: "It was a privilege to know you"
Steadfast by His Side

US Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum)

RC Sister Angela
(Deborah Kerr)

Conversation In Cave - Allison Asked: "Suppose a Nun Changed Her Mind..."

Allison's Proposal of Marriage

Her Explanation of Her Dedication to Christ - and Her Silver Ring

Allison's Apology for Asking Her to Marry Him

Drunken Feelings: "..Like we was the first two people on Earth, and this is the Garden of Eden"

Why Hadn't the Japanese Fired?


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