Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr

 

Heaven-Knows-Mr.-Allison-Poster

Continuing my winter festival celebrating an actor I know too little about…

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison(1957) is a fine, fluffy tale starring Deborah Kerr as Sister Angela, the pretty nun engaged to Christ and stranded alone on a South Pacific island during World War Two. With her expressive face and good sport attitude, she and U.S. Marine Corporal Allison, played by Robert Mitchum are a perfect pair. Directed by John Huston, interior and exterior shots are interesting to watch, such as when the Japanese take over the island, and Mr. Allison is hiding on top of a storage cabinet in the shadows. The camera angles are from Mr. Allison’s point of view and the audience hides along with him looking down waiting for a chance to escape. Externally, the air raid was well done. You can find more details and trivia about the film at TCM site found HERE

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Sister Angela and Mr. Allison find a commonality by recognizing that their vocations are bound by rituals and devotion. Nuns seem to be a thing of the past, and I admire the strength of conviction of Sister Angela as she struggles with her feelings for Mr. Allison and her duty to Christ. Robert Mitchum is charming as the matter-of-fact Marine who succumbs to infatuation. He’s an orphaned boy in a man’s body, lonely and craving for someone to love. Their friendship and classy ending had me smiling for hours. John Huston captures the gorgeous coast line and island fauna of Tobago and Trinidad. Who cares that Mr. Allison had been drifting at sea for who-knows-how-long and arrives at the island with a perfect haircut that never grows throughout the film? The chemistry between Mitchum and Kerr created a feel-good classic for which Kerr was nominated for Best Actress and Huston for Best Adapted Screenplay from another medium. 4/5

SundownersPoster

1920s Australian shepherding family, Ida and Paddy Carmody in The Sundowners (1960). A strength of the film is the director Fred Zinnemann‘s capturing of movement, be it the nomadic family, the husbandry of sheep herding, horse racing, or the Australian countryside. It is a beautiful film. Once again, Deborah Kerr is nominated for a Best Actress award. 3.5/5

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Mitchum and Kerr starred in three films together. Which one is your favorite? I have not seen The Grass is Greener (1960). Do you recommend it? Did you see their last television film from the 1980s, Reunion at Fairborough?

74 thoughts on “Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr

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  1. I have always had a huge crush on Robert Mitchum. HUGE. I think I got it from my mother. He definitely has that lost boy in a fabulous man’s body thing going on. He’s old school masculinity defined–did I say I have a crush? He did a Christmas movie–can’t remember the name but he was super cute in it. 🙂

    1. Hi Adrienne! Nice to see you again. Yes, he exudes virility and his voice is swooning. He sure was the bad-boy in real life. You nailed it–old school masculinity defined. Christmas film–I can only think of ‘Scrooged’ with Bill Murray and he was the gray haired studio executive.

    1. Hi, GP! I’ve only seen him in one film so far during this exploration where I thought he was “bad”. He had a quasi Mexican accent that had me cringe. In his 50+ year career, he made approximately 115 films–I’ve been reading parts of bios about him. He didn’t have a high opinion of his talents or the craft in general. What a rogue!

      1. i just saw “The Red Pony,” in which Mitchum was pretty dull. Not bad, just dull. He was bad in “Midway” In his prime, Mitchum would sometimes be working on as many as three films at the same time. that means going to three different locations (or more usually, sound stages) on the same day.

        1. I’ve been reading about him and his career. I saw that, too. He didn’t have much respect for his profession or his colleagues. He said he never believed there was a thing as a great actor. “Night of the Hunter” was his favorite role.

      2. Was that The Wonderful Country that you disliked, Cindy? I disliked charlton Heston’s mexican in a Touch of Evil more, and didnt care for brando’s Villa either. Rod steiger, however, was excellent as a mexican in Fistful of Dynamite aka //duck You Sucker aka Once Upon a Time.. A Revolution…in other news, mexican actress Rita hayworth had a fine career playing gringos..and my grandmother in law, peruvian actress Ofelia Montesco, enjoyed a 30-year career as a Mexican movie star, playing everything from the vampire woman battling Santos to a guest at Bunuel’s never-ending dinner party in The Exterminating Angel.

        1. Wow! What an interesting woman, your grandmother in law! The stories she must have. I agree with everything you say here. The Rod Steiger comment especially. What are your thoughts regarding “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel” (2011) ?? Something tells me you would appreciate his anti-establishment approach. Any of his films good? It looks like a fun documentary to watch.

  2. Heaven Knows, Mr Allison is generally shown on TV here in the afternoons. It is the perfect film for that, with its idyllic island settings, moments of (often unconvincing) tension, and the unusual pairing of the tough marine, and the doughty Nun. I can’t imagine it would ever be made today, but it was a film of its time, and interesting for that. I’m not a huge fan of The Sundowners, and haven’t seen the other two.
    I like Mitchum best when he is menacing, as in his performance as Max Cady, in Cape Fear.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thanks, Pete. If it were a film made today, it would be panned. I agree, it was a film of it’s time. Charming. I loved it. Like baking cookies and you get to eat a spoonful of the dough and the smells from the oven make put you in a good mood.

  3. The Grass is Greener is a cute comedy, nothing more. I loved The Sundowners as a kid. so big and epic with a landscape that I had never seen before. Recent viewings show that it is a pretty bloated affair. But heaven knows mr allision still holds up, although i dislike john huston as a director and feel he is just trying to repeat the african queen. also, i have seen dozens of films recently starring deborah kerr as a romantic heroine, and i still dont understand her appeal. im getting used to her, though..and dont dislike her as an actress or screen presence. I preferred Mitchum with Sarah Miles in Ryan’s Daughter , shirley Maclaine in Two for the Seesaw, and Jane Greer in Out of the Past

    1. Ryan’s Daughter is on my list. I’m glad you liked it. I’ll probably pass on The Grass is Greener. Out of the Past is next in line, and then I’ll probably end my exploration of Mitchum. I’m surprised to hear you don’t care for Huston. Why’s that?

  4. As actress Sylvia Miles put it, “He is a pig. He is just like the character he plays in Chinatown. He would screw his own daughter.” And this putrid kind of masculinity pervades his films. Most of them are revolting, although he is good with establishing a camaraderie with a certain kind of actor. “Treasure of the Sierra madre” is a brilliant film, but not because of the directing. It is the script and that camaraderie that brings out the best in his actors. I dislike all those pompous bastards like Huston, Hemingway, and Bukowski. I am drawn to the more intellectual and sensitive macho men like peckinpah, mailer, and cassavettes.

  5. Cindy, I haven’t seen the Corman documentary, but I think he is an excellent director. I would reccomend, as starters, The Intruder, The House of Usher, The Wild Angels, and The Haunted palace, You hear a lot about how he gave so many brilliant directors their starts, but what you dont hear is how much they learned about directing from him. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, and he was very intelligent,smart,and personable. I .only wish there were more people like him in the film industry

  6. Corman produced over 400 films, and directed over 50 of them. some other notable titles he directed include” Bloody Mama, Saint Valentine’s Day massacre, .X the man with the X Ray Eyes, Last Woman on Earth, A bucket of Blood, The Trip, and masque of the Red Death. I think his Edgar Allen Poe adaptations are superior in every way to the over-rated Dracula and Frankenstein films from England’s Hammer studio.

  7. Great feature, Cindy. I wanted to know more about Mitchum, but with Kerr, this is like cinephilian double bill. I like how you quickly breakdown a few films. I need more classic movies in my life. Thanks for the inspiration! And spreading the word so folks don’t forget about the legends.

    1. Dan, I appreciate that! I’m learning right along with you and while these are standards for some, they are brand new to me. The classics are growing on me more and more. I like the story of movies in its entirety, piecing the periods and genres together in a time line in my mind. It’s fun.

      1. there’s a certain enjoyment going back to the movies that came before us eh… it’s great to have you pointing me in the right direction… i’ll stay tuned for your new discoveries of those old gems

  8. Mr. Allison (1957) is a nice variation on Huston’s African Queen (1951). Not great, great, but the performances are very good. Sundowners (1960) is a beautiful-looking movie, but nominated for Best Picture instead of Psycho and Spartacus? No, no! Anyhow, I liked both movies. Mitchum and Kerr have nice chemistry. I remember seeing them in a TV movie, Reunion at Fairborough (1985), and thinking, “the chemistry is still there.”

  9. Thanks for sharing, I first found Mr Allison to be very much a remake of African Queen, until I read about the directors time at War, which has been used for romantic purpose.

    1. A lot of people make that leap — remake of African Queen. Perhaps because they are on land and spend time in a cave, I don’t know, it felt different for me. I enjoyed their chemistry.

    1. Off topic. Do you approve of “Easy, Rider”? I revisited it the other day and loved much about it especially Jack’s performance and the tripping in the cemetery–I thought that was a nice job by Peter.

  10. Easy Rider comes out of the Roger Corman school. It would never have existed were it not for Corman’s own “Wild Angels,” which I recommend for comparison. But to fully appreciate Fonda and Hopper’s achievement, you should see a dozen random biker pictures. It took the genre to another level without actually adding anything new to it. Like you, I love watching it just for the highway vistas. But Im not crazy about the cemetary scene. Corman did that sort of thing much better in “The Trip.” Two excellent films that came out of Easy rider are Fonda’s The Hired Hand and Hopper’s The Last Movie.

      1. “the wild angels” was the first leading role Peter Fonda had that was not that of a mainstream leading man. Fonda was inspired to make a biker movie of his own after “the wild angels” became the first drive in movie to be included on the archives of new york’s museum of fine arts.The next year, Fonda teamed again with Corman to make The Trip, which was written by Jack Nicholson and co-starred Dennis Hopper. A year later, Fonda and Hopper decided to make their own biker movie, reflecting the changes in the outlaw subculture from delinquents to hippies, with Hopper, who had never directed before, directing. Now here is a piece of personal information that very few people know…Virgil Frye, an actor friend of mine, and Dennis Hopper, were inseperable friends, but there was no part for him in the movie. Hopper really wanted him to come along for the ride, so he offered him the job of makeup artist. Frye argued that he knew little about make-up up, so Hopper assured him that nobody would be wearing any. So Hopper put Frye on the payroll and off they went. Frye went on to have a modest career as a character actor, but his daughter, Soliel Moon Frye who was television’s Punky Brewster, enjoyed greater success. and his son Sean played Steve in E.T.

        1. Ha, ha! Now THAT’s a cool story, Bill! I love the strings and ties. Thanks for sharing that. I loved Hopper so much in “Apocolypse, Now” and his very young roles in the westerns.

  11. I liked Deborah Kerr in the musical, “The King and I” along with “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison,” Cindy. For some reason my mind goes from this latter movie and crosses over to th

  12. To the Cary Grant and Leslie Caron movie where Leslie gets stuck on a boat with children. They have to win over irascible Grant in 1964’s, “Father Goose.” Both movies have WWII and the Japanese arena involved in the plot. The Robert Mitcham movie was made in 1957. I have not seen “The Grass is Greener” which sounds like fun, Cindy.! 🙂

  13. Fine dissertations, Cindy!

    ‘Heaven Knows, Mister Allison’ has been a long time favorite of mine. Wonderful chemistry between Mr. Mitchum and Ms. Kerr’s nun. Playing off each other well as Mitchum strives to be polite. While not letting much of his orphaned Marine back story seep through.

    ‘The Grass Is Greener’ is quite good. Though your highlighted last year, ‘What A way To Go?!’ is Mitchum doing comedy while still being himself. One of those films where you can see the cast is having fun while showing off Shirley Maclaine’s range and gorgeous gams!

    ‘The Sundowners’ is Ms. Kerr having her husband pegged from the start. Knowing is a small scale conniving rogue with big, admirable dreams.. And giving and getting as well, and sometimes better than her husband.

      1. Cindy, , Believe it or not, Deborah Kerr was considered a hot sexy number in her time. Remember her and Burt Lancaster on the beach in From here to Eternity? jShe played romantic leads across from several of the top leading men, and had offscreen affairs with many of them. Her prim and proper reputation is based mainly on the hollywood films she did between 1947-52. I like her with Mitchum,but it was William Holden who brought out the fire in her inThe Proud and the Profane. and she was close to a nympho in Tea and Sympathy. She was on the burner for Cary Grant in An affair to Remember, and had both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on the string in marriage on the Rocks. so I dont think it is entirely correct to give all the credit to Mitchum for warming her up. although he did a pretty good job when his turns came around.

        1. Ha! The only films I have seen Kerr play are “The King and I” “Sundowners” “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” and “The Night of the Iguana”. There’s the prim and proper Kerr. As far as she the sexpot–I haven’t seen her play in the other films you mentioned. I’ve seen “From Here to Eternity” in bits and pieces a handful of times but never from start to finish–I huge omission on my part. Maybe next winter I should focus on her–an actress I know too little about!

  14. I’ve only seen Kerr in the King and I, From Here to Eternity, Casino Royale and An Affair to Remember but I gotta say- I think back in the day she would’ve been one of my pin-ups. An incredibly beautiful woman and talented actress.

    1. I MUST rent Black Narcissus. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it yet. There she is, as a nun again. She’s certainly beautiful, but if I were a man who hung up posters of women, I’d be hanging up Ingrid Bergman.

      1. Ingrid Bergman a wonderful actress. Lauren Bacall as well. I loved her and Bogie in Key Largo. I use pin up as a term since I never did put up any posters but I did have Claire Danes and Sarah Michelle Gellar laminated on my diary cover in Grade 12. Top 5 is another term I use. By the way your blue eyed actor post was well chosen.

      1. Been a long time since I’ve seen it and was planning on picking up a new blu ray release from Kino Lorber. Like Home From the Hill I am sure I’ll appreciate more now then i did as a kid trying to see all things Mitchum.

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