In the South Pacific in 1944, US Marine Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum) and his recon party are disembarking from a submarine when they are spotted and fired upon by the Japanese. The submarine goes into a dive, abandoning the scouts. Allison survives and drifts across the ocean in a life raft for days before finally reaching an island.
Here comes across a deserted chapel, empty save for a single occupant: Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr), a young Irish nun – a novice who has not yet taken her final vows.
Sister Angela arrived with a 70-year-old priest four days before Allison to rescue a fellow clergyman. However, they found the Japanese occupying the island, and the natives abandoned the nun and her priest companion, Father Phillip, who soon died.
The Marine and the nun spend some time alone on the island, getting to know each other and bonding through shared hardship and adventure, before being forced to flee to a nearby cave when a small company of Japanese soldiers return.
The two become very fond of each other and the rough-hewn Allison earnestly tries to understand the young nun, who is as dedicated to her cause as he is to the Marine Corps.
Her gentleness, tact and wisdom ease him over what could be some awkward moments.
Eventually, smitten Corporal Allison gets drunk on some sake he “liberates” from the Japs and declares his love for Sister Angela.
Overcome, she goes out into a torrential rainstorm and becomes sick.
Finding her unconscious the next day, Allison carries her back to the cave and nurses her to recovery through chills, fever and delirium. When her condition worsens, he places his life in danger by returning to the enemy camp during daylight for food and a blanket. A Japanese soldier discovers him, and Allison kills him during a struggle.
After the Japanese discover one of their troops has been killed, they search the hillside shouting, “Hey Joe – come out with hands up.”
Fortuitously, the Americans begin to bomb the island in preparation for an assault landing and the Japanese retreat to take shelter. Allison, meanwhile, successfully sabotages the Japanese artillery.
The pair are rescued the following morning and bid each other farewell as Allison lets his love go, recognising Sister Angela’s dedication to her faith.
“Goodbye, Mr Allison. No matter how many miles apart we are, or whether I ever get to see your face again, you’ll be my dear companion always . . . Always.”
Shooting took place on the Caribbean island of Tobago (which meant the production qualified for British film financing) where native workers built a thatched-roofed village, a small church, and an elevated filming platform.
As there were no Japanese inhabitants on the island, the production crew hired fifty or so Chinese blue-collar workers which angered the locals because their service industry was disrupted as a result.
Heaven Knows, Mr Allison was a modest financial success and Deborah Kerr’s performance as Sister Angela drew Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and won her the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. Robert Mitchum received a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actor.
Corporal Allison USMC