Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

A- SDG Original source: National Catholic Register

Not your typical movie about a man and a woman stranded on a deserted island, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is an engaging character study about a novice nun-to-be (Deborah Kerr) and a rough-hewn Marine corporal (Robert Mitchum) on a South Pacific island during World War II.

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1957, 20th Century Fox. Directed by John Huston. Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum.

Artistic/Entertainment Value

Moral/Spiritual Value


Age Appropriateness

Kids & Up*

MPAA Rating


Caveat Spectator

Brief wartime violence; mild inebriation; challenges to an incipient religious vocation.

Like director John Huston’s similarly themed The African Queen, the film finds conflict mixed with romantic tension in a tale of a demure religious woman thrown together with a rugged male loner. Here, though, the complicating factor is not fastidiousness on the part of the religious woman, but the woman’s vocation.

The film parallels the two contrasting sets of commitments, hers to her order, his to the Marine Corps. Like Allison himself, the film is respectfully curious about the exotic phenomenon of religious commitment, but has less insight into why a woman would join a religious order than why a man would join the Marines. At the same time, the film is honest about the issues bound to be raised by such a scenario, especially if the two wind up stranded there indefinitely.

Though essentially a character study, the film also provides some suspense and thrills, notably a squirm-inducing sequence in which Allison makes a daring foray into a Japanese camp and winds up pinned in a tight hiding place with an uncomfortably large rat.

Adventure, Drama, Religious Themes, Romance, War