Sunday, 23 January 2011

Heaven knows, Mr Allison

I begin with a film appropriate for Sunday(23.01.2011) Heaven knows, Mr Allison. This is but one of several films which bring the unlikeliest of characters together in a wartime and who become friends for life, sometimes lovers. The African Queen immediately comes to mind. In this 1957 film Deborah Kerr plays a nun who has chosen to visit with an elderly senior priest a small isolated Pacific Island to bring off the missionary, rather than make their way immediately to safety from the advancing Japanese. They find that the priest and parishioners have already departed and the elderly priest then dies leaving Kerr to bury him and try and survive until help arrives. She represents the Heaven in the title (Born in the USA) and Mr Allison is a USA marine, played by Robert Mitcham whom was part of a recognisance party, left with a life raft after having to quickly dive when coming under fire and finding the island after drifting for several days.

Kerr gives him the last of the food she has collected before he sleeps from exhaustion. (Don’t look back) For an unspecified amount of time they are together on the island managing with a good died of cooked fish, coconuts. (Land of hope and dreams). We learn that Allison was abandoned as baby to an orphanage located in Allison Street and has made his life in the Marines. The film in effect compares the dedication and commitments of being a Marine with that of a Nun each which their self discipline and code of values. ( Learn from Wikipedia that during the making of the film the National League of Decency monitored the production because of its subject and that when they visited the set Mitcham and Kerr abandoned the script and introduced some wild kissing and touching defiance).

Their situation remains at one level idyllic until the arrival a small unit of Japanese to set up a weather station and communications centre. This followed the arrival of an observation plane and the bombing of the island which leads to the destruction of the church from which Mitcham rescues a large crucifix on a stand. Fortunate Mitcham had previously discovered a cave where they take cover. After the landing Kerr is restricted to the cave because her white Habit is such a give away. She cannot eat the raw fish which Mitcham so he breaks into the hit which they subsequently build one night and brings away a supply of tined food, rice and other supplies from their store (Tenth Avenue Freeze Out).

In the night they are able to see the flashes and explosions from a sea battle in the distance and the Japanese then leave the island. They are to come down from their hideaway, wash and eat hot food. He has also found a bottle of Saki which Mitcham drinks in quantity while Kerr takes a glass perhaps two. Mitcham, having discovered that Kerr is yet tom take her final vows, declares his love and proposes marriages. Kerr explains she has already given her heart to Christ and runs off when Mitcham presses his attentions. She stays out all night in pouring rain and when he finds her she is in fever. He takes her back to the cave. 2000 Japanese now take over the island and set up camp on the beach. Realising he is the cause of Kerr getting the fever, he breaks into the camp for blankets. Is discovered by a soldier who he kills and hopes the body will be swept out to sea. He returns to the hide after removing the wet clothing wraps Kerr in the blankets and nurses her until she recovers. They adjust to their life in the cave after she recovers and then fear for their lives as the island is being searched when the body is recovered. The bracken is set on fire and a Japanese soldier finds the entrance to the cave. They are faced with surrender or dying from a grenade. There is then a monster explosion, not a grenade but offshore shelling of the Island but the American fleet which evidently won the sea battle.

The Japanese have artillery pieces hidden and Allison realises that eh has the opportunity to prevent the death and injury of his comrades by disabling the weapons. He sets off to do this having made his peace with Kerr and saying how much he values heir friendship and she his. He is wounded in the successful attempt to disable the weapons saving many lives, and is cared for by Kerr until the American landing and taking of the island is completed. The two go their separate ways having shared a life changing experience. The film is part written and directed by John Huston (Badlands)

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