Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Friday, 21 January 2011
Movies I love: Heaven Knows, Mr Allison
Despite having the dvd I can always settle down and watch Johnv Huston's 1957 HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALLISION whenever it appears on tv, so I did again this afternoon. It is simply an enduring pleasure and for me better than his previous THE AFRICAN QUEEN (of which is really a rethread, but somehow it works better), scripted as it is by veteran John Lee Mahin, and filmed in Tobago.
Ten years earlier Deborah Kerr had played Sister Clodagh when aged 26 in Michael Powell's enduring classic BLACK NARCISSUS - here she is Sister Angela, a much less complex novice Irish nun whom marine Robert Mitchum finds alone on the pacific island his boat drifts to - he being the only survivor from his ship. The war in the pacific rages around them, it is 1944. The interplay between the two characters is the story as they get used to each other and then as the Japanese get nearer and on to the island they do their bit to fight back, but just as they are on the point of being discovered in their cave ..... lovely moments along the way include the tough marine and not so gentle nun getting used to the island's hardships (eating raw fish etc) and its loneliness. The scene where they catch the turtle eches that similar scene with Mitch and Monroe catching the moose in RIVER OF NO RETURN. The marine develops feelings for Sister Angela but - they seem trapped by their respective roles. There is tension and excitement as he infiltrates the enemy camp for aid for the delirious nun who runs away into the rain resisting his drunken advances ... and the ending is just perfect. It is tough, it is gentle, it is perfect Huston the two stars shade their roles perfectly.
It is a two hander really and Kerr and Mitchum play it just right - the great rapport they have here is also evident in Zinnemann's 1960 THE SUNDOWNERS set in Australia and another enduring pleasure, Kerr really should have won the best actress that year (as indeed should have her friend Jean Simmons for ELMER GANTRY, it should have been a tie, as the culmination of their great years). Kerr and Mitch were also in the 1960 Donen souffle THE GRASS IS GREENER with Grant and Simmons making up the starry quartet - and they also did a later tv film REUNION AT FARNBOROUGH, which I caught a glimpse of once.
Beginning in the '40s the '50s was really Kerr's decade, averaging 2 films a year (3 in 1959) and she had some great roles in the '60s as well (THE INNOCENTS, Huston's NIGHT OF THE IGUANA) before her matronly era. I also saw her in a play (THE DAY AFTER THE FAIR from a Thomas Hardy story) in London 1972. Huston too had a good run in the late '50s and into the '60s, with this, his lean western THE UNFORGIVEN, THE MISFITS, and NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, classics all - and I still have to see his 1963 FREUD!
I caught up with Huston in 1972 [at the height of my obsession with THE MISFITS] at London's National Film Theatre when he was promoting his fascinating FAT CITY - it was marvellous just to watch and listen to this bigger than life character...