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.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Deborah's Sister Clodagh and Sister Angela

Two of our enduring favourites were screened again recently, and despite having them on disk I had to tune in once again. We simply love Deborah Kerr's two nuns:  the superior Sister Clodagh in Michael Powell's masterwork BLACK NARCISSUS from 1947, when Deborah was all of 26 and in charge of those nuns in that convent in the high Himalyas - as per my other posts of it, so I won't repeat myself, see Narcissus label.
A decade later in HEAVEN KNOWS, MR ALLISON in 1957 she is that much simpler Irish nun Sister Angela alone on that pacific island (it was filmed in Tobago).... as this blurb states:  As World War II rages, tough marine Robert Mitchum is stranded on a desert island with nun Deborah Kerr. Cracking romantic chemistry in this ace John Huston adventure. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin the veteran who scripted that chemistry in 1932's RED DUST and and its 50s remake MOGAMBO as well as the fun western NORTH TO ALASKA (his last credit is a Jean Seberg movie I love MOMENT TO MOMENT in 1965. 

We have written about this before, here - see Kerr, Powell labels - it remains a deeply affecting movie, among Huston's best, I certainly prefer it to his similar AFRICAN QUEEN. MR ALLISON actually has a lot of affinities with Mitchum's RIVER OF NO RETURN in 1954 - people in the wilderness having to survive while surrounded by hostile enemies, and there's the similar scene where there Mitch has to warm up numb Marilyn Monroe, and here the wet sister Angela; they catch and cook a moose in RIVER, its that unfortunate basking turtle in MR ALLISON .... 
Deborh's nuns are as iconic as her governesses (THE KING AND I, THE INNOCENTS) and she worked with Huston several times, also in the silly 60s spoof CASINO ROYALE in 1967 and to great effect in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA in 1964. She and Mitchum had great chemistry together, as also in THE GRASS IS GREENER in 1960 and perfectly in Zinnemann's THE SUNDOWNERS which should have bagged her the 1960 Best Actress Oscar, in fact, as I mentioned before, I would have made it a tie with her and her friend Jean Simmons (not even nominated for ELMER GANTRY where her co-stars Burt and Shirley Jones got their awards) - Liz could still have (deservedly) won in 1966.  It would have been culmination of Deborah's and Jean's great decade, the two British roses who went to Hollywood and were very big stars indeed in the 1950s and early '60s. But it was not to be .... Deb's nuns though remain an evergreen treat. She also teamed with Mitchum again later in that 80s telefilm about an army reunion. of course had great chemistry with frequent co-stars Cary, Burt, Niven, Brynner,  More on her at Kerr label. 


  1. I agree that Deborah or Jean would have been deserving winners in 1960, hell, even Liz herself probably would have agreed.
    Some film buffs/historians like to say Shirley MacLaine was robbed, but although I thought she was touching and charming...not Oscar material.
    And if Liz was to win a first Oscar in that period, I'd choose Suddenly, Last Summer. Oscar lore says she actually came very close in the tally, despite her personal unpopularity at the time...

  2. Also of course in 1960 Janet Leigh would surely be a deserving nominee if not winner for her Marion Crane in PSYCHO, she may only be in the first 40 mintues or so, but she dominates the rest of the film - its one Janet role that will be seen forever and must have been difficult to act and fit in with what Hitch wanted from her, he left creating the role up to her.

  3. At least Janet was nominated for Best Supporting Actress...poor Anthony Perkins got zip...and typecast for the rest of his career!