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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Mitchum’

“Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil?”

In Depression-times, a man robs a bank out of desperation to provide for his family in the long-term.   Having killed two men doing so, he is immediately hunted down by the police, but not before he hides the money he stole.   Knowing that the only two other people, his children, are aware of the location of the money, he extracts an oath from them both that neither will tell a soul about the money – not even their own mother.

The father is hauled off to jail and while he awaits execution for his crimes, a strange man comes to share his cell.   Preacher Harry Powell, a man who knows that the Lord “don’t mind the killins” but hates “other things, lacy things…things with curly hair” is a fire and brimstone type of preacher, a man who has the words “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed on his knuckles, but one who was nonetheless caught with a stolen car.   Upon finding out his new cellmate’s crimes, Powell attempts to worm out the secret of the hidden money, but all he gets are some mumbled words from his cellmate in his sleep.

So, upon his release, Harry Powell tracks down the man’s widow – Willa – and promptly marries her, hoping to leverage his position into forcing the children, John and Pearl, into revealing the location of the money.  The children refuse, and Willa eventually begins to put the pieces together.   Upon revealing that she knows that he’s hounding the children about the money, Powell kills her and tells the town people that she ran off after he found her drinking.

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Robert Mitchum is seriously one of my favorite actors of all time. I don’t know why Mitchum doesn’t get the acclaim he so rightly deserves. I often feel like Mitchum gets relegated to the second string behind guys like Jimmy Stewart and others of his generation and it’s always puzzled me. Mitchum played a variety of characters and he always a had a certain cinematic presence that I felt guys like Stewart didn’t have. Not to say Jimmy Stewart didn’t have screen presence, but Robert Mitchum always felt like he could come directly off the screen to kick your ass all while being perfectly pleasant about it.

So, it’s really no surprise that Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is one of my favorite movies of all time.

The basic story is that Cpl. Allison (Robert MItchum) washes ashore on what he believes is a deserted island, but discovers one inhabitant – the good-natured Sister Angela.   Sister Angela is thrilled to have another companion, but Allison is apprehensive at first.   It’s his luck, he claims, that he’d wash up on the one island that has a nun only on it – and a pretty one at that.

Then the Japanese decide to pay a visit to the island and Allison and Angela’s story becomes less about learning to cohabitate and more about survival.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a really sweet story.  The two main characters alternately must fight off attractions to one another, mainly centering around the fact that Angela is a nun, and therefore, unlikely to settle down with a guy anytime soon.  But mainly, Mitchum and Deborah Kerr flow through their scenes so effortlessly that it’s a joy to watch.   The entire movie hinges on them. They’re the sole inhabitants of the island (until the Japanese show up) so it’s necessary that they make it through the movie convincingly and they do.   Robert MItchum in particular is stellar as the rough Corporal Allison, and it’s one of his finest movie roles.

The movie’s touching without ever overdoing it and it’s got a strong story behind it with great direction.   What makes it really stand out is just the fact that you never get tired of Allison or Sister Angela when the entire movie rests on them.

This movie is primarily why I feel MItchum always gets screwed on the recognition he so rightly deserves; it’s a movie I’ve suggested to others many, many a time and I’m usually always met with a blank stare – at least until someone watches it and then returns to tell me, “Hey, that was awesome!”

Awesome, indeed.

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