Deborah Kerr received her fourth unsuccesful Best Actress nomination for playing Sister Angela in John Huston's movie, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. I'm quite certain that Deborah Kerr was the second in 1957 and Joanne Woodward only barely edged her out. But why really? I think that the Academy also noticed that Deborah was overdue for an Oscar though there was always someone who was more overdue (Susan Hayward, Elizabeth Taylor), more popular (Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn) or gave a big performance (Olivia de Havilland, Joanne Woodward) or all of them combined (Hayward again). Poor Deborah, she was nominated always at the wrong time.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a pretty lukewarm movie. There's not much going on, the whole thing is pretty boring and I am 100% sure that I will forget it in at least three days. It's very much like African Queen though it's much less funny and entertaining. I guess John Huston's producers wanted to make more money and they knew the perfect recipee for a succesful movie at the time. Robert Mitchum was a really great actor, a truly unique presence who gave excellent performance but this one is definitely not his best work.
Deborah Kerr is an actress very much like Annette Bening. There's so much to respect about her and yet I just don't feel that she's that special. Apart from out joint birthday, there is no connection between me and Deborah Kerr. However, I have never been disappointed by her as I always get from her what I expect. A very proper, ubtle performance. I expected it this time too and I got it.
Not that it is groundbreaking in any way. Although Deborah must have had a great chance of winning the Oscar that year, this is not the role that people remember her for. This one is actually quite forgotten and rarely talked about nowadays besides Oscar bloggers. Had I been an Academy member in 1957, I would have considered nominating Deborah for An Affair to Remember. It's not that it's better, it's just much more of an Oscar movie than Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.
In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Deborah plays Sister Angela, a nun who's marooned on a South Pacific island along with an American marine played by Robert Mitchum. I think the most curcial thing about movie is the great chemistry between the leads. Whenever there are just two characters that you see, they really have to work together fabulously as collaboration is just inevitable in these cases. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen here. I always felt that there wasn't much of a sexual tension between these two characters and it should have been there. They give good performances on their own, but their work together is nothing special. Therefore, both actors failed on this very important level.
However, as I said, Kerr is very good on her own. She has quite a radiant presence on the screen but unlike Elizabeth Taylor (RIP) in Raintree County, this presence doesn't make up for the flawed rest. Kerr didn't have a star charisma and no matter what people say, that can also elevate a certain, not-so-strong performance.
Everybody keeps talking about Sister Angela's dark side but that's really something that I hardly noticed in Kerr's performance. She always remains this benevolent nun who's very quiet and dignified. Just like the movie, Kerr also remains very lukewarm and she doesn't really shine. That's a pity, actually. I would have loved this performance much more, had she given more fire and soul to this character. As I said, the whole thing is very charming but nothing mindblowing, really. There isn't a moment when I was just blown away (even Lana Turner had some) and Kerr constantly plays Sister Angela very one-note. Kerr's very proper and I dare say dull acting is very visible in this work and that's not a positive thing.
As you see, in this review, I said nothing about Deborah Kerr's performance because there isn't a thing that you could be passionate about. You can't love her, can't hate her and the whole thing becomes very standard and uninteresting. I know that many love this work but I just wasn't able to warm up to it. Deborah Kerr is quite good as Sister Angela but she doesn't go beyond good. Unfortunately.
What do you think? (no oficial predictions now but you can share your thoughts)