Archive for July 1st, 2014


A smitten Marine corporal (Robert Mitchum) remorsefully comforts Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr) after his heartfelt but drunken advance has driven her to flee into a torrential downpour that leads to fever, delirium . . . and an epiphany.

by Pierre de Plume

Throughout this World War II tale of unusual love under extraordinary but credible circumstances, a huge elephant is left to linger in the room: The sexual tension between a streetwise soldier and an attractive young nun — marooned on a South Seas island — could not have been more strongly implied. The novel on which this film was based already had taken a plunge into moral turpitude, not just by portraying an explicit sexual relationship between the unlikely pair but also by underscoring their carnal activities in Biblical terms:

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. [Galatians 5:17]

— From The Flesh and the Spirit, by Charles Shaw (1952)

“What’s this world coming to?”  Movie depictions of sexual expression during the mid-1950s were tame by today’s standards. However, that era’s primary agents of film censorship, the industry’s Production Code Administration (PCA) and the National [Catholic] Legion of Decency, were seeing their authority increasingly undermined with the release of button-pushing movies such as The Moon Is Blue, Baby Doll, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Island in the Sun. So no one was surprised, certainly not veteran filmmaker John Huston, that this tale of a pretty Irish nun alone in the South Pacific with a strapping, hairy-chested Marine would command the attention of censors. (more…)

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