Heaven Only Knows (film)

Heaven Only Knows is a 1947 Western fantasy film directed by Albert S. Rogell, starring Robert Cummings, Brian Donlevy and Marjorie Reynolds.[1]

Heaven Only Knows
Directed byAlbert S. Rogell
Produced bySeymour Nebenzal
Screenplay byArt Arthur
Rowland Leigh
Ernest Haycox (adaptation)
Based onan original story
by Aubrey Wisberg
StarringRobert Cummings
Brian Donlevy
Marjorie Reynolds
Music byHeinz Roemheld
CinematographyKarl Struss
Edited byEdward Mann
Nero Films
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • September 12, 1947 (1947-09-12)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States


Due to an error in Heaven, Adam "Duke" Byron, is born without a soul in 1858. The "Book of Destiny" shows that he was supposed to marry a minister's daughter in 1885, two years prior to the present, and set a fine moral example. Instead, he is a saloon keeper and gambling hall owner in Glacier, Montana. As it was the fault of his department, Michael is sent to set Duke on the life path for which he was destined, but Michael must do so as a human being, without miracles, not even a small one.

Michael encounters Bill Plummer. Plummer and Duke are rival saloon keepers and partners in a mining company, but due to a dispute between them, the mine is closed, leaving many of the townspeople destitute. Plummer has hired the Kansas City Kid, a gunslinger, to kill Duke. When Bill finds out that Duke knows about his plan, he gives Michael a lift into town and as Plummer had hoped, Duke mistakes Michael for the Kid. Duke's henchman, Treason, takes a shot at Michael, narrowly missing a young girl. Furious, parson's daughter and schoolmarm Drusilla Wainwright goes into the "Copper Queen", Duke's saloon, and slaps him.

Drusilla and most of the other residents want to take the law into their own hands to take back their town, but Sheriff Matt Bodine talks them into waiting until Plummer and Duke's men kill each other first.

Michael accidentally foils the Kid's attempt to shoot Duke. Duke is convinced he has switched sides, but when he learns that the now-dead would-be assassin is actually the Kansas City Kid, he believes that Michael is a smart, ambitious outlaw, so he hires him. Ginger, Duke's girlfriend and showgirl, takes a great liking to Michael, but Treason hates him on sight.

Plummer sets fire to Duke's saloon, trapping him inside, with Plummer's men waiting for him to come out. Duke's secret passageway is locked from the outside, but Michael opens it and rescues him. They take refuge in the school. While they wait for darkness, they start talking to Drusilla. Duke admits that he feels that he is "meant for something ... something big, something important", not what he is doing now, but he does not know what it is. Before he leaves, Duke kisses Drusilla; she resists at first, but not for long.

In retaliation, Treason sets fire to Plummer's saloon, but a sickly child Duke likes, Speck O'Donnell, is trapped inside. Michael goes in after him, and Duke follows. Duke sends Michael out, then rescues Speck.

Sheriff Bodine maneuvers Duke and Plummer into a showdown for sole ownership of the mine. Duke accepts the challenge, even though he is at a great disadvantage against skilled gunman Plummer. Duke is wounded, but Plummer is blinded by sunlight, perhaps by divine intervention, and Duke manages to kill him with his last shot.

With Plummer dead, vigilantes plot to lynch Duke. Drusilla persuades Duke to flee rather than shoot it out, but he insists he will only go if she comes with him. She agrees. Once they are safely away, however, she refuses to marry him and returns to town. Thwarted, the mob decide to lynch Michael instead. At the last minute, Duke rides back to save Mike's life and reform. Mike rides off on a special coach to Heaven, taking Speck with him. Speck's tearful mother somehow knows her child's fate.



The producer bought the rights to the story in July 1946 and Brian Donlevy was discussed as a star from the start.[2]

On November 26, 1946 the producer announced he had signed Cummings and Donlevy. Filming began 2 December.[3]


The New York Times critic wrote that "On the whole 'Heaven Only Knows' comes through as a tolerable entertainment, with such good moral intentions that one may overlook its self-conscious awkwardness in this regard."[4] However, "Mr. Cummings, it seemed to us, never did quite make up his mind whether to be serious or plain supercilious as the detached Archangel Michael. Brian Donlevy as the Duke also never gets any conviction into his role."[4]


  1. Heaven Only Knows Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 14, Iss. 157, (Jan 1, 1947): 173.
  2. Egypt's Tahia Carioca May Star in 'Salome' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 30 July 1946: A3.
  3. NEBENZAL TO FILM WESTERN PICTURE: Signs Robert Cummings, Brian Donlevy for Leading Roles in 'Heaven Only Knows' Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES. 27 Nov 1946: 22.
  4. T. M. P. (November 14, 1947). "Another Emissary Makes the Movies". The New York Times.
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